On November 8, Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States.
It’s been more than a month since his inauguration, and since then, the American public has been hit with wave after wave of executive orders and policy change. From the GOP’s current attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act to the president’s withdrawal of federal protection of transgender students in public bathrooms, living in the current political climate feels like a wound that refuses to heal. Reading the news has become an exhausting game of testing the sanity and mental health of marginalized communities in the American landscape. For Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQIA, women, Black Americans, and so many more, the world and our country became a much scarier place on election night. Our nightmares have become our new reality.
There are many ways we could examine the impact Trump would have on the Asian American community during his four years in office. From the racially motivated immigration ban (commonly referred to as the “Muslim Ban”) to the appointment of Betsy DeVos (a lobbyist with no educational expertise) as the U.S. Secretary of Education, the effects of Trump presidency will be far-reaching and resounding. But to keep in line with the issues our readers care about most, this article will focus on Trump’s stances on civil rights and their implications on our community, the roles of Asian Americans in a Trump presidency, and where we go from here.
Before diving into the impact the administration will have on the Asian American population in years to come, let’s take a look at how they voted. According to Nate Silver’s statistics-churning site, Five-Thirty-Eight, despite the diversity of the Asian American voting demographic, we were largely unified against then-candidate Trump. The New York Times also outlined the shift from Republican to Democrat political identification—a trend that the Times chalked up to the President’s rhetoric during his campaign. With his oftentimes-foul opinions and statements on all sorts of rights, it isn’t hard to see why large groups of Asian Americans weren’t flocking to Trump in support. Of course, that isn’t to say he didn’t have any support from the Asian American community, but it would seem that many of these Trump voters are also unsure of how exactly the Trump presidency will play out.
Cabinet confirmations: When actions speak louder than words
In the days following the election, countless stories of hate crimes and violence broke out from around the country. For Asian Americans, these instances ranged from verbal assaults and slurs like “chink” and “go back to China” to physical attacks. On November 9, just one day after the election, digital media site Next Shark compiled the heartbreaking and harrowing experiences that Asian American victims shared on social media (the majority of whom were women). Since, various groups—including non-profit newsroom ProPublica and Asian American’s Advancing Justice—have started projects around documenting hate.
Trump briefly addressed the rise in hate crimes in a 60 Minutes interview on November 13, saying he was “surprised to hear” about the attacks made by some of his supporters on people of color, to which he told perpetrators to simply “stop it.” He further added in a November 23 interview with the New York Times that he was unsure as to why white supremacists (not his words, of course) have felt “energized” by his campaign and impending presidency. He has, however, not denounced the white nationalist group, despite urging from civil rights organizations across the U.S. Of note: Since his election, these were the only times Trump has discussed the issue of civil rights or of recent hate crimes—including murder. His silence, as Slate writes, is “deafening.”
His choices for his Cabinet also speak volumes.
To begin with, there’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man known as “amnesty’s worst enemy.” According to The Washington Post, Sessions has had a contentious relationship with the NAACP, accusing it “of teaching ‘anti-American values’” and calling it a “’commie pinko organization.”
Just as, if not more concerning, is Steve Bannon, founder of white supremacist website Breitbart. Once rumored to become Trump’s Chief of Staff—a role that ultimately went to Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus—Bannon serves as the President’s chief strategist. This means that the President is being closely advised (and some would argue outright manipulated) by a man that Businessweek calls “the most dangerous political operative in America” and that Mother Jones says has “created an online haven for white nationalists.”
Those are just two examples. Regardless of political experience found in Trump’s cabinet—it ranges from zilch to decades—it’s safe to say that most appointed members are not committed to the protection of civil rights. Instead, they’re actively working to dismantle the progress that was made under the Obama administration.
The Role of Asian-American Women
Yes, two Asian American women have taken a seat at Trump’s administrative table: Elaine Chao as the Department of Transportation and Nikki Haley as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Look beyond their ethnicity, though, and Chao’s and Haley’s ethics are questionable at best.
In the past, Chao has favored big business over workers’ rights. This is most evident with the Department of Labor under Chao being constantly criticized for failing to follow proper safety inspections and provide adequate care for worker’s health, instead redirecting department attention to strictly investigating the financial records of labor unions. Haley, on the other hand, not only has no international experience to qualify her for a role in the U.N., but has also had issues with racial equality—dragging her feet when it came to criticizing the flying of the Confederate flag and outright rejecting the Black Lives Matter movement (despite the state-sanctioned killing of unarmed Black man Walter Scott and one of the most terrifying instances of domestic racial terrorism in the past decade).
So while diversity in office is always to be celebrated—and we have made strides on that front in the Senate—we’re still not counting on Trump’s cabinet to be champions for people of color just yet.
Where do we go from here?
Taking into account the past month following the inauguration and Trump’s choices for Cabinet, it’s difficult to see what the future holds for the country. With efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act underway and as Executive Orders continue to roll out, it becomes clear that civil rights and equality will most likely take a knock-out blow in many forms. False reports and actual ICE raids have immigrant communities living in a constant state of fear and worry. Further isolationist efforts continue to play off racist fears. The barring of CNN, the New York Times, and other media from White House briefings puts the freedom of the press—key to a functioning democracy—in jeopardy.
All told, our future is beginning to look like our past. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, and Islamophobia has been and will continue to be emboldened over the next four years.
It’s easy to fall into a pit of despair over the outcome of the election and a Trump presidency. It’s easier still to continue to take a “wait and see” approach (though one may argue, in light of all the recent executive orders, that we may be past this point).
What isn’t easy, however, is continuing the fight for equality and social justice in the U.S. There’s showing up to protests in solidarity with threatened groups, as many did at airports in response to the travel ban. There’s organizing and rallying peers to form coalitions, call members of Congress, and mobilize (in addition to local groups, check out national movements like IIndivisible, Swing Left, and MoveOn). There’s donating to nonprofits and civil rights-focused organizations like Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, and Black Lives Matter. And then, of course, there’s simply offering a shoulder to lean of for your Black, female, LGBTQIA, Muslim, Latinx, and disabled friends, families, colleagues, neighbors, students, peers—or whoever else feels threatened by the next presidency.
It’s also important in this time to listen to the anxieties and fears of Trump voters with an open-mind—both to practice the empathy that we preach and to learn from their experiences so that we can create a vision that appeals to those on all sides.
It will be a long, hard four years ahead of us.
Trump may have appealed to and provided a voice for the U.S.’s worst thoughts and ideologies, but now it’s up to us to prove that not all of America is like that. And there’s hope, despite the grim news. School districts and officials throughout the country have vowed to protect their undocumented students and immigrant communities. Hundreds of people around the country have moved to protest in support of the Affordable Care Act. Public pressure on institutions to take responsibility has claimed a few victories, including Simon & Schuster’s cancelling a book deal with Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopulous.
This is the time to fight bigotry, hate, and disinformation beyond the comfort of a social media status. Some of us may have not had to do this before, while others have been doing it their whole lives. Just know that you are not alone for the next four years. Mochi Magazine is right along with you.