Written By Maisha Razzaque.
“Don’t hate me, please.”
I ignore the text as I watch my country bring a man who inspires open bigotry into the highest office in the land.
The first few hours following the election are numb. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and find out that this was all a convoluted nightmare. Desperate to find normality, I convince myself that the fallout isn’t as bad I think it is. Murmurs of caution pass around my group of friends. Tensions will run high. People might do things. I reassure myself that nothing will happen to me… at least, not where I’m from.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a sleepy suburb with a next to nothing crime rate. I’ve never been openly harassed for being Bangladeshi or Muslim. The demographic of my town is just enough of a ratio between people of color and quiet conservatives. Any racism that I’ve encountered throughout my whole life has been in the form of micro-aggressions. Someone would make a comment about the “ethnic” food I was eating or give my mom a funny look because she wears a hijab. I had no doubt that the “micro-aggressions” would increase after the election – it was more a question of, “how much?”
On Nov. 9, I leave early before class to stop at the gas station. There’s a pickup truck in front of me, with a conspicuous “Make America Great Again” sticker. Before I realize what’s going on, the man who owns the truck walks toward me. I have one hand on the gas nozzle. I nervously glance at the meter, and it tells me I’ve filled only five gallons. I try to do the quick math in my head: six gallons to fill, 13 seconds per gallon.
Tensions will run high. People might do things. I reassure myself that nothing will happen to me… at least, not where I’m from.
“You think it’s going to rain?” he asks.
I pretend to glance at the sky, and shrug. “Maybe.”
He takes a look at my university sweatshirt and asks if I’m still in school. I nod, rapidly calculating the outcome of this conversation in my head. Suddenly, his face splits into a wide grin and he says, “Crazy election, huh? It just goes to show…”
Suddenly, I understand what this is. It’s a victory lap. I can intimidate you because I won. There’s nothing “micro” about this aggression. I leave the exchange, feeling a newfound sense of fear.
Any racism that I’ve encountered throughout my whole life has been in the form of micro-aggressions.
As I’m driving, I’m think back to last night when one of my conservative friends admitted that he voted for Trump. We’d had conversations about how unacceptable Trump’s behavior was throughout the campaign. Not once did he condone Trump’s statements in front of me. “Don’t hate me,” he pled. I have not had time to process what it means. Uneasy, I put it at the back of my mind again.
Days pass, and feelings of anger and despair ricochet around my head. I go back and forth between wanting to take action and feeling helpless. I look at statistics and post-election articles about where it all went wrong. I frenzy through different media outlets and retweets, searching for an answer. I stop at one in particular.
This is when I learn about the secret majority: those who never once uttered a word in support for Trump. Like my friend, these are people who, despite our political differences, I believed were on my side.
It dawns on me how many I overlooked. I know plenty of classmates, teachers, neighbors, and coworkers who embody the quiet conservative that makes up a large part of my local demographic.
This is when I learn about the secret majority: those who never once uttered a word in support for Trump.
You went to the voting booths, looked over your shoulders, and cast your vote for someone endorsed by White nationalists and the KKK. Now, you’re trying your best to convince everyone you didn’t vote for the bigotry. Maybe you didn’t, but you voted in spite of it.
For the past few days, I’ve kept my eye on the news while scrolling through Facebook. I’ve been looking at the profiles of past high school and middle school teachers — ones who played a critical role in my formative years. Many of them were dead silent about the election for the past few months, opting instead to post inspirational quotes about love and Jesus. Now they openly praising the outcome of the election paired with words about God and country. My suspicions are confirmed, and I’m crushed.
The reality is that hate crimes against minorities is at an all-time high. These are strangers who act out of blind hate and ignorance. I don’t take it personally. But when you vote for someone like Donald Trump, you support the rhetoric and actions that legitimize this kind of hate. You can’t separate what you’ve voted for and what’s happening to people like me. In case you were wondering, betrayal is bitter pill to swallow. Side effects may include confusion and uncertainty. I keep seeing these people in my neighborhood, at the grocery store, at school, etc. Each time, an unwanted thought pops into my head: Can I trust you?
The reality is that hate crimes against minorities is at an all-time high.
The Saturday after the election, a couple of friends and I attended a CAIR (Council of American-Islamic Relations) event that was supposed to be a discussion on race. I was coming out of this post-election depression. As each of us shared our experiences and fears about what is to come, I felt like I was finally out of my slump, and more energized to move forward. We got ready to leave, but before we could make the walk to our car, we were stopped by the security man for the event.
“Could you go back inside? There’s a car outside who’s been sitting here with the engine. We’re waiting on a police officer to come and escort you back to your cars.”
We exchanged looks of disbelief. I wasn’t even scared, but more perplexed than anything. The moderators of the event told us that someone had heard of the event on the local news and called in to the venue to say, “the terrorists are meeting here.” The call paired with the situation unfolding in the parking lot called for caution. I was sitting in a chair, nervously glancing at the window. This kind of thing doesn’t happen… not where I’m from. The police showed up, and we were taken to our car. I’m overwhelmingly grateful that I didn’t become a news headline that night, but my world is a little uglier now. The suspicion and paranoia swimming in my head are not without reason. The fear is real.
So I say to the secret majority, the ones whom I trusted: This is what you voted for – a divide, an unsettling feeling, an expedited path to expand bigotry…
I don’t know what can really heal this divide in our country. Lukewarm acceptance can’t keep your friends, neighbors, and colleagues safe anymore. Are you willing to stop parroting that “nothing is going to happen” and take responsibility?
It’s been a couple of weeks since the United States voted for fear and ignorance, and I finally have a response to those that say to me, “Don’t hate me, please.”
Prove that you don’t hate me.