I went into labor 30 minutes after Donald Trump’s election night speech. I have the worries that any new mother would have about raising a child in the era of Trump, where ugliness is out in the open and civility no longer exists.
My son was born pink. Not mocha, like his daddy. I really wanted to birth a mini version of my husband so that I could project all the love and hugs I feel for the stoic man onto his son. Or maybe he’d be a perfect combination, with my ethnic nose and a cute ’fro. But after the Muslim ban (and let’s not call it anything else—not when those intentions were made clear in the campaign), my worries about motherhood have moved from noses and hairstyles to out-and-out fears. There is an urgency to my motherhood now that I never could have anticipated.
On election night, as Trump droned on, I talked about implications of his presidency between contractions. White nationalists would have a public voice again. (Nnnnghhh.) As a Muslim American with a national-security clearance, I was certain to be on a list for monitoring. (Groooaaan.) I was already getting hate mail before Trump won; would continuing to speak out also expose my family to the crazies? (AAAAARGH!) Which part of my family would be attacked by this administration first: the African American, the Pakistani American, the Muslim or all three?
As I doubled over and held onto a bedpost, Hubs rubbed my back and said, “Babe, we are who are. You might as well own it.” Thirty-six hours of labor and one cesarean section later, our little man, Idris, was born …
As the new president announced the Muslim ban last week, the first shot at my family and America as a whole rang out. With bans against travel and immigrants from seven Muslim countries and allusions to future bans, I know that things will only get worse.
Being a minority in America is not new to me. Though my parents experienced the 1970s from a distance, my mother remembers sitting on the floor with her five siblings looking up at the box television as dogs were set on protesters at Selma. Ama was horrified, but moving to New York would still provide her kids with opportunities that she never had.
My parents told me at a young age that I would have to work twice as hard to get half as much. The childhood summers spent visiting family in Pakistan and seeing the sheer struggle of daily life there ensured that I never once took for granted being born a U.S. citizen.
It was hard for my parents to understand what Hubs and I would have in common other than funky names. I’m a fast-talking East Coast, bilingual daughter of immigrants, who studied liberal arts at a Big Ten college. He’s from Oakland, Calif., raised snakes as a kid, studied hard science and worked the farm during his summers off from Tuskegee University. His parents converted to Islam back in the days of X and Ali.
“Oh, Dad,” I sighed to mine. “Don’t you see? Both our peoples struggled against oppression … and we don’t plan to raise our biracial children in Mississippi. We’re not stupid.”
At the time, there was a feeling that you could avoid certain segments of racial and religious oppression in the United States. But after Trump and his Muslim bans, and threats to “clean up Chicago” and attacks on dissent, there’s no place to hide, no amount of bubble wrap that can keep my baby safe.
Now that there’s a ban on Muslim immigrants in process, I don’t know if we’ll see our family from Pakistan this summer. I don’t know when or if my little boy will ever meet his family abroad or if they will be able to come here. As I hear of citizens of the brown persuasion already being stopped at borders, I think down the road of Idris as a toddler, holding the hands of his grandparents, looking confused at their being questioned. At the airport. At the mall. At the post office. This ban is just the beginning. I remind myself, over and over, that my black family has a reservoir of resilience to tap into. My parents survived two dictatorships; we can survive tumult in America.
I do know this: I will give whatever I can to make sure this country is on the right path. I will walk through fire and back for my little pink, black Muslim son.
Nayyera Haq is an American political and cultural commentator. She previously served as a senior director in the White House under President Barack Obama.