Picture a family of three—a young–ish married couple and a four–month–old baby—sitting at an immigration office in Greece, all three with olive skin and varying degrees of curly hair. The first five letters the immigration officer sees on their last name? H–A–D–J–I, or "hadji", the noun for a Muslim person who has made the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca. How do you think these people would be perceived by Trump's proposed immigration process, even if it's just the "extreme vetting" he described as a step back from his original proposal?
I'm not asking you to picture Syrian refugees, I'm asking you to picture my father and grandparents in 1961 when they took the leap of faith and came across the pond. My dad, Ted, the same guy who could tell you who has won the World Series for the past 40 years and describe the most intricate details of the American political system, is a first-generation American and a naturalized citizen. I remember being confused as a kid when he told me he couldn't run for president (although after this election I believe anything is possible).
In Trump's America, my grandparents probably would've said "fuck it" and moved to Melbourne, the other option that was on the table. On the bright side I would've had a cool accent and could have spent a gap year between high school and college living as a nomad in the pouch of a kangaroo like most young Australians, but at the same time I would've missed out on living in a country that for most of my life I considered to be beautiful, diverse, accepting, and progressive. Sure, we might spend a little extra time at JFK customs when the security guard uses a little extra caution after seeing my father's appearance and middle name (he removed Hadji from the last name and made it a middle name not for political reasons but probably because "Hadjiparaskevas" doesn't even fit on the SAT bubbles), but for the most part it has been smooth sailing.
Maybe I thought these things because I'm in a position of extreme privilege in America. My outward appearance, financial safety, strong upbringing, and incredible educational opportunity has reinforced that for my entire life. I also grew up in Queens, New York—the most diverse place on earth, which can be confirmed through statistics or just anecdotally when you stand on a given corner in Jackson Heights and can see a Hindu temple, Korean church and a Colombian restaurant adjacent to each other.
Of course the irony of the whole thing is that there's a short list of people who have grown up where I did and gone to the school I go to, and I can only think of two famous people on that list—rapper Homeboy Sandman and the orange man himself. How this man came to believe the things he believes, despite growing up in the very place that would prove his xenophobia to be paranoia, is beyond me but I would suspect it has to do with a sheltered upbringing and a lack of interaction with people who are different from him. In this sense he has a lot in common with most of his voter base.
While most of us sit here baffled like "what the fuck just happened" I think it's important that we don't take our eyes off the prize. Honestly no one has any fucking idea what's going to happen with this guy as president. I don't even think he knows. Beyond the questions of his eligibility due to his history as a sexual abuser and general racially insensitive, not–PC–for–the–sake–of–not–being–PC attitude, he doesn't really have any concrete ideas or plans to offer.
What we need to do—no matter what your background is—is reach out to those of us who are more vulnerable than others and keep them in our sights for at least the next four years. I saw some really dedicated political activity on campus and I hope that doesn't go away just because of this stinging loss. The nation may not have reaffirmed what we consider to be the right direction, but that doesn't mean we should change course. If we sit there pouting with our arms crossed we will be wasting our education, privilege, and honestly, our lives.
I'm going to fight so that one day everyone in America, and all the baby Teds in the world who will seek to become a part of America, can enjoy the things I've enjoyed in this country. I want to be a part of the generation that educates the next generation on the beauties of this world and teaches them how to reject deceptive fear-mongering when they see it. Well, either that or I'll try to get New York City to secede and become like Hong Kong. Like I'm kidding but I'm also not. Lmk.