[Editor’s Note: the people interviewed for this feature asked that their last names and personal/professional details be withheld for reasons of privacy and in some cases, a concern for safety.]
In the wake of this particularly nasty election, it is more critical than ever to hear perspectives from those who were the direct targets of Trump’s rhetoric. I surveyed my friends. I spoke to both immigrants and native-born Americans, enthusiastic converts and those who were born into their religions. They shared their experiences growing up as “others” in America, and how these recent political developments have affected them. I was surprised to see the diversity in their opinions on the election results, and the varying extents to which they feared for the future. Some were terrified, while others were nonchalant and untroubled. Some of their feelings are heartbreaking; some of their opinions are unpopular and perhaps offensive. My conversations with them perfectly illustrate that no group of people is a monolith—there is a beautiful diversity that exists even within highly stereotyped groups. Here are their stories.
I’m African-American and grew up in the church. My mother was a minister. I never felt like an outsider until I converted to Islam at the age of eighteen. I felt awkwardness, as opposed to hatred, from my family and childhood friends. They treated me differently. I no longer fit in with them.
I can’t remember a specific instance when I was discriminated against for being Muslim in public. I don’t wear hijab and I don’t “look” Muslim—most Americans think “Muslim” is synonymous with “Arab.” I was more concerned about being harassed for being Black.
I was surprised by the election results. I went to sleep and expected to wake up and find that Hillary Clinton had won by a small margin.
The day after the election, I bought a stun gun. Yesterday, I went to a self-defense class. I live alone.
Sometimes my thoughts turn dark. I worry about a national registry for Muslims. I wonder about hiding my faith as an act of self-preservation—does that mean my iman, my belief, isn’t strong enough? Does denying Allah make me less of a Muslim? Will the government find my shahada papers and send me to an internment camp?
Since the election I’ve had a pit in my stomach, and it’s not going away.
I came to Los Angeles from Tehran, Iran, with my secular Muslim family when I was eight years old.
While I never experienced overt Islamophobia, aside from the odd snide remark, I’ve always felt like a foreigner in this country. I don’t match the physical look of the typical American. I’m a citizen and have spent the past thirty years here, but I still am not quite at home. However, I don’t feel like a second-class citizen in this country because of my background—I feel more like a guest. Trump being in the White House does not affect my feelings about being “out of place” here, one way or the other.
I always wonder what my life would have been like if we had stayed in Iran. I’ve never been back to visit. I feel that I’ve lost all connection to my people and homeland. Even my Farsi is embarrassingly poor. This bothers me deeply, on many levels.
I think Trump won the election because the American people chose someone anti-establishment over a woman who was the embodiment of the establishment.
Trump’s comments don’t bother me. I’m not a religious person. I don’t attend mosque or eat halal food.
I don’t fear one bit for my physical safety.
If I lived in Kentucky, I’d probably have a different attitude right now.
I was born in Orange County, California. My parents are Christian immigrants from Lebanon.
We attended the white Presbyterian church, rather than a Greek/Arab Orthodox church. Our town was very white, and I was the only “ethnic” kid in my elementary school until the arrival of an Iranian boy in sixth grade.
My father worked in Saudi Arabia during much of my childhood, and I would visit him there during the summers. When I would return to school in the fall, some kids would tease me and ask if I used a camel as transportation during my trips there. After the Gulf War in 1991, classmates would call me “Little Saddam” or say that I looked like Saddam Hussein.
I felt I was most intensely discriminated against after 9/11, because of my Arabic last name. I experienced a lot of profiling at airports, which was very inconvenient because I traveled frequently for work.
Even though I was born here, I always have to prove myself as being “American” rather than some Middle Eastern foreigner. I think the majority of Americans do not make the distinction between Christian Arabs and Muslim Arabs.
I was pleased with these election results. It renewed my faith in democracy because it was an unexpected win. I thought Hillary Clinton would be a shoo-in because she’s such a political insider.
I am not at all concerned about my physical safety or being the victim of a hate crime because of my Arab appearance.
I was born in Southern California to Pakistani Muslim immigrant parents.
Growing up, I never felt discriminated against for being Pakistani or Muslim. I actually felt extremely comfortable and accepted in my majority non-Muslim community. I think that because Southern California is so diverse, it is a fairly accepting place for children of immigrants.
I was very surprised and disheartened by the election results.
I don’t wear hijab, but my mother and sister do. I worry a lot about them—that their external display of “Muslimness” may cause them to be subject to racial slurs, discrimination, or other harm.
I do and I don’t worry for my own personal safety. I have yet to experience any sort of harassment, but after this election, I think that it may be inevitable.
I was born in Chicago to secular Muslim parents from Turkey. I lived all over the world until I moved to Los Angeles in 2008.
In the past, I have been called a terrorist. I have been asked if my family owns camels as pets. Every time I would reach into my purse, I was told to “calm down and put the bomb away.”
Los Angeles is a beautiful mixture of many kinds of people and cultures, from all sorts of backgrounds and races, who coexist peacefully. For as long as I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I have never felt out of place. I see that people here (for the most part) are open-minded and accepting due to the diversity in the city, which is evident in both the array of ethnicities and sexual orientations of the residents.
I was very surprised by the results of the election. Because of the upcoming Trump presidency, I fear that as a country, rather than moving forward as citizens united and advancing toward a better future, we will be divided as a people and backtrack into darker times. The division has already begun amongst people; I am afraid that all the accomplishments and advancements in our country’s history will start to fade.
I do fear for my physical safety. Sadly, I always have. Just existing in this world as a woman has made me vulnerable to violence. After this election, there are now other factors as to why I might become a target to some people. Things like my nationality, ethnicity, and race have suddenly become more important to people and that is scary.
I was born in Shiraz, Iran to a moderately religious Muslim family. We immigrated to Los Angeles when I was ten years old.
In my predominantly Jewish high school, I suffered a fair amount of harassment about my Muslim background, exclusively at the hands of Persian Jews.
There will always be discrimination against Muslims here, regardless of whoever is the president of the United States.
I am not too concerned about the election results. I disliked Hillary Clinton, I felt she was a neo-con and essentially a Republican claiming to be a Democrat.
I consider Trump’s comments about Muslims on the campaign trail to be typical pandering and nothing out of the ordinary. Politicians always make false promises while trying to get elected.
I appreciate certain things about Trump’s platform, though. My family worked really hard to go through the proper channels in order to legally immigrate here. I am extremely bothered by those who feel they can immigrate here illegally without following the procedures like my family did.
I recently started a new job so I won’t have time for a while to visit Iran, which I usually do every few years. I am a little worried about complications—that it will be more difficult to travel back and forth between here and there. I am also concerned about it being more difficult for my grandmother (who still lives in Iran) to get a visa to visit the United States.
As a Muslim American living in Los Angeles, I’m not concerned for my personal safety or getting deported. My entire family has citizenship. None of the women in my family wear hijab.
My father was happy when Trump won. He is a business owner and believes that he will be taxed less under the Trump administration, and that he would have been taxed more had Clinton won.
——As told to Lauren S. Marcus