EmbraceRace

Waking Up Muslim on November 9th

A response to my brother, who did not vote and is not afraid

By Autumn Allen 

a mosaic dome ceiling in a mosque

November 8, 2016

On election day, I was driving to my mother’s house to offer and to receive moral support on an anxiety-ridden day. My youngest daughter asked me to turn on a Quran CD. My eldest daughter groaned as I turned it on.

As we pulled up to a traffic light, we were approaching some construction where two police officers were directing traffic. My older daughter went into a panic. She insisted that I turn off the Quran because the police were right there and might hear it.

“So what?” I asked.

“Are you crazy? They’re going to think we’re — Mommy! They could tase us! They could beat us! They could shoot us! Turn it off!”

To my daughter, fear is a normal state of being for us as Muslims. To her, Trump is on the spectrum of normalcy; the type of ignorance she ascribed to the police is routine, and we have to accommodate it. It breaks my heart to see what is normal to her.

a police officer directs traffic

The author’s daughter fears traffic police because being Muslim has been criminalized

I refused, even as she went into a full anxiety attack. I told her that we will not be treated as criminals for practicing our religion, and every time we hide who we are out of fear, we accept that there is something wrong with who we are. She calmed down after we passed the police officers, but she still did not understand my decision and sincerely believed I had endangered us all.

While I did not fear what she feared, once we reached my mother’s neighborhood 45 minutes outside of the city and were surrounded by pick-up trucks, it did occur to me to turn down the volume. We were now surrounded by people I’ve become more wary of over this election season. I resisted the temptation however, using my own words to convince myself to stand my ground.

This same child who thinks policemen will think we are terrorists for listening to the Quran, has asked repeatedly, “Why is everyone so scared of Trump winning? I don’t get it. What’s the big deal? What could he do that would be so horrible?”

She doesn’t realize that her fear of being confused with terrorists is caused by the mentality and rhetoric that Trump espouses. The mentality existed for centuries before he came on the scene — in fact, the mentality is what gave rise to him and his followers. But public figures create an atmosphere in which certain kinds of talk become normalized and perceived as acceptable.

To my daughter, fear is a normal state of being for us as Muslims. To her, Trump is on the spectrum of normalcy; the type of ignorance she ascribed to the police is routine, and we have to accommodate it. It breaks my heart to see what is normal to her.

My brother (who is not a Muslim) did not vote, and is proud of not voting. He feels that it doesn’t make a difference who is in office. The country runs on white supremacy, and no president is going to change that.

a collage of past presidents

November 9, 2016

The next morning, the first Facebook post I saw from my brother said: “Y’all n*ggas really scared of Trump’s punk @%$?!”

My brother (who is not a Muslim) did not vote, and is proud of not voting. He feels that it doesn’t make a difference who is in office. The country runs on white supremacy, and no president is going to change that. He says that former presidents have harbored the same hateful thoughts as Trump; they just had the manners or intelligence not to say it aloud in public.

I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton. After reading about her active role during her husband’s tenure which resulted in large-scale incarceration of black men, I felt I could not truly consider her an ally of black America. There are also foreign policy decisions that our country makes, no matter who is president, that I can never get on board with.

So, I voted for her out of fear. I was one of those saying, “Girl, I guess I’m with her.”
No, I am not afraid of Trump. I am concerned about what decisions he will make as president, but that is not why I am afraid right now … My fear is for my physical safety on a day to day basis, and for my children’s psychological health.

Clinton campaign logo with a black girl looking reluctant and Clinton with a big smile on her face

This viral image, with the reluctant “Girl, I guess I’m with her,” summed up the author’s feelings leading up to November.

I was able to acknowledge that she is qualified for the position. As the season lagged on, I grew to respect the poise with which she managed running against an opponent whose intelligence and experience were inferior to her own.

But what am I afraid of? Is it the president elect himself? Is it what he might do as president?

No, I am not afraid of Trump. I am concerned about what decisions he will make as president, but that is not why I am afraid right now. I am afraid of the ugly beast of white supremacy that he has given voice to, and especially the boldness that his popularity lends to those who share his thinking. My fear is for my physical safety on a day to day basis, and for my children’s psychological health.

I don’t know if it’s possible for a black man in America to feel any less secure than he always has ... These people are more often cowards who would not harass or approach my brother’s 6-foot frame on the street. A black Muslim woman wearing hijab, with or without children in tow, is an easy target.

a graph shows types of intimidation and their prevalence

November 11, 2016 SPLC statistics of incidents since election day, 3 days earlier

What came before 

As a woman, I live in a constant state of vigilance, which is something about which men can be oblivious. A woman’s fear is of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong individual or group of people. It does not matter the person’s motives for harming me or my daughters. What matters is whether he gets an opportunity to physically overpower me.

If you are not acquainted with this longstanding fear of violence against women, it will be hard to understand how seeing the number of votes for Trump changes my lived experience. It is possible that I am no more threatened today than I was two days ago. But seeing a country blazing in red in support of a misogynist, racist xenophobe over a well-qualified woman certainly changes my perception of my own safety. It changes how I live my daily life, how many times I look over my shoulder every day, how often I feel safe, and how I worry for my children, who are all girls.

Black men, especially those who have been “in the system,” live in their own state of constant vigilance, as heartbreakingly articulated by Ta Nehisi-Coates in his book Between the World and Me. Whether you choose to succumb to a feeling of fear or not, there is a consciousness of the threat that the machine of white supremacy poses to your body. The forces that push you toward prison and early graves. That force is massive, but perhaps once you have faced the worst of it by being imprisoned or shot, you no longer fear it. And you know that who the president is will not change the facts of your daily life.

This difference between a woman’s fear of individuals (exacerbated when the woman, like me, is a member of a targeted ethnic and/or religious group) and a black man’s position with regards to white supremacy plays itself out in routine ways.

It is there in my husband’s surprise when I casually mention that the space underneath the stairs is where, while running an errand from our hotel room, I imagined an attacker would stuff my unconscious body. I took the elevator on the way back up.

It is my sadness when my husband mentions his awareness of his surroundings as he runs to catch his train or bus, lest a police officer or “vigilante” think he is running for criminal reasons, while he is simply late for his job teaching college and graduate students about critical race theory.

I don’t know if it’s possible for a black man in America to feel any less secure than he always has. My “boogey men” come in different guises. They are the racist, hateful, resentful and yes, fearful, individuals in plain clothes throughout this country who are now proud of their identity as such and emboldened to act on their hate. These people are more often cowards who would not harass or approach my brother’s 6-foot frame on the street. A black Muslim woman wearing hijab, with or without children in tow, is an easy target.

Today

My greatest struggle today is to act normal. To do our homeschool lessons. To take my children to their Model United Nations and Girl Scouts meetings. To keep coaching their film-making team. To prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. And to not look too sad, because it is not the news of Trump’s victory, but my own sighing and negative energy that made my sensitive daughter burst into tears.

I am looking for hope. It is there in everyone who is looking for what to do now. And it is also there in those who did not vote and are not afraid, like my brother, who says he’s “been feeling the way y’all feel now for a long time, possibly we can all get on the same page now.”

I hope that everyone who is disappointed today can unite with action, and love, and show the world whose country this really is.

a group of people outside of a mosque holding signs saying christians love muslims

Autumn Allen

Autumn is an educator, lifelong student, writer, and children’s literature aficionado.
  • Share
  • facebook
  • twitter