Here’s Why There’s Still Hope Under a Trump Presidency
Like many other Americans, I was in complete shock when I saw that Donald J. Trump would be the 45th President of these United States. But for many minorities, especially Muslims, this election cycle has been particularly brutal. From Trump’s proposed Muslim ban and registry to the scaremongering about Syrian refugees, the climate has been no short of alarming. I (somewhat) jokingly thought about countries I could move to and wondered if it would be safe for me to go outside in my headscarf. It doesn’t help to know that last year hate crimes against Muslims increased by 67 percent or that members of Trump’s cabinet are made up of people like Jeff Sessions who have made racist remarks about African Americans. With Inauguration Day just over a month away, it definitely feels unreal that we will have Trump officially as our leader. However, despite our fears we shouldn’t have a total meltdown because hope exists for the future.
Sure, we were not able to elect the first female president. But that doesn’t mean it will never happen. And there is a young girl somewhere out there who still has the opportunity to take that title. Hillary Clinton reiterated this in her concession speech. Reminding us to not give up, she stated: “To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”
We have people like Ilhan Omar who was elected as a Minnesota House Representative, the first Somali-American Muslim woman to do so in the U.S. What makes her more remarkable is that she was a refugee from Mogadishu who lived in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to America at age 12. Omar represents the past, present, and future of America — woman, person of color and immigrant here and ready to serve her nation.
The Latino community also scored high by increasing their political presence. The House of Representatives welcomed seven new Latino representatives elected into office as 27 Latino incumbents won another term. The Senate also had the honor of welcoming Catherine Cortez Masto as the first elected Latina. This reflects the impact of changing demographics since Latinos are the fastest growing minority in the U.S.
But while the 2016 election demonstrated some positives, we can’t be naive to think that everything is going to be fine. I think about how I will have to remain alert and avoid conflict even more than before, especially since I wear a headscarf. I worry how I look may ignite someone to say or do something that I will not be able to counter. Omar herself faced the immediate consequences of Trump’s election through bigotry and racist remarks immediately when called ISIS by a D.C. cab driver after attending a White House event for state representatives. I myself heard fellow young Muslim women in a WhatsApp group express concern and advised one another to get pepper spray and self defense training if possible. However, these measures do not mean we stay silent and halt our activism.
These next four years will not be easy. But our nation is worth fighting for and a reward does not come without struggle. This struggle isn’t just for us, but for other members in society as we cannot remain silent when other minorities are abused. We need to be more visible than ever and stand with our brothers and sisters who face discrimination be they Latino, African-American, Sikh or Jewish. This is our opportunity to join together and to fight for one another. I personally was able to see this when community members “vandalized” my local mosque with chalk messages of love.
And that is the beauty of this great nation that we want to preserve no matter what the costs. For us, the reward is an American society at peace with one another despite race, religion or gender. It’s a place where we can disagree with one another yet respect each others’ differences. Though we have come a long way, but we are not quite there yet. This election demonstrated that. Whether it’s through building a better relationship with our neighbors or holding more interfaith events, we need to stand up to hatred and ignorance. As Americans and as Muslims, we have a primary duty to bring all people together and to make sure that we ourselves don’t fall into the hands of bigotry or become fearful of different people.