Over a week ago, we witnessed the removal of the thorn in many of our sides and the inauguration of a newly elected president that, in theory, might just be what we need. An event some might consider coated in elitism and wrapped up in a tiny bow labeled “unity,” plastered across our screens while thousands of Americans mourn the deaths of loved ones, thousands more await the COVID-19 relief that was promised to them, and millions hanging on to a semblance of hope that day provided to them. Yet, very little do we recognize, that this election was never about Biden or Harris, and whether we like it or not, there’s still a whole lot more to do.
Very little do those who went to the polls and voted blue recognize how intact most aspects of Trumpism remain in this increasingly polarized country. In actuality, what we all witnessed on January 6th, prior to the inauguration, illustrates best the lingering threat that far-right extremism and Trumpism pose to our country. After being fed the same old Islamophobic, anti-black, anti-immigrant rhetoric for the past 4 years (amplified to an extent not witnessed before), it can be hard to imagine or to accept the fact that voting for a centrist or non-progressive democrat can be almost as bad as what we previously dreaded. It’s hard to admit that as long as our rights are on the line, there’s no such thing as “catching a break,” even under an Administration that has preached “unity,” like it is the only word it knows.
I worry, as a young, politically active American Muslim, that the communities that stood together and the alliances we built prior to the election, will somehow wither away now that the previous administration is “gone.” I worry that this country, which was suddenly filled with “woke” Americans, will soon enough fall back to sleep. I don’t see enough of us criticizing the establishment, as we should. More importantly, I don’t see anyone asking the big question: “Now what?” Now that Biden, Harris, and the rest of the cabinet have been sworn in, what do we American Muslims do? Do we wait, hoping justice will fall in the laps of our fellow Black Americans? Our Palestinian brothers and sisters? Our Uyghur brothers and sisters? The American workers, many of whom are also Muslim, suffering the brunt, the bad end of this pandemic? Or do we go out, lobbying our representatives and senators? Electing progressive local officials who would actually deliver on their promises? Demanding accountability for the actions of these officials that we so often treat as idols?
As a Palestinian American Muslim, I’ve come to terms with the establishment, recognizing that it’ll rarely ever work in my favor. One needs only to look at the narrative that is consistently parroted, where it not only demonizes Palestinians but also has a tendency to paint Muslims as anti-Semitic savages, where overall anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic rhetoric floods the political discourse, and where even our basic right to protest is being muzzled by anti-BDS legislation. I also recognize, however, that as American Muslim citizens, we deserve to be an integral part of the civic process. Engaging with the establishment will always be hard, especially when the entire system never really worked for or represented marginalized communities. Change, however, is never easy.
So, what comes next? Biden is now sworn in. He has signed stacks of executive orders, including prison reform and repealing the Muslim Ban. Is that enough? No. Is that a first step? Yes. What do we do? Strengthen and maintain the alliances we’ve built. Demand accountability. Criticize what deserves criticism. Ask until they deliver. Recognize your voice. Know your rights.
I encourage, no I implore, all of my brothers and sisters to go out and seek change because it will never come directly to you.
Nada Abuasi is a student at the University of Delaware, where she is majoring in Criminal Justice and Political Science. Currently she is also a Student Fellow at Done Waiting and a writer at the Borgen Project. In her free time, Nada enjoys advocating for social, political and criminal justice reforms.
Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not represent the positions of institutions, organizations, or individuals that the author may be associated with in a professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated.