solidarity is our greatest weapon

Election Night proved to be one of the hardest and most stressful nights of my life, with my anxiety skyrocketing as the results slowly pooled in. Restless, I couldn’t get a moment’s shut-eye and was scrolling endlessly through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, seeing nothing but bewildered reactions that matched my own to the horror story unfolding in real-time. My phone screen blinked with incoming messages that I didn’t bother to check until the early hours of the next day, every shred of hope I’d held on to seemingly shattered for good.

A text from an unknown number was buried under the various unread messages, and I clicked into it, my mood worsening at the thought of it being some type of scam. As I scanned the message, my heart sped up and before I knew it, I was typing back the sincerest ‘thank you’ I could fathom. A classmate I hadn’t spoken to in years became my beacon of hope that day. “You and your family are not alone. I will fight through this with you.” As a young Indian-American Muslim, I felt nothing but overwhelming gratitude towards her and a revived sense of optimism for the road that lay ahead.

I’d initially anticipated the coming years to be some of the most divisive in American history, but I was pleasantly surprised as unity was celebrated on a much larger scale.

Immediately following the inauguration, a worldwide protest led by women and advocating for the rights of all marginalized groups made headlines as the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. recorded history. The Women’s March on Washington drew men and women alike, political activists, speakers, and celebrities; all of whom used their platforms to advocate for a variety of issues, ranging from immigration and health-care reform to the environment and freedom of religion. Protesters held their bright and colorful signs high, and their genuine spirit could be felt even to those who watched the march in the comfort of their homes. The wind carried their enthusiastic chants, and what looked like a sea of pink from above reflected the marchers’ unmistakable passion. I remember feeling a sense of renewed hope as I watched Americans of all backgrounds gather together in solidarity for their fears of being singled out and persecuted on the grounds of religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.

More than anything, I understood where their fears and anxieties stemmed from. I’d seen and felt it firsthand; those years spent in middle school dreading the day 9/11 would be the topic of conversation in every class, and the accusatory glares at the brownest kid in the room at the mere mention of the word “Muslim.” The judgmental stares at the girl walking by in a hijab, the reluctance with which people sat next to her on the school bus. The constant weight on your shoulders of having to prove yourself, as if somehow your life’s work is to be a diplomat representing all of Islam. Trump’s rhetoric only added fuel to the fire, and it felt as though I was suddenly in the midst of a battle, with the opposing army gaining momentum, determined to crush me into the dirt and make me invisible.

But the signs that stood in harmony with Muslims, the campaigns that sought to combat Islamophobia, the mosques that received empathetic letters from their neighbors, the immigration lawyers that willingly volunteered their time and efforts to helping airport detainees, the curiosity on the part of non-Muslims wanting to know more about Islam, and even the opportunities presented to minorities to be spokespersons and activists — it all made me feel unbelievably thankful that there was something good coming out of what was once deemed a hopeless situation. The more The Orange Administration tried shutting people like me out, the more we seemed to be rising to the top. The more they tried to bend and break us, we patched up the scars and continued to fight.

Trump may have hoped to segregate this country and fill it with his hateful ideologies, but it’s clear that even he is now realizing that we are not a force to be reckoned with.

We’re powerful when we’re together, and have proven to accomplish more in showing the world the essence of the “American dream” than Trump could ever attempt to. His policies and rhetoric aren’t going to drown out our voices, if anything this will set an example for the generations to come that the only effective way to throw oppression off balance is to combat it with love, stand in solidarity for justice, and celebrate identity and diversity.

Simra MariamComment