Fountain: In my rainbow class, a palpable air of mourning

The following post originally appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times under the byline of John W. Fountain on 11/11/2016. John Fountain was Dominic’s professor at Roosevelt University in 2016, and is a regular columnist for the Sun-Times.

On the morning after, I wore black. Black turtleneck. My professorial black suede jacket. Black slacks. Wine shoes for a spray of color — a ray of hope.

I was in mourning. Not for the loss we will all suffer for having now elected a sexist bigot to be leader of the Free World. Mourning for those who ultimately will live to regret it as this country is whisked into a whirlwind of born-again hate and the campaign promises turn up empty. For “we” gon’ be all right.

But inside my classrooms at Roosevelt University this week, the air was palpably somber. A journalism class that resembles a rainbow — Latina, white, black, a student from Ukraine, straight, gay — we are America.

Usually optimistic, some students were reduced to tears — angry, fearful, dismayed — over the democratic elections that yielded President-elect Donald J. Trump.

While not in my lesson plan, circumstance demanded we discuss the matter at hand. Some could. Some could not.

Tears flowed.

“I couldn’t help but notice today was not a good day for you. …Intended to speak with you after class, but you left before I could,” I later wrote to one student. “Hope all is well.”

“I’m OK,” my student Dominic Gwinn wrote back days later. “I was reeling from the results of the election and what that means for me as a journalist, as a student, and as a young white male who has worked so tirelessly to abolish the kind of thinking that is unfortunately so pervasive. Injustices were seemingly validated. I’ve always known that they still existed. But their prevalence in modern society made me physically ill.

“I stayed up all night co-hosting an election party for my internship, and I was the last soul trying to maintain hope and optimism until everyone left in tears. When I finally got home, I turned on some music and I wept alone like a child. …I tried to breathe, but my lungs knew only deep heavy sobs.

“Is this what people wanted? Did they not remember the wars, the economic catastrophe, the racial and sexual bigotry, state-sanctioned torture, domestic spying, environmental destruction of just 10 years ago?

“Are they ignorant? Or do they just not care? Do they just not know how much work was done in the town they — with disdain and loathing — call ‘the Swamp?’

“They deride the lot of residents who sacrifice their own votes to live in a city where their job is to help people all over the world.

“And the people who work tirelessly in windowless rooms to make sure tomorrow is, at the very least, not as bad as yesterday, are simply nothing more than cogs in a machine that needed to be dismantled?

“There’s no plan to fix anything or rebuild, just the false promise that everything will be better after it’s all destroyed.

“It was like being stabbed. The fresh wound pours warm blood, soaking everything it touches. With trembling hands, and jaw agape, cool air rushed toward the hole in my chest, and the pain began to sink in…

“Eight years ago, I stood out on the Mall one cold, blustery day, to see a man tell us all: That we’d won the fight, but our battle had just begun. There would be losses, and there would be setbacks. But we couldn’t stop now. Not yet…

“I’m a journalist, and there’s a story to tell.”

I told Dominic and other students that in the words of Kendrick Lamar: “We gon’ be all right.” That I am encouraged simply because of who they are: Our best hope.

Not just a ray but a rainbow.

Email: Author@johnwfountain.com

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