Dear Donald Trump,
I hope your campaign to be the next president of the United States will soon wrap up and you can return to your towers.
Someone recently asked me if I was Muslim as I stood in line at an airport coffee shop, and I thought of you. I am not Muslim, but you see, I am brown, so I am often asked questions like that. It is not something a white person, especially a white man, is asked, so you probably don’t know what it is like to be asked that question. That question that makes you immediately into the other, the outsider, the person who does not belong, all suggested in just that one question. “I am American” I like to reply sometimes, but for some people like you that’s not a good enough answer.
I have put together some of the things you have said about Muslims. Like this, in November, 2015: “I saw clips, and so did many other people – and many people saw it in person. I’ve had hundreds of phone calls to the Trump organization saying, ‘We saw it. There was dancing in the streets.” This is what you claimed happened after September 11, even though it has been proved blatantly false. Here is what you said after the attacks in San Bernardino in December, 2015, “We’re going to be so vigilant. We’re going to be so careful. We’re going to be so tough and so mean and so nasty… I think there can be profiling… You have people that have to be tracked. If they’re Muslims, they’re Muslims.”
We are going to be so mean and nasty? Mr. Trump, you are a little behind on that one. We people of color in America have experiences of meanness and nastiness in some form or the other long before you suggested it. The Sikh man killed because he was suspected of being Muslim? The grandfather out for a walk assaulted by the police because he was brown, or was it because he did not speak English? I will not even go into the shooting and killing of young black men, but surely you know of them? In my dozen or so years in America, I have been told to go home, I have been asked to repeat myself because my spoken English was not comprehensible, I have been asked to slow down because I speak too fast in a “foreign” accent. Me, I had to learn to be silent because speaking up is scary when you are repeatedly treated as the “other”, the outsider. It can be dangerous but now I have to speak up because what you are saying to me is a direct threat to my life in America.
I am not a political commentator and you are used to being the winner, the one who gets to send people home, the one who gets to call people “loser”, the one who gets to point the finger at the person who is front of you and tell them that they can and should leave. But I think you underestimate the strength of the “others” in this country and you cannot ask us to leave, you cannot call us the loser. This is not your show. We, the others, who are as American as you – actually perhaps even more, because we the others abide by the founding principles this country were built upon, the principles of liberty and equality – we have a voice and we are coming together.
So, listen Mr. Trump. We are a country of immigrants, we are all Americans and this is our country and no one, no one shall spread fear like disease among us because we know like no one else how fear and anger and repression and bigotry and racism and hatred can kill the soul of a person before it kills the body and we, like no one else, can spread the word that we are all equal Americans. We will not let your racist statements frighten us into believing that the “other” is a threat because of their difference in color or religion or sexual preference.
Listen Mr. Trump, Je suis Charlie Hebdo, black lives matter and I, I am also Muslim.
(Chandra Ganguly is a writer/blogger living in Palo Alto, California. She writes about the collisions of gender, culture and the loss and seeking of identity.)