An Interview with Yonas Takele ’17, student assistant at the Af-Am House.
Q: What are your feelings regarding the anti-Trump protests?
A: I haven’t really followed the news surrounding the anti-Trump rallies. But I understand that people are upset and I’m not going to police their behavior or tell them what they ought to do to process that grief. I can understand being in that emotional place and seeking solidarity in the streets. I am hesitant to say the point of these protests is to construct a dialogue. It’s natural for people to seek out other people after dealing with a traumatic experience to express their pain. I don’t understand why a protest like that needs to be productive. What’s happening right now is we need to be together, we need to process, we need to feel.
Q: Have you, either in person or on social media, engaged with a Trump supporter or apologist in the last week?
A: No, I can’t say that I have. I’ve engaged with establishment Republicans who would not vote and did not vote for Donald Trump. Those, however, have been different conversations. I’ve stayed away from Trump conversations, though, for the sake of my mental health.
Q: How do you feel about #NotMyPresident?
A: See, what does that even mean? Are you asking me if I’m not going to pay my taxes or vote for every mid-year election? I’m still going to do my civic duty and that has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not Donald Trump is president. If anything, I will say that I have to double down and work harder than I ever have before to ensure that the work I do pays off for the people Donald Trump wants to target. However, I don’t have to have any respect for his office to do my civic duty. Who cares if I say he is my president? On other hand, I just don’t get how some of the same people who are calling for others to respect Trump’s office were the same people calling President Obama a Muslim and a monkey and a terrorist, disparaging his presidency for eight years. That side is fundamentally hypocritical.
An Interview with Logan Lewis ’19, peer liaison for the Af-Am House.
Q: Do you think that the classroom is the best place to unpack the election and discuss its ramifications?
A: The classroom is a place where, if the teacher and students are on the same page, things like this should be tackled. I’m taking U.S. Lesbian and Gay History, and during section [the day after the election] the teaching assistant said that we could dig into the election instead of the reading, and people were not ready to process it so soon, so that discussion was postponed. It depends on the room. Still, the classroom does bring different perspectives together.
Q: Do you think engaging with people you deeply disagree with is productive?
A: I think there’s a whole lot of productive conversation and a whole lot of unproductive conversation. A fellow peer liaison has a best friend who is a Trump supporter and that relationship helped her realize some valid contentions regarding policies Hillary Clinton has supported. On the flip side, there are people telling others to no longer be their friends if they are Trump supporters. There is valid logic behind this view as well, but ultimately it is not a source of progress because it is a source of distance. You have to navigate these conversations wisely.
Q: Do you think Yale as an institution has any obligation to help students promote progress?
A: I definitely think they do. I think there should be political spaces where you can learn from speakers or other students. There should be a town-hall style meeting with no overarching political agenda — just a space for people to express their beliefs. As an institution that’s supposed to push people as academics, as future professionals, as people, I think it’s Yale’s responsibility to play a part in that development. It’s on Yale to facilitate that process.