Peeling Away

So a few weeks ago, Donald Trump was voted in as President of the United States. (It was going to be Hillary Clinton-everyone was pretty sure about that- but somehow, right after our first black president, we elected our first buffoon president.) And with him, hate was elected. Fear was elected.Blame and ignorance were elected. And especially for Muslims (because obviously if you come from a different country and are Muslim something must be goin’ on with you.)

To a Muslim woman, this came as bad news. In those comparatively few days, fresh reports of hate crimes and hate speech towards Muslims has poured in, and with it the fear-fear of walking alone outside, fear of the guy in the baseball cap who seems to be staring at you funny as you walk to your car, fear of being hated and blamed; the same fears you face everyday as a woman and a Muslim, but suddenly magnified. You fear for yourself as a woman, as a Muslim, and in another subcategory, as a hijabi. It’s not groundless fears either- it’s thinking about the woman whose hijab was set on fire, the girl who was grabbed by her hijab and choked, the girl who might have been- you. There must be a solution, even a short term solution, something to help you feel less afraid and less conspicuous.

The answer that came back was quick. Maybe you all should take off your hijab for a while. Tone it down. Twist it into something more acceptable. Hide. Maybe we should just stay inside. Maybe we should start wearing hats instead. Maybe we should start being afraid enough to hide now; desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

Or maybe not. Maybe we should start smaller- walking with a friend as often as possible. Staying as close to groups when possible. Avoiding confrontation, slipping around the aisle to skip bumping into the guy in the Trump T-shirt. Maybe that will be enough, that with the pepper spray and self-defense moves you already know; it’s not like you haven’t been afraid until now.

I haven’t had to walk alone. I haven’t been vulnerable to much other than the hissed insults at our group as a whole, the dirty looks and flashed signs. I don’t have to interact with people I should possibly be afraid of daily; a few times a week, in class or at the checkout, is exhausting enough. I do live in a Trump area, at the edge of the Ozark foothills and perilously close to Hillbilly Haven. My teacher and classmates supported Trump. Our landlady did, and our neighbors. But these were the kind people who lent us cars when ours broke down, sent us fresh eggs, offered to come into town with us, reached out sometimes before we did.

And that brings the confusion. How could they, people who have welcomed us, reached out to us, been kind to us (and still are) vote for someone so obviously standing for hatred of us? It’s a question that so far has only been answered with excuses.

We have learned to push politics aside, as best as we can, but it’s hard to push aside something that is suddenly affecting you so personally. It’s important, that just as you respect their position on certain things, you don’t let anyone disregard yours. It’s important to stand up, here and now, to refuse to give in to the intimidation, to defy fear and reject secrecy. It’s important to speak up for the right things and do your best to right the wrong things. It’s important to keep friends and make connections.

And I feel it is most important of all to be the change you want to see, instead of peeling away my identity and waiting for someone else to do it for me while I wait in the shadows.

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