Holding back the tears in Trump’s America

“I see 'Neville Chamberlains' everywhere. People need to wake up.”

Herpreet Kaur Grewal
16 November 2016

Protesters hold banners as they protest during a march in downtown Washington in opposition of President-elect, Donald Trump. Jose Luis Magana AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.The day after the American presidential elections, New York’s skyline was filled with darkness and rain. One friend told me that he stood outside his apartment block, on the upper west side of the city, observing those leaving for work that morning. “The atmosphere here in the city the day after was not unlike the trauma, shock and disbelief I experienced in the days after 9/11,” he said.

The atmosphere here in the city the day after was not unlike the trauma, shock and disbelief I experienced in the days after 9/11.

Mona Saeed Kamal, a visual artist who teaches part time at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, told me that it “was the hardest teaching day of my life. From the despair I felt when I woke up, to seeing all the tears on the subway and then only to see my students in tears. Men, unable to stop crying!  Never in my years of teaching did I envision a day when I would be holding back tears, shaken, and my students the same.”

While some have spent time pointing out the flaws in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, as the reason for Donald Trump’s success or voters’ disillusionment with the establishment, others are understandably much more concerned that the votes for Trump were also votes for racism, misogyny, hate and fear. Many of the protests that began in American cities almost immediately were a response to this: a way for people to show they would not accept the kind of intolerance espoused by Trump and his campaign.

Perhaps a greater public vigilance and activism could be one of the more positive things to come out of the situation. If momentum is built, who is to say it could not form into the coherent alternative movement that is so sorely needed.

The votes for Trump were also votes for racism, misogyny, hate and fear.

Just like the UK saw after the vote for Brexit, reports of hate crime have swelled – and the fear is that will only get worse when Trump is sworn in next year. The incidents logged on Twitter already include a swastika and the phrase “Make America White Again” spray painted on a baseball dugout in Wellsville, NY; a black baby doll found with rope around its neck in an elevator on campus at Canisius College outside Buffalo, NY; two smiling students with black faces posing against a confederacy flag at South Illinois University.

“We are all just numb, and this is mostly a Republican county”, one woman told me, who lives in what she describes as “a progressive community with [a] large African-American and gay” population in New Jersey. “We’re trying to get through each day at a time.”

She added: “I am having such a hard time convincing friends that it’s not okay to have voted for him – there’s a mainstreaming going on in the media, an attempt to normalise what is not normal. I see 'Neville Chamberlains' everywhere. They don’t get it that you should be careful about being friends with people supporting a candidate who has been endorsed by neo-Nazis. They need to wake up.”

Perhaps a greater public vigilance and activism could be one of the more positive things to come out of the situation.

There is a tendency to treat the racism that is occurring as just a symptom of a wider, capitalist economic discontent, without an acknowledgement that America’s capitalism has intrinsically been built on slavery and bloodshed. The hate and fear that Trump has whipped up shows a deep resentment of ‘the other’ encroaching on white space, and the kind of privilege deeply embedded into the psyche of average Americans. This is not something that has popped up overnight, but has been building over time.

As I write, another protest is assembling in Washington Square Park in New York: a “Love rally” to “let Muslims, women, those who have disabilities, latinos/latinas/latinx people and everyone else Donald Trump has put down to get this far know that this country doesn’t hate them”. Maybe one of the positives to come out of such a dire situation is the demonstration of this kind of sentiment. This week has given us a chilling glimpse of what a country without that could look like. 

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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