On Nov. 9, 2016, I woke up to the grim reality that Donald J. Trump had been elected as the 45th president of the United States. Like many others, I naively believed that Trump had no chance of winning the presidency.
My hopes were blown to smithereens the moment that I glanced at the newspaper that fateful November morning.
Nearly four years later, I have watched as Trump appointed Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions, two white supremacists, to prominent positions of power, denied the existential threat of climate change, called neo-Nazis “very fine people” and spewed hatred from his Twitter account.
I have watched Trump work to undermine the postal service, ban travel from several Muslim majority countries and attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has worked to silence Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for presenting information that counters his claims. I have watched as America’s darkest aspects—xenophobia, bigotry and ultra-nationalism—have been uncloaked.
It should be noted that bigotry in America has existed long before the election of Trump.
The United States was built upon land stolen from the First Peoples through the exploitation of labor from enslaved Africans. I should also mention that Long Beach State was constructed upon Puvungna, a sacred site for several indigenous tribes, including the Gabrielino-Tongva people.
Trump is a symptom, rather than a cause, of America’s failings. However, Trump has tapped into the country’s worst tendencies and profited politically at the expense of marginalized communities.
As an Asian-American female, I have heard Trump call the coronavirus “the Chinese virus” and “kung flu” at several press briefings. In doing so, he is assigning the virus to a certain ethnicity, meaning that my face is now what his supporters perceive to be the “face of the enemy.”
Prior to the president’s words, there has been a history of anti-Asian bigotry in the United States. In the mid-to-late 19th century, there was an influx of Chinese laborers who were paid significantly less than their white counterparts but were continuously accused of stealing American jobs.
This led to widespread violence against Chinese individuals, and, at the time, state laws prohibited Asian individuals from testifying against white people. As a result, few perpetrators of anti-Asian hate crimes faced punishment for their actions.
After the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. As a result, 120,000 individuals of Japanese descent, two thirds of whom were American citizens, were unjustly sent to prison camps behind barbed wire.
Today, the president’s racist rhetoric encourages white supremacists to attack individuals of Asian descent. Individuals from 32 states have filed over 1000 reports of hate crimes to the Stop-AAPI-Hate website since his election.
These incidents include harassment, discrimination in the workplace, assault and refusal of service at establishments, including an instance in which, several individuals in Brooklyn set an 89-year-old woman on fire. This incident in New York City is not a statistical anomaly, but, rather, it reflects the rising tide of bigotry resulting from “Trumpism.”
I worry for my safety and that of my loved ones.
However, despite America’s numerous failings, I still believe in my country. There have always been individuals who have refused to accept the status quo. Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas, among others, worked to dismantle the dehumanizing institution of chattel slavery. Fred Korematsu challenged the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which unjustly imprisoned 120,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry living in the United States. Dolores Huerta and César Chávez led a multi-ethnic coalition of members of the Latinx and Filipinx communities to protest brutal labor conditions. Black Americans are still leading a movement to end police brutality and systemic racism.
This summer, I began phone banking for Felicia French and Coral Evans, two candidates running for Arizona Legislative District Six. I was fortunate to interact with a community of diligent and determined phone bankers dedicated to flipping the Arizona state legislature blue. These courageous individuals have reminded me that we are not powerless against the tide of bigotry and hatred unleashed by Trump.
If we choose so, we can make government work for the many, not the few.
However, if we truly want America to live up to its ideals of liberty and freedom for all, we must first turn out and vote for Joe Biden this coming November. Admittedly, Biden was not my first choice. Ideologically, I am to the left of him. However, Biden is far more likely to take the country in the direction that I want.
Biden’s platform includes a clear plan to address the coronavirus pandemic, such as expanding access to testing, ensuring that frontline workers receive personal protective equipment and providing guaranteed sick leave for infected workers to receive an income.
He also plans to implement consistent national standards regarding the reopening of schools based on infection rates in local communities. This is a significant shift from the disastrous policies enacted by the Trump administration, which have repeatedly demonstrated a lack of regard for human life and dignity.
In comparison, Biden, a six-term U.S. Senator, is more than capable of meeting the moment and providing us with a vision forward.
For the sake of your country, I strongly urge you to turn out and vote for Joe Biden on Nov. 3.