In the year 2012, I was a second-year university student and the last thing on my mind was the ongoing election that was happening. If anything, I was more focused on how I was going to study for my physics and chemistry midterm that was happening the same day. I remember seeing lawn signs everywhere, the endless mail that would show up at my house trying to persuade me whom and what I should vote for, and everyone asking, “are you voting for Obama or Romney?”. I realized at the time that this would be the first election I was eligible to vote for. 19-year-old Sarah finally had a say and her vote mattered. This is why I’m writing this piece to share my Arab American perspective on the US elections.
Obama was then re-elected and 2016 shortly rolled around. The real journey began in 2015 when the top candidates began campaigning. We had the infamous Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump. There was the constant obsession and repetition of Hillary’s emails, and Trump’s blatant lying and attacking everyone in sight, but Bernie was the first candidate that I was in total agreement with. He was the first candidate to believe in universal healthcare, in Palestinian rights, that getting an education should be free to all, and that those who are more fortunate should be taxed to help those who needed it. Almost every poll out there, including ones by Fox News, said that Trump wouldn’t win, leaving Hillary to claim the title of the 45th President of the United States of America, and most notably, the first female president the country would have.
But the evening of November 8th, 2016, Donald J. Trump was dubbed the President of the United States, and for a moment, not only did the USA stand still, but it seemed the whole world. About 43% of eligible voters in that election did not vote, showing us the power of the silent voter. We learned to never underestimate the power of the people and the need for change. What we also learned is that when people don’t vote, we can end up with results we never expected.
Over the course of the last four years, what I saw was a president who didn’t represent me in any way, shape or form. As an Arab American, this threatened everything I believed in and even looked down on me for my identity, beliefs and just me being my authentic self.
Muslim – Executive order for a Muslim ban.
Palestinian – Moved the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Woman – Accused of 26 sexual assault allegations.
Scientist – Does not believe in science-based guidelines regarding COVID-19 or climate change.
He threatened my loved ones who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement, blatantly encouraged white supremacy, limited immigration and separated families, made racist remarks against the Latin, Asian, Arab, Muslim communities, publicly mocked those with disabilities, tried to eliminate healthcare, encouraged gun violence and police violence, threatened women’s reproductive rights. The list goes on.
And yet, when I’m currently going on my neighborhood runs in the morning, I see “Trump – Pence ” signs everywhere I look. Booths are constantly being set up near my local gas station selling Trump merchandise, drive-by rallies planned and attended, MAGA hats and even masks sold at the local grocery store. I look at these people and think “do you not realize how brainwashed you all are? Why would you vote for this man?”
I came to understand the appeal of Trump is his apathetic attitude and his conservative rhetoric which resonate with what we’ve learned, a large portion of the American population. For a second, I tried coming out of my Arab American perspective on the US Elections, and I imagined I was a Trump supporter. I imagined being a white female who was wealthy and a business owner (not everyone is like this, I understand I picked a stereotype). I’ve been told by the left that I’m racist because I don’t believe in BLM and all lives matter but I feel like I’m not. There’s also a push that minorities and immigrants get more priorities than I do. That my business is being threatened because the economy is being controlled by a virus that is relatively new, and I feel like this president speaks directly to me. He wants my small business to succeed and keep the economy going. Why wouldn’t I vote for him? He makes me feel important.
But my reality is that I am an Arab female who has been raised with strong value values and to always speak up in the face of injustices. This is the first election I have seen with awareness campaigns and advertisements everywhere encouraging people to vote. Target is selling shirts and facemasks that say “vote”, encouraging all those reading the message to exercise their rights. Setting aside all the things Trump didn’t do over the last four years, the one thing that Trump did successfully do was start a conversation—that when you don’t vote, you allow unlikely candidates to get elected.
On November 3rd, 2020 the USA may have a new president or keep the old one. Whether you’re American, Canadian, English, or European, these potential leaders should be working for you, not the other way around. We have the right to exercise our voting rights, and make a difference by choosing who gets to sit in this powerful seat and to serve and represent us. Arab Americans are notorious for registering to vote, however, only 14.5% of them actually do. We want our voices to be heard and band together as well. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, but just make sure that you do. Arab voices do matter and we can make an impact.
So, vote. Vote for yourself, vote for your loved ones, vote for those who died and fought for the right to vote and vote for whom represents you the best. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that our voices have more power than anyone may think. Make your Arab American perspective in the US elections heard this time.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Yalla! Let’s Talk’s editorial stance.