You Knew. We All Knew.


So how about that American presidential election? Yeah. Not the most benign conversation opener, that one. And while I know many people around the world are waiting for the cameras to come out of the shadows and tell us we’ve been punked, I’m just going to rip the band-aid off and say it out loud: It’s not a joke. It really happened. We are now living in a reality where Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States. A fact that leaves me, the wife and mother of Muslim American men, struggling to accept that many Americans voted for a man who vowed to take away my family’s (and a lot of other people’s) civil rights. The process toward acceptance is not going well. It has not been pretty. It certainly has not been easy. It probably shouldn’t be shared. Nonetheless, here is a peek into how I’m processing a world in which people I know voted for The Donald.

Just yesterday, a neighbor stopped by. A realtor my husband used to work with. He thought there was an open house at my address. There wasn’t. But I invited him in to look around anyway. As he looked we lamented the slow real estate market in our area. We asked about each other’s families. And then he expressed relief over the election outcome and said how it was an “early Christmas.”  The silence of my response was deafening and quickly became awkward. He eventually hemmed & hawed, stuttering out something about how he “was just concerned about the Supreme Court.” I said, “Oh.” There was a pregnant pause before I continued, “I was just concerned about the safety and well-being of my Muslim American family.” His eyes opened wide, but then he dismissed my concerns with, “You don’t really think that’s an issue do you?”

Oh my. This was so not going to end well. “Yes, I really do think it’s an issue,” I said. First, I told him about some of the racism my children had faced even before this election, including the times each had been called a terrorist at school and how we made a trip to the ER for stitches when my youngest son was bullied in 8th grade by ‘Christian’ kids at his school. Then, I described the vitriol that has been posted by complete strangers on my Facebook page during the election – vitriol I deleted and blocked in hopes that my children would never see it. And then, I told him how just that morning a friend of my middle child stopped for gas in Dallas and was spat on by a Trump hat-wearing, middle-aged, white man who told him to “go home.” Dallas is his home so WTF, even, does that mean?

Mr. Realtor’s eyes got wider and he said,  “I didn’t know.”

img_2552Now my Mama taught me manners so I bit my tongue, walked him to the door, and murmured something polite about the market picking up soon. He said how it was nice to see me again and then made a quick good-bye. But I was left with so much anger that I found myself bent over, hands on my knees, literally sucking in air.  I had so much I had wanted to say and just knew I would spend all night uselessly having an argument with him in my head. But instead of doing that, I decided to write down and share with you the response a less polite Marguerite would have given. If nothing else it made me feel better. If it helps anyone else work through their thoughts, that’s great, too.

“You didn’t know? … That’s your answer, you didn’t know? And you think that somehow forgives you the sin of supporting that man? Well sorry, not sorry. It doesn’t. Because you should have known. I mean, come on. You’ve known my boys since they were little. You’ve done a lot of business with my husband. We’ve been out to dinner with you and your wife. My God, you’ve even been a guest in our home.”

(My internal voice is rising and my cadence has gone full-Southern. He is in a heap of trouble now.)

“You didn’t know? You voted for a man who would ban an entire religion from your country, who would increase surveillance on Muslim American communities, and you didn’t bother to take a minute to find out how that policy would affect the lives of your friends and neighbors?”

(uh-oh. The Mom voice, accompanied by a hand on the hip, has made an appearance. Be scared.)

“Are you telling me that you traded the safety, liberty, and security of not just my Muslim family, but also of women, of immigrants, and of LGBTQ people all because of some vague worry you had about the Supreme Court? Really? Please enlighten me as to what is so threatening, exactly, about a Supreme Court that follows the Constitution and protects the individual liberties of ALL Americans, including white men, people of color, women, the disabled, immigrants, and same-sex families? How is equal protection under the law such a threat to you and your liberties that you willingly chose to throw almost 50% of your fellow citizens under the Trump train – and to knowingly overlook Mr. Trump’s adultery, fraud, alleged sexual assaults, misogyny, tax evasion, etc, not to mention his known bigotry against Muslims and immigrants?”

