Q & A: Marta Sakowicz
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The Talon recently talked to social studies teacher Marta Sakowicz on the outcome of the presidential election. Sakowicz, a Hillary Clinton supporter, voiced worry over the upcoming Donald Trump presidency and talked about approaching the subject to her class the day after the election.
This is part of a series of interviews The Talon is conducting with different history teachers about their opinions and reactions to the election. Stay tuned for more Q&As in the coming days.
Who did you think was going to win the election?
I thought it was going to be Hillary. Looking at [the polls], it was really optimistic… So I was pretty shocked. Me and my roommates were watching it and just got really sad. We had a cheesecake that was supposed to be celebratory or conciliatory. We were joking that it would be a sad cake, but it ended up being a sad cake.
Something I talked about with my students contributed to this, we were talking about how divided rural and urban communities are, and because we’re so divided we have no perception about what other people think or can’t even fathom what other people think. I think I definitely fell victim to that.
How were you feeling during and after election night?
I was going through the stages of grief. I was in denial for a bit, and then I went to bed before the results were finally called. I knew it wasn’t likely but I was hoping I’d wake up to some miracle.
The day after, I actually woke up at 3 a.m, and my phone said, “Trump wins and Putin is excited.” And then I just couldn’t sleep because I was having a hard time figuring out which layer of my reaction I should channel the next day [in class]. Is it my anger, is it my confusion, is it “let’s hope for the best” and love each other and move on? That was I think the most upsetting thing and distressing thing to me.
How were students affected by the election in your view and how did you approach the results the next day?
My classes are very mixed. There are a lot of students from all different backgrounds that Trump has personally attacked. You’re supposed to be balanced and make sure everyone feels safe, but… the fact that Trump won made a statement that this country isn’t safe for these students.
I ended up giving them space to talk to each other. I didn’t really feel in the right place to lead a class discussion, so I just had them write a reflection for five minutes to draw or write how they’re feeling. Then if they were feeling comfortable, they could talk to their table groups for a while. [It] was helpful because I felt like a lot of students were confused when they walked in, like “We don’t know what just happened.” Then we were able to share a couple of thoughts, but it felt like a lot of the anxiety that came into the room lessened. Hopefully my students felt a little less anxious afterward.
What is your view on protests like the school walk out a couple weeks ago?
I think there are protests and there are riots. I didn’t go, but as far as I know it didn’t turn into a riot, it was pretty peaceful. I think a lot of people misinterpret protests when people say like, “Why are you even protesting? it doesn’t matter.” I think that’s a misinterpretation of what the purpose of a protest is. Often times it’s to make your voice heard, not to demand immediate change, [just that] now we’re talking about it. If no one protested, no one would be talking about the discontent.
What type of historical precedence does this election have?
There has been historically a lot of tension in America between old and new, between traditionalist and modernist, between rural and urban. In a lot of ways this election makes sense because those views have been diverging since the early 1900s, and they’ve continued to drive apart.
That historical divide between city life and rural life seems to have played out, where the people who live in that rural area feel like their way of life is being attacked. When Obama was elected, some of them had a real fear where they thought, “Wow, America doesn’t care about us. America doesn’t see that our values are valid, they’re saying we’re wrong, I think that’s not the direction we should be going in.” I feel like in some ways that’s how people in urban communities are reacting now.
Do you think minority groups should feel threatened by president-elect Trump?
I think they should feel disappointed. I definitely understand if they feel threatened. Based on the amount of hate crimes that have risen in the last year, that’s a legitimate fear. Even if Trump doesn’t believe what he says, the fact that so many people validate what he said against minorities is disturbing. It validates any inequitable views about minorities, and that’s why we’re seeing so many hate crimes.
What are your expectations for the next four years?
It’s hard to tell because Trump has been so flip-floppy. From my perspective, he just said what he thought he needed to rile up that rural community to think that he was on their side. People were convinced that he was going to drain the swamp and get rid of the old establishment. And yet he names the head of Republican National Convention as his [chief of staff].
It’s kind of discouraging, because on the one hand I saw this person as pretty incompetent and thought he would have to rely on a lot of people to lead, but the people he’s choosing are a little concerning. A lot of them claim that global warming isn’t real, and they think that women should be punished for having abortions. It’s really hard to tell and that’s part of the anxiety, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.