As a Muslim-American woman the 2016 election has been of particular interest to me. Everything I stand for has been challenged over the last year or so. But, while many of my friends, family and peers have done everything they can to stand up against what has been taking place, I’ve just felt numb to most of it.
I attended a somewhat conservative university in Texas — Southern Methodist University — the home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Despite the university having conservative ties, I never felt unwelcome on my campus. Yes, the situation was never perfect for minorities but I never felt threatened or unable to speak up for my beliefs.
I was actively involved in the Muslim Students’ Association on my campus and we saw support from various groups across my years there. No one ever wanted us to feel left out — so much so that even once when they wanted to bring pigs to the library as a stress-reliever during finals they asked us 15 times beforehand to make sure it wouldn’t offend us. I personally received constant backing from the administration to pursue anything I wanted. I was able to represent the university on many occasions and never once did I feel discriminated against.
Yes, I know this might not have been the experience for every Muslim on my campus, especially when you factor in discrimination off campus, but what can I say…? I’m an optimistic person.
For this reason, I never feared Donald Trump’s comments. I figured that most of the American population would see that bigotry and even expressing interest in kicking out a group of people based on their religion was completely ridiculous.
For example, I attended a bi-partisan policy program in Washington D.C. for two weeks in 2015. Most of the young conservatives in the program expressed a clear dislike towards Hillary Clinton but once Trump became the Republican nominee they each denounced him and stood up against his bigotry. They publically supported Clinton and that gave me hope. These were intelligent and successful individuals who I once couldn’t politically agree with on anything and here they were making it clear that party values meant nothing in the face of blatant injustice.
I set off to Kosovo in September, excited to spend election day in a country where the Clinton family was respected more than any other. I envisioned the day that America would elect its first-woman president to be a day where the streets of Prishtina were full of a very Albanian style celebration. Unfortunately, that day never came.