What Do You Do When You Can’t Go Home? (Essay)

Courtesy of Rawan Eewshah.

Words by Rawan Eewshah.

My mother and I are going on a mother-daughter vacation next week, for the first time ever. When planning this trip, I didn’t realize I’d be booking it the week of the election. Before Donald Trump won the presidency, my mom joked that we “might not be allowed back in the country.” Now, it’s far from a joke.

My immediate family are U.S. citizens, and Muslim. The “and Muslim” part is what scares me the most. Both of my parents were born in Jerusalem, Palestine and lived there until they were forced to relocate in favor of Israeli settlers. They came to the U.S. as refugees. Based on the infamous skittles tweet from Donald Trump Jr., I think we know how the Trump Administration feels about refugees. It’s an interesting, frightening predicament to be told to “go back to your country!” and knowing you can’t. My parents have cultivated a life for us here, because they understand that living as Palestinians in the current climate in Palestine is dangerous.

How do we continue to live in a country that’s made its disdain for us, Muslims, very clear?

For the past 30 years, my parents have called America home. And for the second time in their lives, the threat of having their home taken away from them becomes a real possibility. People keep saying, “don’t worry, Donald Trump won’t ban all Muslims,” but my parents are proof that someone can indeed take your home away from you, without rhyme or reason.

And then what? Even if the proposed Muslim Ban doesn’t happen, how do we continue to live in a country that’s made its disdain for us, Muslims, very clear?

On Tuesday night, Nov. 8, Rachel Maddow admitted, live on TV, that “proposing to ban Muslim immigration is a huge part of why Donald Trump won.” Trump may have deleted any mention of the Muslim ban from his website, but it doesn’t change the fact the proposed Muslim Ban is why he was elected in the first place.

Courtesy of Rawan Eewshah.

The Eewshah family.

We’re used to this, honestly. When America preached unity after Sept. 11 (9/11), we, Muslims, knew we weren’t part of that equation. And if we didn’t know, our classmates and neighbors made sure we knew. To Muslims, 9/11 represents a time when we became the outcasts. We had to be careful telling people our religion, our last name, and nationality. Our classmates would openly call us terrorists and our teachers would turn a blind eye.

I fear for my father’s thick accent, for my brother’s brown skin, and for the “foreign” sound of my mother’s name.

Within the first 48 hours of Donald Trump’s election, numerous friends of mine within the Arab and Muslim community have experienced racism firsthand. One had her hijab tugged by a random passerby on the street; another was tailgated by a female Trump supporter who rolled down her car window to yell anti-Muslim slurs.

Islamaphobia is nothing new in this country, and yet, for the first time in a long time, I fear for my father’s thick accent, for my brother’s brown skin, and for the “foreign” sound of my mother’s name. I fear for my sisters when they’re at work with their openly Trump supporting white women coworkers. I fear for my niece and nephew, who are both under six-years old, but are forced to grow up in a country that tells them they do not belong.

Racism existed before Trump decided to run for President. But, his presidency makes it certain that blatant racism will go without consequence for the next four years.

Racism existed before Trump decided to run for President. But his presidency makes it certain that blatant racism will go without consequence for the next four years—similar to the way it was after 9/11.

As a loved one recently told me, “our people have been under occupation for over 60  years…and we’re still fighting.” The next four years are nothing in comparison to that.

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