“Bless your heart.” (From a Southern lady, these words are a red alert.) “But of course you knew. You KNEW all about Trump. And voted for him anyway. You knew exactly what you were doing and getting with your vote. And you didn’t care.”

(Closing argument, here. I’m pacing and gesticulating.)

“You knew his policies were biased, you knew they would harm immigrants and Muslims, but you didn’t care because they wouldn’t affect YOU. So just stop with the ‘we didn’t know’ crap. YOU KNEW.  And for now, I need you to own that. All y’all just need to man up and own your willful disregard for us, your fellow citizens.”

“Admit that you voted for a man who explicitly promised to work for, and protect only 50% of the country. And that you did it because you were in that 50%. Now call me silly, but why would I ‘come together and work for the success’ of an administration that considered me expendable before it ever took power?”

As you can see, it’s not pretty and I am nowhere near acceptance. Grief, bitterness, and suspicion still color all my daily interactions. But here is what I do know: any person who incites violence and hatred while dismissing misogyny, bigotry, cruelty, intimidation, and racism? That person is #NotMyPresident and never will be.

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  • Marguerite, When I read this last night I had such a visceral feeling deep down inside. It’s a feeling of a downward spiral, the end to our civilization as we know it, the beginning of the end for what the United States has stood for. I felt like I was in your home as this was happening. I don’t know if I would have been so kind. I may have said out loud what you were thinking. Thank you for describing what a lot of us are thinking but can’t quite get the words out.

  • Well said. I’ve been directing people to this all morning. I hope you don’t mind, but I also printed it out to give some people in person.

  • As I did last Wednesday at the AL Hirshfeld Theater for a stage filled with those whose disenfranchisement had just increased 100-fold, I am on my feet, applauding loudly and screaming “bravo!” at the top of my lungs. To the Trumpsters who don’t think this affected me… The only thing that fits their narrative is that I am white. Except that I am a 3rd generation Irish-American woman
    woman. When my father’s family got here the signs in the windows said “Irish need not apply” Our people weren’t even welcome shoppers at Marshall-fields. I am a woman with a daughter. Both of us single and working full-time. I am a veteran who lost the GI Bill 4 years after I was honorably discharged. I no longer identify Christian. I have LGBT family. I’m not a crybaby. I am afraid and I am pissed. Thank you feels Marguerite

  • First, Salaam.

    Ma’am, that realtor acquaintance of yours likely was not kidding with that statement. His white privilege is so pervasive that he probably has never experienced a violent crime in his life. He has never known or witnessed a hate crime being performed–only the aftermath as an observer. That’s what being white in America means: we are almost completely insulated from crime or discrimination in any form except from what’s shown in the news.
    It’s easy to fear what’s depicted on the news and imagine that happening to you. He literally cannot put into context the implication of Trump’s words because for at least three generations now, no one has ever been able to put White people on the defensive akin to what Trump is doing with minorities. The last entity that actually did so was the Japanese Empire under Togo and Hirohito, over 70 years ago. That is now almost completely outside living memory. The last entities that threatened to do so was Al Qaeda and ISIS–which was a hollow threat and ended up putting White people on the offensive for the last twenty years. He is literally used to thinking of Muslims as either enemies or minorities on par with Blacks and Hispanics (let alone take into account ethnic differences).
    However your little reminder to him definitely jarred his mental foundation. If you really want to crack his white privilege, ask him to walk in your shoes and personally hear the stories from those who directly experienced racism. That will being his naivety to an end.

    You have to remember: it’s been at least 70 years since white people truly faced an existential threat to their existence. The innocent ignorance that acts as insulation is thickened by lack of living memory.

    Peace be upon you.

  • there was no winning for Muslims in this election. I saw absolutely no lesser evil in those two. Hillary Clinton would have continued the wars for oil disguised as a war on terrorism. Jill Stein was the logical choice.

  • A year later – I wonder how your neighbor feels as he realizes that he voted for a man who explicitly promised to work for, and protect only 50% of the country. And that he did it because he thought he was in that 50%, but it was all lies.

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