Are we ready to be a community of one to dismantle and reassemble a new America?
Elections were tough. It was stomach turning to be continuously checking our mobile phones or the T.V. as we went from state to state to see the polls. Looking at the map of the United States, the anticipation grew as the middle states and south were red while the west and upper east turned blue.
Who would win? Would we have to endure Trump’s America for four more years? Or would we finally see the progressive change that many of us are fighting for? The popular vote is in, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the prospective winners. But, this is only the beginning. There is so much fighting for change to be done, and we are the voice of that change.
As we are absorbed in a pandemic that has taken the lives of over 255,000 people in America, it’s become apparent that science has been ignored from the beginning, unfortunately, this means that our communities are still battling the consequences of the pandemic as cases continue to increase.
With vaccine research coming out and the Turkish-German couple, Dr Ozlem Tureci and Dr Ugur Sahin, being the most recent behind Pfizer, BioNTech vaccine with a efficiency rate of over 90% in late-stage clinical trials, there is hope that the cases will decrease and we will be able to once again step outside maskless and hug our loved ones. But this is only if we begin to listen to science and do what is right. We are only one and a half months away from 2021 and very close to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. With this we can hope to see the change we so desperately need on this front.
We must be optimistic of what the future holds. We must make examples of countries such as New Zealand, who reported COVID free in the first few months of the pandemic due to good leadership and proactivity. This leadership includes listening to the people, being sympathetic, empathetic and amplifying issues needing to be worked on within the country.
With so many things to fix within this country, it is hard to start in one place. Racism, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-semitism, transphobia, homophobia and countless more issues have plaugued our country since its founding, but these issues were only exacerbated by the 2016 election. One of the reasons some of these problems, especially fear towards minority groups, grew is because of what prominent leaders, such as the Trump Administration, say and disseminate about these groups.
Reflecting back, I am able to recall acts of racism and Islamophobia committed against me being a Muslim Turkish American. I’m proud of these titles, I see my ethnicity and religion — especially being Muslim — as an important aspect of and a big player in shaping my identity.
But this was not seen by others. Numerous people would mistake me for an international student or an immigrant due to my identity. When I would speak of Turkey they would mistake me as someone who is fresh off the boat — someone who had not assimilated yet into American culture. Was it uncommon that I considered my ethnic country and the United States as both my countries? In the end, we all originated from different countries, whether this be our parents or ancestors, to start a life here in America.
Me being visibly Muslim was a different story. Of course, I would get respectful questions about my practices in Islam, and I urge people to not hesitate to ask curious questions, as long as you’re respectful. But others didn’t take it in as well. The stares, the degrading discussions, the changing behavior and tone of voice, these were all things I was challenged with. But I’m not regretful that I went through this, I learned how to deal with acts of racism and hope the other side learned something through my kindness as well.
Dismantling these fears that people still have of people of color and religious groups begins with disproving misconceptions through education and interfaith dialogue, which is so much easier than we would expect. In the age of zoom, texting, video chatting and more, we are all within reach of one another.
Non profit organizations, churches and mosques here in Washington State are organizing online zoom events based on events or holidays as a means to bring people together. This could be an interfaith Ramadan virtual iftar, or Thanksgiving dialogue between community members and Native Americans. By doing so, we are able to form a larger community and support system, and make it a tradition to gather with one another for the sake of friendship.
During a COVID Ramadan, the act of giving was emphasized, where the Muslim Washingtonian community members donated food to frontline workers such as nurses and firefighters as well as the homeless community.
America does not change in the hands of a leader, a leader is only part of that change. It is we who must take action, whether it be through our words, our leadership or our intentions.
I was reading a book by Dr. Arjun Singh Sethi, a Sikh American human rights lawyer, professor, and activist. The book is titled “American Hate” and it tells the many stories of survivors bravely speaking out to recall hate crimes committed against them, and discuss how we can find power in spite of our oppression.
Dr. Sethi explains that “We will build a united front in and across our diverse communities. The coalitions of tomorrow will be deeper and stronger than those of today… We will teach our children to survive and thrive, even when others push them down. We will teach them to rise, just as we did, and remind them of what our ancestors endured long before us.”
Acts of violence, hate and fear is something evident in this country, and those labeled “different” are the victims deemed unAmerican. America is Native American, America is Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, Arab, Mexican, Black, Asian, LGBTQ+, America is a melting pot!
But it’s not enough that marginalized groups are advocating for themselves. We need our allies with us. We need privileged people, people unaffected by Trump’s America and its consequences. We need all people with us, standing together. America means all of us, not some.