It's the morning of November 9, 2016. The scene? A quiet corporate office in Washington D.C. But something's different today. Instead of the routine whir of fax machines and printers, hushed sniffles and sighs float over cubicle walls. Used kleenexes are piled upon desks. Somber red eyes stare into the middle distance.
I'm a lobbyist at a well-known progressive institution in D.C. We had a huge electoral investment in the Hillary Clinton campaign. Dozens of us were deployed across the country: canvassing, knocking on doors, organizing, phone banking. Meanwhile back in Washington, the rest were studiously drawing up plans for a hopeful future. But somewhere between 10pm and midnight the previous night, that hope dissolved into surreal chaos.
So it's understandable that the people I work with -- many of whom are dear friends, most of them well-educated white women -- were openly distraught. We should all be able to express our feelings. And this was a disaster on an unprecedented scale. Surely everyone gets a mourning period.
But if that's true, why did I feel so irritated? Why was I, a South Asian Muslim man with immigrant parents, unable to extend my sympathy as we sullenly marched into our morning staff meeting?
Maybe it's because earlier that morning my mom texted me, asking me what a "safety plan" was and whether my family needed one. Or maybe it’s because me and many of my brown and black friends had been, at best, ambivalent about either candidate’s use of Muslims and immigrants as mere rhetorical devices throughout their campaigns. Or maybe it’s because people of color have continued to come under threat in this country and my grief has never felt welcome in the presence of my white coworkers. Indeed, throughout that day, I noticed that very few of my colleagues of color felt comfortable advertising their own electoral angst.
"Unity" has been cemented as a slogan in the progressive movement. Divided, we fall, they say. But what are marginalized groups to do when so-called unity is invoked only when it's politically expedient? And how come unity always means asking us to subordinate our needs and fears to theirs?
With the help of people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, and queer folks, I think we might actually weather the next four years and turn the tide. It won’t be easy but it’s doable. But once it's all clear, will they forget about us again?