I’m going to London tonight, for a Model United Nations simulation, and I’m coming back on Monday. Because I love London, I wanted to spend the whole day over there, and come back with the last bus. But that means that I would have to go to the bus stop alone, at 10 o’clock at night, and that scares me. I told a friend, a young, white, man, who told me that it was safe and that I shouldn’t worry. But I couldn’t trust his words, because my experiences, as a young, black woman, differ completely from his. I didn’t tell him that, however, because I didn’t want to “get political”, as I often do. He can’t understand the fear I face when I contemplate being in post-Brexit London, and, somehow, because he’s my friend, I’m happy that he doesn’t. But I can’t help but feel lonely, and helpless, and hurt, that he, like so many others, will never understand the despair you feel when you’re scared to go to the city you’ve been wanting to live in since you were a little girl.
I had a nightmare last night, that Trump had won, and I woke up to find out that it had become reality. And I’m sad, and I’m nauseated, and, just like I do about London, I feel alone in my helplessness. As a black, African immigrant, with a hijab-wearing Muslim best friend, a gay best friend, an Arabic ex-boyfriend, and a black, African immigrant boyfriend, I might take this harder than other people do. But I also know that some people don’t take this hard, at all. It is socially accepted to be against Trump, which is why so many people are so vocally against him, but how many would end up voting for him in the anonymity of the polling places? How can one vote for extreme (or extreme-inclined) right-wing parties, and then be surprised that America did the same? How can one sit in a bar, talking about how these immigrants need to go, how women deserve to be raped when they’re wearing “provocative” clothing, how “Trump does have some points, though”, and be surprised when the person who embodies all these things wins?
I was walking around in Brussels, on my way to work, and I couldn’t stop thinking about all the people who’d have voted for Trump, given the chance. And while I don’t worry about Brussels all that much, I kept wondering: “What would Belgium do?”. Maybe Belgium would make the right choice, but what would Flanders do? What would Ninove do? What would my previous classmates do? If you could only choose between two parties, and if you really, really wanted to keep the immigrants out, then what would you do? I don’t want to think about it, because honestly, the answers to these questions scare me.
But the hard reality is: this is not a different world that we woke up to. The people who voted for Trump, the people who would vote for Trump, were there yesterday and will be there tomorrow. This is a reality that us, minorities, have been facing every day, and that we have been complaining about every day. A lot of people are only now waking up to this realization, but we have known, we have been aware, we have been fighting our entire life. The rights Trump and his supporters want to take away from us, are rights that we’ve always had to fight for, some of which we only just got recently. We are not afraid to not be treated equally, we are afraid to be discriminated upon even more, because Brexit, because Trump, because (extreme) right parties are giving a free, a shameless, a ‘safe’ platform for racists, sexists, and just bigots in general, to express their hatred. And sadly, there are enough of those already.
Now, people tell me not to worry because the chances are slim (to none) that he will ever achieve the things he wants to achieve. I was not worried about that. I am not worried about his presidency. I am not worried about his ridiculous plans. I am not worried about his outrageous behavior. I am worried about what he represents. I am worried about the hatred he encourages. I am worried about those millions of people with my background, who now have to live in a country where the majority voted against them. America didn’t vote for Trump, they voted for hatred, they voted for intolerance, they voted against the minorities. The American dream seems to only exist for that privileged fraction of people, and is a joke to the rest of us. But in the midst of this all, in the face of despair, Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks for the rest of us:
“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!“