VIEWPOINT: Action, Not Despair, Will Overcome Fear

On Wednesday morning, I called my parents, Muslim, Pakistani immigrants living in the San Francisco Bay Area, to explain to them why Donald Trump had won the election. I had to explain to them that the next four years were going to be very dangerous for us.

I explained to them that Trump was elected because he channeled the anger that resulted from the economic anxieties of working-class white America. The grievances that many of his supporters felt were legitimate. Politicians from both sides of the aisle had promised to address their concerns, but never did. My family felt that anxiety, too, when my father lost his job in the 2008 recession, as we stood on the verge of losing our home.

Nevertheless, so much of Trump’s campaign was infected by racism and hatred, and his electoral win validated those messages.
Once results began pointing to a Trump victory on election night, I began to panic. The worst of my fears were coming true. What would happen to my family and my friends? Would my mother and sister be attacked for wearing their hijabs?

If Trump follows through on the rhetoric he has promoted throughout his campaign, minority communities will have to face a reality they never would have thought was possible. Once he is sworn into office, the divisive campaign and policies he vowed to put into place will soon become law. The most powerful man on earth will be a proven liar, accused rapist and bigot.

The fears of our communities must not be understated. With a unified Republican Congress, and a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, Trump will have free reign to implement the most horrific of his policies without check or balance.

Trump has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, two of President Barack Obama’s signature policies. These actions will disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic communities. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, more than 20 million people will lose their health insurance. Over the phone, I explained this to my father, whose diabetes may now prevent him from getting affordable health coverage.

An end to DACA would mean that millions of young immigrants whose parents brought them to the country without documentation as children could lose their ability to go to school and work. These children know no other home outside this country. The day after the election, a friend of mine tweeted that he would lose his livelihood, and that he would have to return to Mexico. Repealing these policies would break up families and ruin lives. This is contrary to the foundation upon which this country was built.

While such policy concerns are at the forefront of minority communities’ minds, America’s Muslim communities will likely face a rapid amplification of Islamophobic violence and hatred. The freedom to practice religion will come under attack. Mosques will be under constant surveillance, the FBI will visit our homes and harass us, we will continue to be kicked off airplanes and our children will grow up knowing only hate.

I fear particularly for Muslim women, who have already faced such virulent hatred for their hijabs. These fears have long been part of the Muslim-American experience, and it will only grow further under Trump’s presidency.

But we must not despair. We will not sit around and serve as kindling as Trump sets our country on fire. Yesterday, at Georgetown, members of the Black House, Casa Latina and Muslim communities gathered to discuss strategies for coalition-building. All across the country, young people marched in political protest, demonstrating their capacity for resilience. We are determined, fierce and ready to fight on.

We are not alone. While a woman who was infinitely more qualified than Trump did not win the election, it was nevertheless historically significant. Female politicians continue to break boundaries for minorities in the country. In California, Kamala Harris became the first Indian-American senator. In Nevada and Illinois, Catherine Cortez-Masto and Tammy Duckworth became the first Latina and Asian-American women in the Senate. In Minnesota, Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American woman to hold public office. These courageous women are a reminder that even in the face of such hate, anything is possible in this country.

Given these tremendous challenges, it is imperative to follow the message of the civil rights movement. Yes, this fear is overwhelming. But we will not be overwhelmed. Through action, organization and cooperation, we can triumph over bigotry, hate and policies of intolerance. We shall overcome.

KUMAIL ASLAM is a sophomore in the College.

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