On Fear

CW: discussion of racism, islamophobia, presidential election, fear.

This is not a clever political analysis and this is not an attempt at explanation. This post is purely feelings. It is feelings because feelings are deemed irrelevant in political discourse and devalued as feminine traits more widely. I’d like to think its transgressive to write only from the perspective of feelings then. But more than that, I’m writing about feelings because I’ve been overwhelmed by them and there is no other lens for me to see through right now.

I’m not American but I am a person of colour and a Muslim and in those regards the election results from the USA this week mattered.

They’re not all that mattered, and it is my privilege that they mattered, but they did matter, deeply.

I woke up on Tuesday and I didn’t consider the broader backlash to establishment politics or global capitalism that this might represent. I didn’t think about the class or educational make up of voters. I didn’t mull over what Hillary should or could have done or didn’t do. I woke up and felt viscerally and deeply scared of and betrayed by racism.

I was in shock, yes, and then I was angry, but ultimately I was afraid. By day two I was mainly afraid. Afraid is a polite word which dresses up the rawer feeling which is that I felt scared. Childlike fear which makes your thoughts jump too far ahead. I felt my mind everywhere at once – thinking about what it would be like to wake up in America; thinking about what it would be like to wake up as a black Muslim in America; about what will happen after the next terrorist attack in the West; whether I’d be able to go to America again; that I should be more careful about the places my passport gets stamped with; who I should unfriend on Facebook; I should stop posting so much on social media; I should encode my emails; how will I protect my future child? Would it be selfish to have a child? Will there come a time when we need to hide? Who would hide me if it came to it? Should I learn how to get my phone onto video mode faster? Should I keep my hood up more? Why am I even studying right now?

It was panic-fear, fast flooding and impervious to logic. To me that was the election. I didn’t care about what motives people might have had to vote for Trump because it was obvious that above all people had voted for racism. As I’ve seen it succinctly put on twitter – if they didn’t hate me, they didn’t care about me. And when it comes down to it, the distinction doesn’t feel very relevant when you don’t know which it is.

I remember walking around the day after Brexit and with each person I passed wondering if they thought I belonged here. Here, the place I was dedicated to improving; here, the place I was at home. Wondering if given a chance, they’d hurt me.

Flicking through the ‘Day 1 in Trump’s America’ online threads I felt something emptier than sadness at the stories of women who decided to or were considering taking off their hijabs for fear of attack. I didn’t want to consider that that’s a decision I might have to make at some point but then I remembered that my friend who caught a train the day after Brexit already did. I wondered at how insignificant that might seem to some people and how acutely vulnerable and unsafe it would make me feel. I thought about the fact that I wouldn’t actually know which strangers on the train had posted an ‘I’ll stand with you’ status on Facebook…

tweets

It is ultimately that fear born of not knowing which is the biggest thing for me right now even here, not in America. Viral photos of racist slurs being written on people’s property hit home to me what had most been lost on Tuesday morning: trust. Not hope, as everyone initially felt – or not just hope – but trust. How can you know which neighbour wrote that on your car? How can you know which person who might courteously nod hello to you every morning actually wants to hurt you? How can you know that the person you sit next to on the bus doesn’t hate you? How can you feel safe when such huge numbers of people tell you you’ve been living in a false sense of security?

And then on top of that, how can you even voice that feeling of insecurity? How can you voice it when you also have to consider future job prospects with white employers and the impact of the Prevent strategy? How can you voice it when any semblance of ‘sisterhood’ has been proven to be a sham? What space is there amongst the performative voices of outrage to actually express the rawness of your fear? How can you even find the words to say what you mean without resorting to anger or humour? To express that maybe what you feel right now isn’t disgust, dismay or disillusionment but betrayal, violent silencing and lack of love. That you don’t have space for analysing the Left right now because the only thing you want the Left to recognise is race, is that you are racialised and that you face racism.

What space is there then even now to name whiteness? How is it that now more than ever we have to step on egg-shells? How can you address what you fear when you have to codename it racism? How can you even begin to explain that your fear of racism is not new, that you’re not surprised by the rise in hate-crimes, that you already thought about the fact you’ll need to birth a bulletproof-baby and so instead it is the fact you can no longer know who is racist that has changed. That the invisibility of the perpetrator of the violence is what makes it most violent and what makes you most afraid.

***

p.s if you’re a white person here are some useful threads you should actually read:
1- how to talk to racist family/who to engage
2- how to react to a racist comment when there’s no PoC around
3- general interest

p.p.s please don’t comment ‘sorry’.

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