Written by Amanda Sadler.
On Nov. 8 after sending my children off to bed with visions of positivity and assurance, I stayed awake, eyes glued to the screen that had betrayed my trust with each passing moment, telling me my worst-case scenario was coming true.
“Mom, what are we going to do? Does this mean we should move? Are we going to be safe?”
Waking up the next morning, I quickly grabbed my phone to look for updates. Maybe a recount had upset last night’s nightmare. Much to my dismay, the sentence remained the same: four years of President Trump. My heart sank and my eyes began to water. I spent months reassuring my children that good would prevail and common sense would prevent someone with so much negativity and hate swirling around him from ever being elevated from a business tycoon to leader of the free world—but I was wrong.
I wanted to be realistic with them. They need to know life has difficulties, but we can make it through. I took a deep breath and began our morning wake-up ritual. After hearing the news of the new president-elect, my 9-year-old son asked, “Mom, what are we going to do? Does this mean we should move? Are we going to be safe?”
In my head, I began to tell him the truth—that I had spent far too much time searching for countries with the easiest immigration policies and that I was probably one of the people responsible for the Canadian immigration website crashing. In reality, I told my son that despite the rumors and the fear that surrounded Donald Trump, God had a plan and we would trust in it.
I half-jokingly reminded him that he is White and should take the opportunity to appreciate his White privilege. “No one will automatically look at you and suspect you are different,” I reassured him. He looked up at me and said “But what about you? When I am with you, they will know.”
I asked him if he would feel better if I took off my scarf so I would not stand out in our rural Kentucky town. He quickly told me that I should not, but he just wanted to make sure I would be safe and let me know he would take care of me. Quickly reassuring him that I would be okay, I reminded him that everything was in God’s hands and a part of His will—but at that moment I realized, as much as I felt I was protecting him, he felt he had to protect me.
It had not occurred to me that as hard as I work to protect them, the men in my life are thinking of how to protect and defend me.
Throughout the years, I have often thought of how I would protect my family or myself. I catch myself thinking of quick comebacks to hypothetical comments about my faith. I started carrying pepper spray, locking my car doors and only shopping during the day. I encourage my children to be on their best behavior in public so their typical childish acts are not twisted and used to fuel the false idea that Islam is a violent religion. It had not occurred to me that as hard as I work to protect them, the men in my life are also thinking of how to protect and defend me. Not just my well-being, but also my freedom to practice my faith as I wish.
As Muslim mothers, sisters, cousins, or aunts we have to take into consideration the pressure the males in our lives may feel to protect us. It is no secret that women who outwardly appear Muslim face the daily uncertainty of being targeted for our skin color or head covering. While the feminist rhetoric may make us feel obligated to brush off the idea of a man’s protection, it does not stop the men in our lives from feeling obligated to be there for us.
It would be so easy to become angered or defensive when my husband tells me he is tempted to say something to the people that stare at me in public or when my sons quickly answer questions about my scarf or faith before I have a chance. Instead, I cannot help but feel my heart swell with pride knowing that the men of all ages in my life love me enough to try and take on little pieces of my burdens when it would be far easier for them to hide behind the safety of their anonymity.
In the days to come, let us remember to be patient with others—not just with our oppressors, but with those in our lives that love us enough to stand beside us in times of hardship.