On Nov. 9, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president of the United States. I watched the election unfold as I sat inside the Ryersonian newsroom with my friends and colleagues. Our conversations moved from “Hillary Clinton will win with a landslide,” to “Is this really happening?”
Throughout the evening, our feelings had shifted from being hopeful that Clinton could still win, to anxious as we considered the implications if Trump, a businessman who supports mass deportation of immigrants and is a denier of climate change, were to become the next American president. To the surprise of many people, myself included, Trump secured 279 Electoral College votes, making him the president-elect.
Living in Canada, many of us think we’re safe. We think that Trump’s rhetoric of division, fear and hatred won’t trickle into diverse Canadian cities like Toronto. Unfortunately, that’s not completely true.
On the day Trump won, I was going home to my apartment in Toronto around 11 p.m. As I waited for the subway at Bloor-Yonge station, I saw a man standing at one end of the station yelling something I couldn’t quite understand. Minding my own business, I ignored him and scrolled through my Facebook feed, only to see more angry and disappointed reactions over Trump’s victory.
I thought to myself, “The world is going to get worse. I’m glad I live in Canada because it probably won’t be nearly as bad here.”
Shortly after that moment, the same man who was screaming a few steps away from me walked towards me and, inches away from my face, he yelled, “All hail the Donald!” Feeling afraid that he might attack me, I put my hands out in front of me and took a step back. The man walked away instantly, with a smirk on his face.
In my 16 years living as a Canadian-Muslim, until that moment, I had never felt afraid or worried that I may be attacked. I have never experienced even subtle racism because of my brown skin or my hijab, the scarf I wear around my head.
While what the man at the subway station said was not entirely dangerous or even racist, the fact that he came up to me, an easily identifiable Muslim, made me think that minorities everywhere are going to feel the effects of Trump’s presidency.
I realized that Canada, while it is made up of many kind, open-minded and accepting people, is not entirely immune to the negative consequences that Trump’s presidency will have on women, Muslims, Mexicans, the LGBTQ community and other minorities.
I cried when I came home that night. Not because I felt afraid of being targeted, but because I simply couldn’t make sense of how our world can be so divided or that there is prejudice and intolerance rooted within our communities.
The next day I saw more posts about how other women in the U.S. who also wear a hijab were being told things like, “This (hijab) is not allowed anymore so go hang yourself with it,” or their scarves were being pulled off in stores like Walmart.
With Trump becoming president, suddenly there are some people who think they have the green light to say whatever they want, spread hatred and instill fear within minorities.
If this is not hate, then what is it? How can anyone with a sensible mind say such things to someone who has done them absolutely no harm? When we set aside differences in our appearance or our beliefs, we are all flesh and bones. We are human. And that should be enough to at least treat each other justly and with respect. But sadly, that’s easier said than done.
I know that regardless of where we live, many people like me are finding it difficult to accept the outcome of the U.S. election. We are mourning because we feel angry, hurt and confused.
However, eventually we have to stop mourning and start moving forward. Instead of seeing Trump’s presidency as a reason to give up, let’s embrace it as a reason to become stronger, more informed and committed to restoring humanity and protecting the most vulnerable, in North America and around the world.
Moving forward, people need to set aside their differences and start working together. We have to make an effort to listen to people who disagree with us. If you are a minority and experience any form of injustice, don’t stay quiet. If you feel that you have even the slightest prejudice towards a certain person or community, take the time to get to know and understand them. It’s all right to disagree with others, but we can’t let our disagreements turn into division, fear or hate.
Last week at the subway station, I felt, as a Muslim living in North America, fear. After a few days of reflection, the same experience made me feel empowered. I don’t want people to say they’re sorry for what happened to me. I appreciate that. But what’s more important to me is how my peers, friends, and colleagues will work with me to make sure that our communities and our world is safe, fair and peaceful for everyone.
It’s not going to be easy, but it’s possible. This isn’t the only time in history something like this has happened — it’s just a matter of working harder to make our world a better place.
Let’s take the time to think about how we will do that, and then get to work.