By Guest Contributor: Sudip Bhattacharya
“They sold us out,” a friend texted me on election night, after an avowed racist, misogynist, and capitalist , was declared the 45th President of the United States of America.
As the days wore on, others too have expressed similar sentiments, whether while crying over the phone or messaging me at 1 A.M.
All of us, as POC, recognize what has happened, and understand who “they” really are: the white neighbors we thought we could trust, the white friend we assumed knew better, the white co-worker we believed was joking when they claimed that the orange-colored man was what America needed after eight years of Obama. We now see them for who they truly are: liars and frauds.
If you claim to be a white ally and are uncomfortable in reading this, then you are part of the problem. You have allowed the racism in your family and among your peers to permeate the political discourse, and to ultimately, take it over and in the process, risk the lives of millions of POC.
For the rest of you, who I’m hoping are in fact black and brown people searching for answers over what to do next, it is incumbent upon me to admit the hard truth:
As of right now, the soon to be dictator-in-chief, the man whose skin resembles Cheetos, and who can’t seem to utter one coherent sentence in his entire political campaign, has breathed new life into the white nationalist movement. Because of his rhetoric, hate crimes have increased. Women wearing hijabs have been attacked. Countless more POC are experiencing daily taunts and being threatened while trying to go about their routines. Stephen Bannon, who has promoted extreme far-right ideologies at Breitbart News, has been appointed as chief West Wing strategist. America’s demons, from Jim Crow to the killing of unarmed black men and women by law enforcement, from the era of internment to the rising Islamophobia in our streets, not only experienced a resurgence but have wiped away the little progress we’ve made over the last decade.
And it is only going to get worse.
At first, I was able to find ways to cope with what happened. I even went to class the next day and was prepared to discuss the readings we had for that week. Of course, everyone was silent. Eyes were red. Suddenly, a lump formed in my throat. When I tried to speak, intense sadness overwhelmed, and finally, I couldn’t stop from crying and hyperventilating. My classmates did their best to escort me out of the room but I ended up collapsing in the hallway instead. All I could think about were the incidences of racism my family and I faced after 9/11. It took so much effort and energy to keep my spirits high during those years and now, it felt like I had to do it all over again, and this realization sunk deeper into my soul, causing me to panic. This time, I knew, that if we were attacked, our options would be limited in where to turn for help. After all, the major police union endorsed the fascist during the campaign.
Since breaking down in front of my colleagues, I still wake up with tears in my eyes. I still receive messages from friends who are distraught and asking me what it is we should do, which causes me to stare at the screen for what feels like hours. Every time I’ve tried to read or write, or even speak, I lose focus and am always on the brink of cursing at myself and pacing the room no matter who else is around me.
The other day, I joined a protest in New York City. Thousands of us filled the streets, demanding justice. The goal for me and my friends was to feel empowered. Yet, we marched from Union Square to 5th Avenue, and chanted as loud as possible, but we couldn’t shake the dread and hopelessness from our bones.
Even now, as I write and edit this article, I am on the verge of tears.
However, I am sharing these words with you, not because I am defeated, but because I want you to know that you are not alone in your pain. That it is okay to be scared and to worry about your friends and family. As POC, especially those who are African American, Muslim American, Mexican American, you have endured and suffered for too long and by now, the idea of a monster that the KKK will hold a celebration for is now in charge of our country, is heartbreaking.
But please understand it is necessary to take time to recover. Of course, we have obligations and responsibilities but mental health comes first.
I am now showering in the morning, and brushing my teeth. I am texting friends more often, and listening to music like the latest ATCQ.
Most of all, I am telling people how much I love them. From my mom and dad, who I hug whenever I can, to my best friends who I count as members of my family.
To even you.
I love you.
Whatever happens, I am there for you, and we, as brown and black people, will be there for each other like we have done so throughout history.
No one will take away the love we share for one another. If anything, it is the love we have for each other that inspires me to continue. To crack jokes. To hold my friend’s hand. To be human in the face of oppression. Forever and onwards, I will express my love to all my fellow POC, and I shall see you in the streets, protesting with wide smiles and fists in the air.
Sudip Bhattacharya is a PhD student in Political Science at Rutgers University. He’s also a journalist and writer whose work has been published in CNN, Lancaster Newspaper, The Daily Gazette, The Jersey Journal, The Washington City Paper, The Aerogram, and AsAm news. He mostly focuses on issues of social justice, race, and identity through his work, and is a fervent optimist, but not the annoying kind.
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