America, you and I have had a rocky relationship.

I have idealized you for my entire life. I was always told, ever since I was little, that you were the land of hope, the land of freedom and justice and endless possibility. I was told that in America, anything can happen — it doesn’t matter what race you are, what gender, what religion or sexuality…I was told that anyone could do anything they set their mind to. All you needed was a dream, and to believe in the possibility of the future. When I came here, two years ago, this is the spirit I expected to find.

In a way, I did find it. In America, I have found unprecedented growth and development through the numerous people who have opened my eyes to things I had never before experienced or considered, and who have supported me through every kind of challenge I have had to face in the last few years.

But I have also experienced harassment, ignorance, and hate. As a woman, I have been subjected to the same catcalls, the same leers and jeers and fears of things and people lurking around the corner in places that are supposed to be safe. As a person of color, I have been forced to deal with every kind of comment from, “Why is your English so good?” to, “I’ve heard Asian women are wild in bed. Are you?”. As a citizen of a Muslim country, I have been pulled out of the immigration line at JFK and subjected to hours of interrogation under suspicion of terrorism — more than once. Any of this, on its own, would be enough to chip away at my faith in the hope this country is supposed to represent.

And yet, it didn’t. Despite all of it, I still believed in the promise of America, because I believed in America to be better. I have never been afraid.

Today, I am. I am shocked, numb, vulnerable. I am heartbroken, even as I struggle to be hopeful.

The truth is, America, I want to fight for you.

What I no longer know, is whether or not you will fight for me.


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