I think the easiest way to explain precisely how deeply and fundamentally unsettling, indeed disorienting, the election was for me, as a Muslim and an American, is to begin by referencing numbers provided by one of my favorite reporters on Nate Silver’s 538 team, Clare Malone, on the white vote. What she points out is that 45% of white women college graduates, 62% of white women non college graduates, 54% of white men college graduates, and 72% of white men non college graduates voted for the Wall Builder. 45 62 54 72. Interestingly, overall, whites preferred the Wall Builder by about the same 20 point margin as they preferred Romney and McCain . Whites vote for white Christian men, in the end, 60% of the time, whether they are voting for a decent human being (McCain) against a black man, or they are voting for a racist and bigoted Wall Builder against a white woman. Malone’s point in her article is that there is a tremendous shift in the composition of that 60%. The split as between college educated and non college educated is much wider this time around. 45 to 62 for women, 54 to 72 for men.
But for Muslim me, I don’t much care about that. That’s not a criticism of the piece, but only that it isn’t the source of what feels like a 48 hour sustained assault on my stomach, interesting as it may be. I just look at the numbers, over and over again. Sixty percent, my fellow Muslim American brothers and sisters, is the percentage of white people who are willing to vote for a man who has suggested the internment of us, specifically on the basis of Roosevelt’s shameless similar actions in the Second World War against Japanese Americans. Who has suggested special registry for us, because we are a threat, having cheered, he says in a baldfaced lie, after 9/11 and having kept quiet about a maniac with a plan to massacre innocents at a nightclub. And, of course, who wants a total ban on any more of us to enter, a position that remains on his website even today, because of the threat we pose. Get a list of white Americans, pick out five white people. Three are cool with the guy who endorses all of that.
Ah, but we’re told, that’s not what it’s about. It’s not really about race and religion. All of that is tangential. You don’t understand the resentment that drives them to the Wall Builder. Their lives are hard. They are struggling. Why don’t you just try to understand?
To which I say, did they? Did the 60% who voted for the Wall Builder stop, even for a second, to wonder what it was going to be like for people like me, born on the soil, to be putting my children, born on the soil, to bed, and to wonder whether they have a future in this country? Did they wonder what I’d struggle to explain to my son in as even a voice as I could manage as an answer when he asks if Hilary won to make the Muslims safe? Did they anguish over any of this, at all? Forget anguish, did they even think about it, for a minute? I suppose I could be persuaded that some small number of them did, and then voted for the Wall Builder because, abortion, or something. But it’d be pretty small. The rest, at best, did not care, and at worst, were gleeful about that Muslim pain they helped cause. And I’m supposed to try to understand the resentment of people like that. Respectfully, I’ve got other things on my mind.
But some of the best lessons one learns are the ones that hurt the most. And the truly important lesson to take home, obscured from me for years by the fact that Obama’s opponents in his election fights were fundamentally decent, is that 60% of white voters don’t want a black president, or a woman president, and indeed preferred over her a man patently unfit for the job, unprepared for it and not interested in being prepared, after he called Mexicans rapists, Muslims terrorists, wouldn’t rent to black people, grabbed women by their genitals, and chose as a vice president a man who couldn’t answer a simple question that shows the depth of his prejudice and animosity—can gay people eat at a Denny’s in Indiana like everyone else? Of course, not the same white people voted the same way each time—some Obama voters went for the Wall Builder, and some Romney voters went for Clinton—but the number, in the end, is always the same. 60% for the white man.
So I think I understand enough. Enough to give up, and to assume that the only person who can get more than 40 % of the white vote in the United States of America is a white straight Christian man. To point out that every white person we know voted for Obama, or at least did not vote for the Wall Builder, and to insist that where we work, every white person we know embraces diversity is to confuse a bubble for a country. In the bubble of Manhattan, and Squirrel Hill here in Pittsburgh, I am welcomed and embraced by all, white, black and all others and those in between, and I hope and believe I embrace all in return, Allah in Your Mercy forgive me for my many shortcomings. But in the whole country? For every two whites like the ones I know and just described, there are, the evidence has conclusively shown, three others who are either indifferent to or supportive of causing me, and my family, untold suffering and economic dislocation. That’s America’s reality. And it’s about a painful a thing to write as anything I have ever written.