Whenever someone asks me, “How are you doing?” my default response is usually “fine.” If I have a cold, I will sniffle and say, “I’m fine,” even if my head feels as if it’s about to explode from sinus pressure. It’s difficult to launch into the minutia of your sentiments when people usually want a terse, pointed answer. So, it’s no surprise I continue to say “fine” when people ask me how I am these days.
But I doubt any of us are really fine. Even though it has only been a little longer than 12 days since Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, many of us are already reeling from the effects of his policies. When I sat down to eat dinner in the Stiles dining hall on Monday, a friend I had not seen in a long time asked how I was. I said I was fine, without thinking about the substance of the question. He looked at me with a pained expression, and I let the facade fall for a bit and I said, “well not really.”
It is often tempting to avoid talking about politics around people we don’t know well — even if we have strong opinions about these subjects. How many times have we heard that you shouldn’t discuss politics on a first date? But in this climate, we need to stop responding with banal answers whenever people ask us how we feel. The Trump presidency is obviously on everyone’s mind, and we shouldn’t carry on with business as usual. In small talk, we have an opportunity to converse with one another and organize against political movements that target specific groups based on racist and xenophobic sentiments. The personal is the political, they say, and everyday conversations can evolve into networks of resistance.
Organizing with other people — by doing things like arranging a time for people to come together to call senators or participating in student activism — is essential if we are to begin resisting disturbing political trends in this country. This is especially necessary because New Haven is currently a sanctuary city; we need to work to keep it that way if we want to protect immigrants who live here. According to the Connecticut Mirror, New Haven may very well be a target for federal funding cuts because of its status. At a time like this, it is essential to call our representatives and alders (which can be found via a quick online search) to let politicians know how we feel about such matters.
Yesterday, groups in the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance met with Gov. Dannel Malloy to advocate for the maintenance of New Haven’s status as a sanctuary city. However, the onus cannot solely fall on community organizers.
Learning how groups on campus — especially those affiliated with the cultural houses — can interact with other groups in the greater New Haven area is crucial to build successful coalitions against Trump’s policies. It is essential that Yale students show up to meetings of organizations like Unidad Latina en Acción and other grassroots groups rooted in the New Haven community.
Given that Yale has the resources — and the numbers — to help relieve the burden on international students as well as undocumented workers and students, the administration must work to protect these Yalies. The vigil that took place earlier this week was a great starting point, but there is more work to be done.
To begin with, the University needs to seriously consider allocating funds for international students to have housing in New Haven during the summer break, much like OISS has done for those on financial aid during winter break. University President Peter Salovey has committed to providing legal counsel to international students if they are targeted by the federal government, and he must make good on this promise.
The provision of adequate mental health services has been an ongoing imperative for Yale Health, and in this time of duress, the University must do more. In particular, it should ensure that counsellors are well-versed in the challenges facing international and undocumented students, and consider deploying them at OISS and the cultural centers.
The next time approaches you in a dining hall and asks how you are doing, we mustn’t circumvent the question with platitudes. Instead, discuss strategies which will alleviate the undue burden of a Trump administration.
We’re not fine.
Isis Davis-Marks is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays, Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .