Editor’s Note: The following essay is in response to a prompt to share personal stories about the potential impact of the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, particular on people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ people.
Our first threat of violence ever came the week Trump was elected. By “our,” I really mean “my wife.” However, we share the same Facebook account which was the vehicle for this particular message, so that’s why my white, heterosexual, male self can have that first sentence not be total fiction. She, on the other-hand, is half-Yemeni, and has an obviously Arab name that is joined with my last name on Facebook and otherwise. She is obviously not white European, though I’m guessing most Americans wouldn’t know if her heritage is Indian (American or sub-continent), Arab, North African, or Latina by simply looking at her.
By “threat,” I mean that a stranger—someone she later discovered is in the U.S. military—wrote to her to say that his “granddaddy would be shooting by now,” that if she wanted to assimilate then she can stay but if she wanted to bring Sharia Law to the U.S. then she should leave, and that “people will be looking at you” presumably because of her race. Never mind that she was born and raised in Texas and, since marrying me, she also has a very Mayflower-sounding last name. Never mind that she is a minister in an evangelical church. Never mind that his comment came was in response to something she wrote specifically to Christian ministers in which she expressed how much she also loves and follows Jesus.
Through some Facebook reconnaissance, she learned that this man’s wife is a Christian. With this knowledge, my wife wrote her a lovely, peace-filled message, admitting that her husband’s words scared her. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that his words totally freaked her out, and we spent a long while that night talking about whether he could or would come from his base in Georgia to our home in North Carolina. I assured her he wouldn’t, but that was based on the poor odds of such an occurrence and my desire for her to sleep more so than my knowledge of how hinged he was. And it’s really too bad we won’t get a chance to see what happens when a woman calls the diplomatic shots, because these two women went on to exchange some very pleasant and supportive words with each other despite the very confrontational reason that spurred their connection.
The good news is that the husband ultimately apologized for his approach to the initial message. The bad news is that he still affirmed that people will be looking at my wife—presumably because of her race. Further, she now worries in ways she never did before: Will our daughters’ school officials believe she’s their mother? Who is looking at her while she walks down the sidewalk and why? Who “liked” the military man’s comment to her and how likely is it that they could find her? I know the day will come when we can have a full night of good sleep again but, so far, the last one was November 7.