I don’t know what the next four years will bring. But for the sake of my family, I hope we triumph over hate.
In the morning, as I got ready for work, my mom said, “I guess I’ll have to be careful today.” My entire family has been the recipients of verbal harassment, “terrorist” being the most common word thrown around. However, with the rise of Trump, we now fear that hurtful words may turn to violent actions.
My parents came to this country in 1989, at the time that the Dotbusters hate group was strong in New Jersey and New York. They targeted South Asians in an attempt to force them out of the area. While my parents never encountered this type of violence or overt displays of anti-Indian sentiment, it was nonetheless a reminder that some people didn’t want them in America.
While Donald Trump did not create racism, he normalized it and made it acceptable for people to verbalize their most offensive thoughts. The spike in racial slurs, in “White Power” chants, in hate crimes since his campaign began is proof of that. For me, the Dotbusters were simply a thing of the past, an unpleasant reminder that people who looked like me were not always welcome. But now, the same kinds of people that decided Indian immigrants didn’t fit into their America in the ’80s and ’90s have a spokesperson, a figurehead in the White House. And I’m left to wonder if the days of groups like the Dotbusters are about to return.
Growing up, I seldom wore traditional Indian clothes, not wanting to seem different from my predominantly white classmates. When I reached college, however, I began to embrace my culture, and after I graduated, I even started wearing Indian outfits to my workplace. It took almost 18 years for me to realize that I could be both Indian and American, that one side of my identity didn’t negate or lessen the other. However, with the rise of hatred and racism that has accompanied Trump’s campaign, I no longer feel comfortable wearing those clothes to go out. Trump’s ascendancy has made me feel as though I have to sacrifice my culture for my safety, fearing that the simple act of wearing non-Western clothes will bring harm to me or my family.
Though the events of the past week have often made me feel like my family and I don’t belong in America, the outpouring of support from my friends has reminded me that, while there will always be people out there whose conception of America does not include us, there are far more people who care about us and want us here. From the people who liked my status on Facebook, to the people in my office who offered hugs and allowed me to take some time off, to the friends who sent me texts and messages ensuring my safety and offering to help, I saw how much people cared.
I don’t know what the next four years will bring and I don’t know to what extent I will be affected by the hateful actions we’ve already seen in the country, but those small acts of kindness remind me that we do not face these challenges alone.
Together, we may just triumph over hate.
By DIYA NAGARAJ