After graduating from Park University this December, Waleed Alitr was planning to stay an extra month in the United States before returning home to Saudi Arabia.
But hours after Donald Trump was elected president early Wednesday, the 25-year-old computer science major booked a flight home just a day after he will graduate: His family wants him back as soon as possible.
“There is a lot of fear back home,” said Alitr, who is Muslim. “I believe Donald Trump will affect our relationship with the rest of the world, because of what he says.”
Alitr was shocked that the president-elect has promised to restrict the immigration of Muslims to the United States and end the country’s Syrian refugee program. To his confusion, the Americans he has met are open and welcoming, nothing like those who seemed to buy into the idea that Muslims are dangerous.
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He and many supporters of Hillary Clinton were upset and confused Wednesday about Trump’s victory. They’re in disbelief that the next president is a man who retweeted white supremacists, who was recorded speaking about groping woman in crude and unapologetic terms, and who was accused by 10 women of sexual assault.
Trump called women fat. Mexicans, rapists. Black people, thugs.
On Wednesday, protests against Trump broke out at several universities. Social media was awash with individuals offering support to the LGBTQ community, Muslim Americans, refugees, immigrants, people of color and others.
Many of those concerned asked: How seriously should they take Trump’s campaign rhetoric? More importantly, how seriously would Trump take his own campaign promises that targeted specific classes of people?
“Was he serious about everything he said in the past, or did he just say that to win?” asked Abdullatis Aljoufi, a 27-year-old Muslim student at Park University. “I hope he was joking about what he has said in the past. I hope he just said that to win, and he has another plan.”
Gilbert Guerrero, vice president of the Guadalupe Centers in Kansas City, said he spent much of Wednesday morning talking with worried Hispanic friends.
“Everyone is scared. In my community, they’re scared,” he said. “I don’t want to make it overly dramatic, but I’m a student of history. And I feel like how a Jew in Germany might have felt” in the 1930s.
Several people who spoke to The Star expressed anxiety about whether Trump would make good on promised initiatives that could affect certain civil rights.
Trump has indicated he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would consider revoking same-sex marriage and has said he would sign the Freedom of the First Amendment Defense Act — proposed federal legislation that LGBTQ advocates say would permit discrimination against gay people in the name of religious liberty.
In a presidential debate, he brought up the idea of reinstating “stop and frisk,” a policing technique that studies show has in some areas disproportionately targeted people of color.
He has vowed to swiftly deport illegal immigrants from Latin America and build a wall cutting Mexico off from the United States.
The American political process has long existed on candidates making campaign promises they don’t keep in office. But Trump’s campaign also broke the rules of political civility and crossed over into language that threatened human rights.
What those baffled by Trump’s success didn’t realize, The Washington Post’s media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote Wednesday, is that for many, his campaign was never about the specifics, but an (albeit inflammatory) commitment to a new direction.
In the column, Sullivan quoted billionaire Peter Thiel making a point about something he said journalists across the country missed — Trump supporters take Trump “seriously but not literally.” Thiel said didn’t he believe Trump really plans to build a wall, for example.
“What they hear is, ‘We’re going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy,’ ” Sullivan quotes Thiel as saying.
The disconnect has led to some confusion as to just what Trump exactly plans to do in office.
“Personally, I don’t really know where he stands on LGBTQ issues,” said Michael Lintecum, director for the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. “The rhetoric came out so dark against particular classes of people and minorities and all that. I’m not sure I heard a lot of inflammatory language against gay people.”
Lintecum said the chamber would continue its mission to promote diverse workplaces, and would not let up on improving diversity locally for Kansas City businesses.
“I don’t know what (the rhetoric) is all about,” Lintecum said. “He was appealing to a particular constituency that I guess needed to hear that.”
Guerrero, with the Guadalupe Center, was born in the United States and wouldn’t personally be affected by any of Trump’s immigration policies. But Guerrero said he and his friends worry about what will happen to the so-called Dreamers, undocumented youths and others who have been allowed to stay in the U.S. under current policies.
“I was so happy when Obama made the DREAM Act,” Guerrero said, referring to President Barack Obama’s 2012 move granting work permits and other benefits to millions of undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them here while they were minors.
“Trump says he’s going to cancel those. The danger also, the government’s got their names,” Guerrero said. “There’s so much damage that’s going to be done to our community.”
While anti-Trump protests hit various universities, it was quiet Wednesday at University of Missouri’s Columbia campus on the one-year anniversary of racially charged protests that forced out the system president and university chancellor.
Stephanie Shonekan, director of the Black Studies Department, invited students and faculty who were disturbed by the election to stop by her office “and talk over tea and calm their nerves,” she said. She saw a steady stream.
Aljoufi, the Park University student, said he was confused by the association Trump drew between Muslims and terrorism.
In Saudi Arabia and other places in the world, he pointed out, Muslims are also the targets of terrorists. Even though he believes that Trump likely exaggerated his beliefs to gain more attention from the media and boost his popularity with his supporters, he’s observed the uncertainly people at his campus have for the future.
“A lot of people are sad. A lot of people are shocked,” he said. “They still think it was like a dream. They are waiting to wake up and they are wondering: What’s the future going to be with Trump?”
Nancy Levit, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, thinks she knows.
On Wednesday, her daughter sent her a picture of two men in Klan robes walking on the campus of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis. They were holding a Trump sign and a Confederate flag.
Her son, an Indiana resident and a lawyer, told her that someone egged the home of a Muslim acquaintance of his law partner. “White Power” was written in chalk on the driveway.
“Perhaps these two very small vignettes indicate why unity may be difficult when a country chooses as president someone who has not held elected office and who has demonstrated racist, sexist, and sexually predatory behavior (giddily confessing to kissing women who have not consented and proclaiming that he grabs them by the genitals),” Levit wrote to The Star. “The results of this election have already seemed to empower racist and ethnocentric behavior.”
She said that in the future, she fears “ill-considered judicial appointments, impulsive foreign policy, and crony capitalism,” but hopes she is wrong.
Others she knows don’t want to take the chance.
Levit’s oldest son’s wife is a Canadian citizen, and is expecting a child on Saturday.
After the results came in Wednesday, Levit said, the family made a decision to leave for Toronto.