By Haroon Moghul
My Fellow Brown Person,
You might want to sit down for this. Okay. Are you ready?
You’re brown. Everyone knows you’re brown. No amount of Fair & Lovely can change this. So it’s about time you admit this. It might’ve been easy for you to live in your little race-optional, I-think-I’ve-made-it-house-in-the-suburbs-bubble before Bush. But it’s been fifteen years since Dubya reminded Muslims of recent immigrant origin that they (we) are, indeed, part of the same community as Black America, so please stop telling me you think “Donald Trump makes some good points.”
Not least of all “about immigration,” as if he’s arbitrarily talking about someone other than you.
You’re a freaking immigrant. Even if you’re not an immigrant, exactly zero white people can tell the difference, and it’s their opinion that’s going to count, not yours. If you don’t believe me, try this thought exercise:
- Do people still ask you where you’re “really from”?
- Do they have trouble pronouncing your name?
- Do they hold you responsible for what people on the other end of the planet are doing, even if your family isn’t from that country or part of the world?
If you answered yes to 1, 2 or 3, then guess what: You are, for all intents and purposes, an immigrant. You’re not as American as apple pie. Hummus is still a novelty item. Then again, given that you can’t see yourself in the mirror, I shouldn’t be surprised that you can’t see others for what they are either.
Donald Trump’s most recent run for President began with him speculating that Barack Obama was not actually born in the United States. It was a cry of resentment from a part of America that feels left behind, but it should also put you in a different frame of mind. If they don’t think Barack Obama is sufficiently American, where does that put you?
How are you still lying to yourself?
There have been two responses to the corruption of American democracy, the weakening of the middle class, and the decline of our infrastructure, our can-do spirit, our sense of self-worth. The principled one is represented by Bernie Sanders, who wishes to rebuild our nation, not by demonizing the average person—asking a billionaire to pay a little more is hardly fear-mongering—but by calling on us to put our politics to work for the everyday American. Regardless of origin.
Trump represents the uglier response, the evocation of a lost America, sullied and tainted by the arrival of colored hordes, deliberately introduced into this country by agents of globalization.
Guess what, brown person: You are, in yourself, that globalization.
Which is why I asked you, “What can you possibly see in him?” (Do you, perhaps, feel like your children need to have a harder time growing up?)
And no, the Donald is not “telling the truth.” He’s being a jerk. If you think telling the truth means being a bully, a racist, a misogynist, then clearly you wouldn’t know the truth if it built a wall and deported you across it. Instead of sending your kids to Sunday school, you should send yourself, and learn some manners.
And no, the Donald is not going “to fix America.” He’s the reason it’s broken, even as he’s the consequence of its brokenness. There is in fact no greater proof of your insufficient Americanness than your inability to recognize the difference between democracy and authoritarianism, between the habits of a consultative leader and a tyrannical despot. Democracy is supposed to be slow, deliberative, plodding. The upshot to not being able to build cities out of nothing is not having your land taken from you in order to build it. Historically speaking, who got their land taken?
Hint: They were also called Indians.
Right about now, Muslims are the least popular group in America. (Though atheists give us a good run.) It is not a matter of time before Trump sets his sights on our community, as he has other communities. In just days, Donald Trump is going to Washington, D.C., to headline a rally against the Iran Deal. It’s co-sponsored by one of the nastiest anti-Muslim hate groups in America, Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy. (Gaffney’s Wikipedia page begins by introducing him as “an American conspiracy theorist.”)
If you’re so down with the Donald, I dare you to attend this rally. Please, in ethnic dress. Bring your children. Embrace “truth” and “making sense on immigration.” In fact, I might even pay for your ticket down there, assuming you sign a disclaimer regarding bodily or psychic harm and injury.
Because that’s what a good chunk of Donald Trump’s America looks like. What do you look like?
Describing the difficulty of reconciling an African background with a European education, W.E.B DuBois gave us “double consciousness,” a condition that afflicts perhaps all minorities, though some more than others. You don’t have this. You don’t have single consciousness. You have insufficient consciousness. You think you’re someone else or, rather, you think through someone else—because you hate yourself. You’re—who’s the politician here—Bobby Jindal.
Jindal was so overwhelmed by his double consciousness that he rejected his heritage, and embraced the culture he was bullied by; he became, for lack of a better term, more Catholic than the Pope, more racist than the bigot. Failing to be accepted as white, because of course he is not, he tries to outdo the racism he is subjected to, in the vain hope that, if he finds a worthier target for the bully, he will be left in peace, or at least at the bottom of most polls.
He doesn’t confront racism, bigotry and privilege. He runs from the confrontation that must come, the stand we have to take every day, the moral imperative to resist racism, to dismantle privilege, to build a more just, decent, democratic America, more responsible in the world and more accountable to itself, spending its wealth and treasure to improve itself, not to degrade others. It’s always embarrassing to meet someone who loathes himself because someone else does. Don’t become that person. “No matter how far you have gone down a wrong road,” a Turkish proverb counsels, “go back.”
Come back, anchor baby. Come back.