The past couple of months has been a blur. On the surface life is the same. I still go to work every day. I still see my friends. I still put off doing laundry. But of course overhanging everything, constantly in the back of my head and floating near the top of my subconscious, is fear. There’s so much I’m afraid of with the new administration and what it will bring. But one of my biggest fears, which has already been coming true, is the emboldening of white America’s behavior towards POC.
Long before November, for most of my time in America, I was aware of the hostility against people like me–a refusal to acknowledge me, my presence, my words, denying my humanity. How they considered it a compliment to say to me, “Oh, I didn’t expect you to be [something positive and not stereotypically Asian]” or “you’re not really Asian, you’re basically white.” There had been a spate of Asians being pushed onto the subway tracks here in NY, and I had been careful to stay away from the edge of the platform for months.
However the hostility has grown to be more explicit and cutting. People who believe that they had been unfairly forced to suppress views, until now, are emboldened to say things to me. Complete strangers, like the MTA bus driver on election day who demanded to know who I was voting for, then went on a tirade about Hillary Clinton. I was the only passenger on a long, nonstop 20-minute ride to Queens. I quickly de-escalated the conversation, and he moved on to calling a woman, cursing her out and dropping a bunch of F bombs, and then hanging up with “Goodbye, ma.”But for a full five minutes, I was afraid he would pull over the bus and attack me. He easily could have. I’ve since taken a krav maga defense class, and I imagine how I would defend against various random men I see on the street.
And the election wasn’t even over yet. Now, it’s official, he’s been sworn in. Immediately the whitehouse.gov page changed, singing the praise of fossil fuels and how the priority is now protecting the police over civil rights. “America first, America first!” I watched some of the swearing-in ceremony, with declarations of triumph and cut-aways to the almost exclusively white attendees cheering. I imagined the conversations they would be having amongst themselves, about putting uppity POC in their place, wrenching jobs back from immigrants.
All this to say I’m really afraid and paranoid. Yes, he could kill us all with a nuclear holocaust, but I’m also afraid of what other Americans will do to me. What they now feel they have permission to do.