By Nina Glesby
On November 9th, our country learned that Donald Trump is the President-elect. Since Heschel is a relatively homogenous Jewish school, Helios decided to ask people outside the community, particularly from different minority groups, about their reactions to the election’s results.
These are the raw responses of individuals. Please keep in mind that these individuals do not speak on behalf of others; they speak only from their personal experiences. If you feel that your perspective has not been represented, please reach out with your opinion.
I teach at a public school in East Harlem. The entire school community was shaken up the morning after the election. Regardless of their political beliefs and affiliations, almost everyone was upset and discouraged by what they felt was a validation of sexism, misogyny, and xenophobia. Many of my students are immigrants and they are very worried about the implications of the election on their families and friends. My Muslim students fear an increase in Islamophobia. On a positive note, these recent events have brought students together as they work through their feelings and concerns in a supportive environment.
-Paige Conn, public school educator
I came to the US when I was 2. I know nothing else. I am more American than I am Pakistani. I fell in love with a man who came to the US from Pakistan when he was 15. He is more American than Pakistani. We married here, not going back to Pakistan as many people from our community do because we are more American than Pakistani. We are both naturalized citizens.
We have grown our family here, my husband always feeling cautious of the world, but me always feeling safe in my country. Sadly, I no longer do. I wasn’t even this scared after 9/11 when my Islamic School was constantly under attack. A couple of months ago when cities in France banned the burkini, I gloated about the fact that I was American and I was accepted. Today I have a beautiful three-year-old girl. I fear for her. I fear for my family. My heart breaks over and over when I think of the plan this man has. I cannot believe that our country, a country that I was so proud of, wants me to register myself, a law-abiding citizen, as a potential threat.
My friends are being attacked and threatened. I was never scared before, but now I fear the worst. I hope and pray and have faith in God that all the good and bad is decreed by him. But I’m sick and tired of being misunderstood and not accepted by so many.
I’m hearing stories of women going up to Muslim women, telling them to take off their Hijab and strangle themselves…. it all just makes me angry and breaks my heart.
I hope and pray that we will return to a state where I feel secure for my family. I pray that my daughter never has to live in fear.
Many amazing people may ask how can they help. The answer is simple: let your vulnerable neighbors know that you support them. Whether they be Muslim, Black, LGBTQ+, disabled, immigrants, etc. Go to the local mosque and reassure them. Many of us are not speaking up about our fear, afraid we may be vulnerable. There were small acts of kindness where people were writing on the sidewalk with chalk and letting families know that they support them and they want them there. That helps whole neighborhoods and communities feel secure. Small steps will build a nation of kindness and support.
-Saubia Arbab Latif, Muslim woman, 29
I’m 34 years old, but in my late teen years and my twenties I would get stopped and frisked in the subways and stopped at airports quite often, with the explanation that it was/is “random.”
When Trump won Florida I heard a metaphorical crack that broke the country. It was as if I heard America’s spine break. I went into shock – I was frozen and didn’t know how to respond. As a Muslim I was terrified, thinking: do I have to leave now? Am I safe? Is the country safe? Are mosques going to burn?
I quite literally started taking an inventory of my personal belongings, thinking, what could I fit in two suitcases? I was on the phone with my mom who lives in Pakistan discussing a contingency plan to move there. I could go on and on. I have received many messages of love from my American friends asking how I am doing and what they can do to help me feel welcome in my own country again, as with this president elect I don’t feel welcome.
Now that I have accepted the reality, all I can do is wear a safety pin everyday and make those around me feel safe.
-Shawn Renfro, Muslim man, 34
As a person of color (POC) and an LGBTQ+ individual, I am very afraid of what could come in the next four years. I don’t know what could happen to my community, since my country is in the hands of alleged racists and homophobes. I’m already frequently targeted by strangers, friends’ parents, and others, and the Trump/Pence reign is going to give people like this a new power.
-Zaya Gooding, lesbian and person of color, 15
You say the wall will be there to protect us, but I don’t feel safe; I feel terrified. The bricks are not surrounding m;, they are being built right on my chest, weighing it down until I can no longer breathe. I’m scared that I’m never going to get to wear a veil, all because I want to marry a girl. I’m scared that I will have to relive the nightmare that I had to live through for years, the nightmare I have every single night. Donald Trump will not represent us; we will represent ourselves. I am a lesbian. I am a rape victim. I am a female. I am a person, REGARDLESS of how I’m treated.
-Female rape victim, individual has requested anonymity, 19
The current situation in the world made me think: what will be next? If you look around in Europe, very right-wing parties are being elected to Parliament or to even higher places in politics and are getting the majority of votes. They seem to just profit from the fear that people have for, for example, the refugees, or people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds in general. That is the reason why the election of Donald Trump did not surprise me. It seems that we are not able to learn from the past.
I think that you are well informed about Trump so I will not go into any details but just share my thoughts. I felt affected by the election of Donald Trump although I do not live in the U.S. He has no respect toward anything or anyone, not only in the way he is threatening women, but also in the fact that he can say whatever he wants with no consequences. Things that used to be taboo are now “normal topics” thanks to him. The biggest problem with Trump is that he is totally unpredictable; he even contradicts himself during his speeches. And the moves he wants to make in the international direction as the U.S. President are insane.
-Benjamin Rubin, Vienna Exchange Student 2016, 17