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More on President Trump and commencement

| Thursday, February 9, 2017

BridgeND exists as a transpartisan organization founded on the tenant of civil discourse. This often causes the organization to delve into the depths of political dialogue with the intention of promoting open spaces for all voices and opinions to be heard and debated. Although this may be true, members of bridgeND must not only have the capacity to conduct these conversations freely, but have the ability to engage in discussions which transcend the political realm.

During President Barack Obama’s two terms, America has experienced a part of itself that many citizens did not know existed. As the first black president of this nation, President Obama achieved a milestone that was sometimes a punchline within pop culture less than a decade before. Regardless of one’s ability to reconcile policy changes during his eight years in office, it is difficult not to hold at least momentary pride in this country. However, in 2017, the hope upon which the Obama campaign was run is now a distant thought.

I make the claim that great steps were made during the Obama presidency in stifling the growth and propagation of racism. For example, since the year 2000, the imprisonment rate of African-American women has dropped 47 percent. African-American males have also experienced a decrease in incarceration rate of 22 percent. Black employment and life expectancy are on the rise and poverty is gradually decreasing. However, this in no way, shape or form is to say that racism has gotten better on the whole in this country. With 33 percent of fatal force incidents involving unarmed black men, it is difficult to find someone to argue the affirmative as this demographic constitutes only 6 percent of the U.S. population. During President Obama’s terms, on average, blacks had a median liquid wealth of $200 while whites had on average $23,000 assets available for liquidity. At the same time, homeownership accounted for the largest statistical difference in relative wealth growth between black and white families, at 27 percent. In an opposing school of thought, some suppose that racism is getting worse. Although I believe it is possible to construe a viable argument for this claim, I disagree that this conversation is conducive for the wellbeing of this country. What I find to be of greater importance is recognizing that the vitriolic situation in which the nation exists is but a manifestation of racially scarred sentiments that existed prior and during the Obama presidency. With the rise of rapid globalization and the prevalence of social media, it is as though America has wiped the soot from its eyes, thus, revealing that which has always been.

President Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America on Jan. 20. Since that time, the Office of the President has begun following through on promises outlined during his campaign. This includes the signing of an executive order for the construction of a border wall between Mexico and America, as well as one for a travel ban “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” This follows comments made by President Trump which are inarguably anti-Latino and anti-Muslim and/or not founded in empirical fact. This is not to mention misogynistic ideology that should make the average American cringe. However, although President Trump exists as an embodiment of that which our previous generations so valiantly fought, I again make the claim that these views have existed beneath the surface within both the American political and general population. It has not been until this election in modern history that these views were uncovered (or recovered) by this unconventional politician.

Notre Dame holds a tradition of inviting newly inaugurated presidents to speak at commencement. The purpose of this piece is not to serve as a platform in rallying for or against this invitation. If President Trump does accept an invitation to speak on campus in May, he will have the ability to ramble to his heart’s desire for most likely less than an hour. Upon the closure of the ceremony, life will continue, school will go on, and the student populous will be left to reconcile that which exists within.

Earlier in this piece, the phenomenon of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, etc., either explicit or hidden, was described, and it is clear that it exists across the country. I consequently pose the question, “Why is Notre Dame any different?” Gregory Jenn, former resident of Keough Hall, is a model student and has had an immeasurable impact on the community of this university. I speak from experience as a current resident of this dorm. Notre Dame lost Gregory as an on-campus student due to the atrocious behavior of other students characterized by anti-Mexican sentiments. Unfortunately, this story has been mirrored far too often at this institution.

As a student at this university, I often see the pain of others caused by a plethora of “-isms.” Being a minority, I have experienced this to a great extent myself and, in this current state, do not feel confident that this will stop any time soon on this campus. I write not to prevent or promote the arrival of President Trump. I write this irenic piece to the students of this university as a call for deep moral introspection. Notre Dame exists as an American university and will therefore encounter the iniquities passed down by the system in which we reside. We must make a conscious effort to resist discriminatory tendencies on an intra and interpersonal level. This may not make a difference outside the gates of campus, but will change the character of this university to one more fully founded in love and compassion for one’s fellow student. We can achieve this. We Are ND.

Armani “Niko” Porter
Feb. 9

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About BridgeND

BridgeND is a bipartisan student political organization that brings together Democrats, Republicans, and all those in between to discuss public policy issues of national importance. They meet Tuesday nights (starting Sept.8) from 8-9pm in the McNeil room of LaFortune. They can be reached at [email protected] or by following them on Twitter @bridge_ND

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