When freshman Constanza Estrada woke up on Inauguration Day, she had little doubt that it would be a busy morning. As she rounded her third consecutive hour of classes, Estrada checked her Instagram to witness a slew of posts, stories and comments that confirmed what happened just moments prior: the Trump presidency was officially over.
For Estrada, this historic transition of power was a study break between math and economics. In the ten minutes she had to spare, Estrada witnessed celebrations of a female vice president, the powerful words of the youngest inaugural poet and the beginning of an era that she hopes will bring about acceptance and inclusion for Latinx people like her.
This moment mirrored a Saturday morning in November, when after voting by mail from Tulum, Mexico, Estrada checked her phone to discover Joe Biden had won the election. The Brooklyn native recalled seeing the streets of New York enthralled in celebration on her social media. Overtaken by a sense of community, she said that her hope for this presidency is a movement towards inclusion through representation and acceptance of the marginalized populations targeted by the Trump administration.
“If you’re not represented, if people don’t care about you, if people call you names and are racist, you don’t feel included, you don’t feel welcome,” Estrada said.
After short conversations with her friends, and quick glances at her incoming notifications, Estrada reflected on the potential for four years of lifting up Latinx voices that weren’t heard before. She smiled at the thought.
“It was definitely disheartening to see on the media the hatred that a lot of people had for us because of our race, and all the things that Trump stands for,” Estrada said. “I know that Biden isn’t perfect, but he’s definitely a step up, and with his cabinet and Kamala Harris as vice president, I’m excited. I’m happy that there’s people that are truly representative of America.”
Having two back-to-back classes, freshman Reyna Patel had her eyes glued to her Zoom lecture. Her phone buzzed suddenly, and she ignored it. Another buzz. It was her mother, sending her snippets from the inauguration. Compelled by the moment, Patel opened CNN.
Flashing back to November, her mother showed the same amount of anticipation and eagerness for the election while Patel attempted to survive Fall Quarter in Scottsdale, Arizona. With the analysis of a sleep-deprived Steve Kornacki in the background, Patel found herself too distracted to focus on her homework. On Inauguration Day, the anticipation remained diverting, but it was no longer stressful.
“There’s something about seeing it happen live that felt very safe and comfortable and relieving,” Patel said. “We can all breathe a little bit easier now.”
The inauguration, to her, is not a celebration of Biden. Though there was never a question of her voting for the Democratic candidate, Patel was not on board with Biden. His oath of office was not what was keeping Patel from dedicating herself to her math class.
Through the reflecting screen of her computer, Patel felt the world getting a little bit smaller as Kamala Harris took the stage.
“I know that for me, as a woman of color, just seeing Kamala Harris on TV as vice president, getting this kind of attention, it was the first time I realized that I hadn’t seen that for myself, ever,” Patel said. “And I feel the same way about all these people of color, a diverse cabinet all around, seeing them. It makes it all a little more relatable and a little more tangible and I didn’t even realize that that was something that was missing until it happened.”
While Patel scrolled through CNN and checked the clips that her mother sent, she recognized that she never lamented not having representation. But as she avoided her homework, Patel said she believes the country is moving in the right direction.
“It really hits me when I think of the next generation of kids that are growing up,” Patel said. “They’re not going to have to question their rightful place in big budget positions.”
The morning was slow, with no classes, so freshman Joshua Bobbitt lunged out of bed and headed to the gym. As he passed the lounge in his dorm, he heard the muffled sound of President Biden’s inaugural address playing on the TV. Uninterested, he kept walking.
During the election, Bobbitt was scrolling through social media at home in Chicago when Biden was announced the winner. He was unsurprised because of the high voting numbers he had been seeing online. But Bobbitt was unsatisfied with Biden’s promises. On inauguration day, he scrolled through social media and laughed at Bernie Sanders memes, but was more concerned about his Chinese class than this transition of power.
“It’s not much of a ceremony that I can celebrate, or take part in and enjoy,” Bobbitt said. “From my perspective, the inauguration was very performative.”
For Bobbitt, the pomp and circumstance of the inauguration, along with the performances by pop stars like Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, only confirmed the ridiculousness of the moment. He explained that both President Biden’s and Vice President Harris’s political histories have worked against the interests of people of color, and he wants to challenge his peers to think more critically of the U.S. political system.
“I feel like there is a lot of unlearning that people have been going through, but a lot of people have not talked about the way this country is set up,” Bobbitt said. “The two groups, Democrat and Republican, they’re both conservative and concerned more on capitalism and lobbying than they are concerned with the actual well-being of American people.”
As he returned from the gym and rested in his dorm, Bobbitt reflected on the ceremony and what it was missing. Bobbitt believes in abolition, in reparations for Black people, in breaking down systems of oppression. But he also believes in the importance of diversity.
Inauguration Day was just another day for Bobbitt. Still, he hopes that the new diversity and representation in the cabinet will be supported with concrete action.
“The idea of diversity and inclusion should stay consistent throughout his term,” Bobbitt said. “So, if you are going to have these people in high places, make sure that the people who they represent are being supported while you’re in office. Because at the end of the day, if it’s just representation, then it’s just representation.”
Sitting at her desk, freshman Amy Reyes-Gomez was in the zone. With her head buried in an assignment, hours passed and the swearing in ceremony came and went. When she opened Twitter, her feed was ablaze with comments on Michelle Obama’s inauguration outfit and clips from Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
In November, Reyes-Gomez remembers constantly checking the Nevada election tally and waiting. She was confident Biden would win. On Inauguration Day, she let out a sigh of relief that the waiting was over.
“It felt like there was less pressure on today. Obviously we still have so far to go as a country, there’s still so much work to be done, but it was nice to be able to look at today and take a breath,” Reyes-Gomez said.
Coming from Jeromesville, Ohio, which she describes as a conservative, rural area, Reyes-Gomez said she is surprised that the country is ready to accept a woman of color as vice president, along with more people of color in the cabinet. While she welcomes the change, Reyes-Gomez questions what further efforts for representation will occur.
“I do hesitate. I have fears that some white moderates are going to look at that and think that’s enough,” Reyes-Gomez said.
For her, being critical of Biden and holding him accountable is essential to making a difference. Having him in office, Reyes-Gomez explained, is not enough, especially when Biden was not her first choice. But moving forward, she is looking forward to seeing more people of color – people like her – in office.
“I think people really underestimate the influence that having someone like Trump in the presidency has,” Reyes-Gomez said. “It was really easy to justify your racism when the President of the United States was doing it.”
Reyes-Gomez remains optimistic – despite her worries – that the Biden administration will have a positive impact. With that knowledge, she returned to her jam-packed study session and Spanish classes more at ease, avoiding the dining hall at its busiest hours.
“I’m hoping in my own conservative community, people will become more open-minded,” Reyes-Gomez said. “That is what’s going to help start change.”
Article Thumbnail: “A medium close up view of the US Capitol Building in Washington D.C. taken just before sunrise on inauguration day 1997” is licensed under public domain via PICRYL.