Mr. Trump: As a Muslim Immigrant Mother, I’m Terrified by What Your America Means for My Son

Dear Mr. Trump,

I spent the night of the election as a vote entry clerk counting votes from many counties all over America, most of which I had never heard of until that evening.

There were hundreds of us gathered at the headquarters of the Associated Press building on New York’s West 33rd Street. As the clock struck six, the polls closed one by one and the stringers started calling in. I walked them through the process as I entered the number of precincts reporting and the votes for you and Hillary Clinton into the system.

To me, it was exhilarating to see real democracy in action and maybe even to witness history.  

We were cut off from the rest of the world and had no idea who was winning the presidential race. But by 10 p.m., I had entered only one Hillary win from the dozens of counties that called me to report that night. She had won Middlesex County, with the aptly-named Clinton, Conn., and other areas in the state. You had won many more.  

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
Mr. Trump, please believe that there are immigrants like me in your country.

Soon after that, the initial euphoria of the possibility of seeing the first female U.S. president being elected was replaced by disbelief. I left the building with two other voting clerks around 1 a.m., just as Pennsylvania was leaning towards Republicans. On the subway ride home, one of the clerks showed me a chart from the website FiveThirtyEight on his mobile phone in which the red and blue lines had completely changed positions since the morning. “This website always gets the election results right,” he said.

Except this time when it didn’t. 

As soon as my son learned the election results this morning, he told me that we should perhaps start packing and plan to leave this country after school breaks for summer holidays.   

I’m Turkish, and I came to the U.S. to study journalism just over a year ago. I came to get a better future for my kids and myself. The American values of freedom of expression, belief and rule of law that Hillary Clinton mentioned in her concession speech are dear to my heart. So are responsibilities like being a law-abiding member of society and paying my taxes. I worked very hard to get here, yet I feel like there is no place for me in your America. I’m just another Muslim with a funny name.

I worked very hard to get here, yet I feel like there is no place for me in your America. Im just another Muslim with a funny name.

Mr. Trump, my son knew your name before we moved to America. We have a tower named after you in Istanbul’s Mecidiyeköy district. Every time we passed by it, I would tell him about where the name came from.

By the time I got home at 1:30 a.m., they had called Pennsylvania for you and it was over. The only thought on my mind was: “What do I tell to my kid tomorrow morning?” A question that an emotional Van Jones, the CNN commentator, had also shared. 

My son is intelligent and hardworking. When we moved to this country, he had to sit through additional exams, some even more difficult than those of his American peers, just so he could start school. He’s still trying to adapt to the life here, and he is slowly on the way to making new friends. Yet, he’s old enough to recognize your speeches about certain people and religions for instance, when you talk about a blanket ban on Muslims as offensive. When my son asks about it, my husband and I tell him to never deny his religion, but not to make too much fuss about it either. In an ironic way, I now understand what some of the black or Hispanic parents that I have interviewed in the Bronx during my reporting classes are going through when they do the “police talk” with their teenage sons.

Courtesy of Ilgin Yorulmaz
Im Turkish, and I came to the U.S. to study journalism just over a year ago.

Recently, my son’s school in Manhattan held a mock election to simulate the U.S. presidential campaign. Thankfully, the school is incredibly supportive and has a zero tolerance policy for bullying, scapegoating or name-calling foreigners and religious minorities. But outside the school, on streets in the U.S., who knows what will happen? How will people know what an innocent young boy he is? What will stop him from being labeled an outsider, a threat? And who can say you won’t designate Turkey a terrorist country one day, effectively banning all of my family from entering our new home country regardless of our spotless legal record and all of the creativity and skill we contribute to this country?

On our way to my son’s school this morning, a group of his American friends on the bus were passionately discussing the election results. There was much chitter-chatter like, “Michelle Obama would make a great president,” or “When was America great anyway?” But one comment by an older boy stood out.

“We don’t have democracy when the president is Republican and every branch is overrun by the Republicans,” he said. 

He is right.

Later in the morning, my daughter called and said similar things, jokingly naming this election, “America: The Season Finale” and pointing to an end to the diversity in this country as we know it. How should I answer her question about the relevance of democracy when, in most states, the winner takes all the electoral votes?    

When my son asks about it, my husband and I tell him to never deny his religion, but not to make too much fuss about it either.

If every branch of a tree were the same, would we enjoy the diversity that Mother Nature provides us? True, we should also be vigilant and weed out woodworms so that they don’t destroy the tree from within. But to cut the branch altogether is never the ideal solution.

I have to admit though, this is not the first time I face the anger of the discontented. We had a similar election result back in 2002. In general elections that year, conservative voters in Turkey gave its governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, a resounding victory and bashed seculars and liberals like me. They were the underdogs fed up with elitists’ treatment of them and their conservative lifestyle.

Fourteen years on, liberals can hold on to mostly coastal towns like my hometown zmir near the Aegean Sea and a few similar ones by the Mediterranean. My friends and I used to look at the Turkish electorate map and joke that in the next election, we would probably be pushed into the sea. Looking at the U.S. electorate map last night after many of the results were in, and seeing a similar pattern of overwhelming reds in the central and rural parts of the country versus few blue states left on the coasts, I felt an eerie similarity.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters
I want to say to this to you: I hope to get to know you and the forgotten men and women you care so deeply about.

Diversity of our opinions, though is part of a country’s richness. We don’t have to agree on issues, but we must meet on the least common denominators and respect each others’ opinion, beliefs and existence.

As a minority mother, I have a hard time trying to make sense of your America. I want to ask you: “Have you ever seen this country more divided?” As a journalist, I know that I have to be objective and to never ignore the concerns of “the other half.” I want to say to this to you: “I hope to get to know you and the ‘forgotten men and women’ you care so deeply about, so that I can be better at explaining things to them and telling stories to help us understand each other.”

Back in April, I had the honor of meeting America’s first black president and his wife at the White House just nine months after I arrived in this country. This shows that American dreams do come true for immigrants like us. My worry is that with this election result, U.S. President Barack Obama’s legacy will go down the drain without retaining any of the good things he did for this country.

Mr. Trump, please believe that there are immigrants like me in your country. I don’t know if I will ever get the chance to meet you. But I want to believe that when you are sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, you will not look to banish me or my son from it because of our faith.

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