We, the “bad” people of Trump’s America, are demanding a new world order
It was a brisk December day in 1977 when my father escaped Sudan. This country of Black pharos was crumbling from within. President Gaafar Nimeiry had stamped out political dissent and ushered in a wave of slow, but pernicious, attacks on Sudanese institutions. Our country was no longer a bastion of Black pluralism. It had become – and in many ways still remains – a country reeling from decades of war, religious dogma, and destructive repression.
The economic turmoil and political pressure made it an impossible place for the actualization of dreams, prompting my father’s retreat from Sudan to Saudi Arabia. It was in Saudi Arabia that I was born and attended elementary school. It was in Saudi Arabia that I memorized half the Qur’an, fell in love with Islam, and learned of my African homeland as memory: memory of a language, of a people, of a Sahara far out of my reach.
With the birth of my sister, my father knew it would be impossible for two Black women to receive the type of education my sister and I deserved. We would make it to the United States March 2000 after years of attempts and trials. And it was from here that he would finally be granted asylum. The nightmare was over – or so we thought.
Our American Dream was to soon become Malcolm’s American Nightmare.
It is in America that my father would work three jobs, all at once, to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Washington, D.C. It is here that he would apply for a home loan, only to be rejected dozens of times, until he “saved enough.” But how can a man making minimum wage as a cashier save? It is in America that my father would swallow his pride and rely on the government for food and sustenance assistance, despite working more than 16 hours a day. It is in America that my father would suffer a heart attack in large part because of financial stress. It is in America that my father would lose his eyesight because of medical malpractice. But how can an African immigrant with an accent sue the sharpest legal team in our nation’s capital?
Yet my father, like the scores of men and women fleeing their lands for naught but an opportunity, believed in this American Promise. He believed in it so deeply that he paid for it with his health, his pride, his money, his tears, and his prayers. Over and above all else, my father gave this country his most prized possessions: his daughters. To raise three Black Muslim women in America is no easy feat. It requires a certain steadfastness of the heart, an unabashed trust in the actuality of justice, and faith. It is this faith that would catapult his daughters to the country’s finest institutions, to brush shoulders with the “winners” of this world order. But “losers” we would remain, so long as America, as it has always done, continued to extract and exploit its immigrants without affording people dignity and respect.
My father has given all that he has to a country that treats him as mere commodity.
This past month was a reminder of our inherent danger to the American project. I fielded calls by students who were now stranded, family members who could no longer enter, members of the community who were reportedly returned to Sudan without any reservation. Some handcuffed, others detained, some questioned. Old, sick, disabled, children, pregnant. Like refugees and civilians crossing across the Mediterranean, this border was now as dangerous as the sharks roaming a raging Sea. My people are in a complete state of capture.
While my Sudanese passport expired long ago in the emptied suite cases of our past, my political imagination and my commitment to a broader sense of citizenship has been reborn. To that end, I, like many of my classmates in the law, have pledged to resist this demagoguery. More than ever, we are now not only in the midst of a constitutional crisis, but a moral one. Judicial review is in grave danger. So is the ethical premise of the American project. We need to shift the ways in which we engage, build, and love. No longer can we rely on policies to liberate our bodies and our dreams. We must demand a new world order.