By Sandra Bayabos
In the entire time leading up to the election we’ve seen this sentiment echoed a million times; The idea that “You’re not American, your opinions on American politics don’t matter” seems to be shared by thousands of Americans. Perhaps it’s a defensive response to that feeling of the rest of the world looking in at one of the most controversial American elections to date, and criticizing not only the candidates but the entire debacle from the first moment when Donald Trump declared candidacy.
As we drew closer and closer to Election Day, the barrage of anti-other was compounded by the media because yes, folks, even our foreign news channels were overwhelmed with news about the elections. And with the sheer level of racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-other rhetoric expressed by Trump for months, you’re damn well right our ‘foreign’ opinions matter.
Like it or not, your country and its policies do in fact affect people other than yourselves. We all know his controversial foreign policy and anti-immigration plans and ideals that spell potential disaster for many nations, and we’ve all heard JK Rowling’s quote with regards to the insanity of Trump having access to nuclear codes. But let’s think a little smaller about something that is no less important and no less crucial.
There is no shortage of foreign students applying to your universities and paying stifling international fees because the notion still stands that you guys have an incredible education system, and attending university overseas is often seen as quite the achievement. Going overseas, especially as a student, broadens your mind if you let it, and opens you up to experiences and ideas that you may never get the chance to examine back home.
The prospect of democratic success was exciting to a lot of international students because they knew that they’d still be somewhat welcomed into an academic society, where thousands of young people of all backgrounds, orientations, races and religions come together with one thing in common: learning.
But now, I can only imagine what kind of experiences international students are going to have under Trump. We experienced a fear of our own in the weeks leading up to the election. We thought, surely, that Hillary Clinton would win, because how could she not? How could anyone so much as think about voting for this megalomaniac of a man who has shown contemptuous disregard for anyone who is not a cis white male?
And then the majority of the world was left stunned and in disbelief and wondering where it all went wrong. Because if America is divided right down the middle with regards to its own people, what about the remaining billions of non-white Earth citizens?
What about the students who were so looking forward to that college degree, only to wake up one morning and realize that they might not be wanted? That they’re going to be screened based on their country of origin, the language they speak and the colour of their skin? What about the students who are already there? What about the international community who are working in the US and who are now wondering whether they’re safe there, whether their visas will be renewed? Whether they’ll be a target for harassment or worse. Because if a country is telling its own people to go back to where they came from just because they’re not white, you can bet your ass they can and will say that and worse to the international community.
And we worry for our friends and family there who have grown up and been raised American. We worry for the safety of our white friends who are adamantly and bravely protesting the results of the election. In the weeks post-election we’ve seen the hate that’s been splattered across walls, we’ve seen the death threats and the violence. So yeah. We worry. We worry for our friends and our families and we worry for you. We worry that people we’ve known for years will turn a blind eye to what’s happening, and will become silent when your own people and the rest of the world need you to speak.
You may think this doesn’t affect you, so here’s the now infamous David Gaider quote: “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.”
So yes. The international community’s concerns are important and are valid.
Your politics and your policies affect us all.
Take that however you will.
Sandra is a third country girl born to mixed race parents of multi-Asian origin. She graduated with an LLB in Law from the UK but has never wanted to practice and spends most of her time wondering what to do with her life. A romantic at heart and a thirst for adventure, she battles against the constraints of an autoimmune disease, OCD and anxiety disorders, but has found love and comfort in both the written word and Supernatural re-watches. Her testimony is that she tries and will keep trying in the belief that good and beautiful things will happen.
Image Credit: Gage Skidwell