UZUMCU: Students must act in solidarity with vulnerable populations
Opinions Column: Fahrenheit 250
Since the election results were announced last Tuesday, many groups have politically mobilized to protest President-elect Donald Trump’s ascendance to power. We have expressed grief and loss over the empowerment of a candidate who swore to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, ban and register Muslims, protect policing entities and practices without systemic reform as well as repeal important amendments and legislation protecting women’s and LGBTQ rights. His method to employ such changes through “law and order” fails to comfort those who have historically been marginalized and targeted by the police. To those who are surprised or fearful of a new precedent of policing, I would urge you to revisit the issues during the Bush-era of domestic surveillance mechanisms and the approved illegal NSA surveillance program that violated the privacy of millions of Americans, targeting the most vulnerable populations.
A new precedent in surveillance and immigration is not actually being set, but Trump’s populist message mobilized his supporters through a racist logic that now also directly includes poor white people as policers of the social sphere. A surge of mob-like violence against Latinx, black, Muslim and Middle Eastern people are happening on our streets and campuses. Populist messaging has extended state power from a centralized, concentrated focus for a powerful few to the illusion of inclusion — paradoxically premised on the exclusion of others. Infuriated white citizens have become an extension of state power through populist messaging, emphasizing the streets as political forums more than ever. The “trickle down racism” is truly a political tactic of elites staying clear of any targeted violence. Trump’s rhetoric has instead redirected class disillusionment by emphasizing whiteness and American exceptionalism as power. People of color, immigrants, women and LGBTQ people have been burdened with the violent effects of Trump’s rhetoric with implications hitting them the hardest. As objects of Trump’s speeches, never directly spoken to, these groups have been named as second-class citizens. Of course people are angry with the political establishment, which has squandered economic prosperity in the most impoverished regions of the country. But their anger has been manipulated by a man who has a track record of manipulating laws, his workers, tax codes and now the trust of those who had supported him. Trump has already backpedaled on his policy goals, leaving many of us even more confused and frightened of the instability of his positions.
Institutions of power have more than ever become the necessary target not only to reconfigure the blame put on POC and immigrants but because they have benefitted and continue to produce a system that disenfranchises so many from stable livelihoods. Trump has proven that elites, like Democrat Hillary Clinton, could not have strolled into positions of power having once dodged the need to answer to their own corporate greed. But when coupled with a logic that feeds a racist narrative to affirm whiteness and belonging through nationalism, poor white people are no longer left out of the equation.
The Bush-era of surveillance and class gap expansion was all possible through creating an other, one that was abroad and existed as the “Axis of Evil.” An ominous cloud hovers over the nation as it feel as though the same kind of fear mongering is used to unite Americans, not against “the terrorists” — but against other Americans. The organized violence launched abroad to fabricate the legitimacy of the “Axis of Evil” in the early 2000s has come back to haunt this country’s own moral inconsistencies within its borders. The white terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan ceremoniously celebrates Trump’s victory. “You are either with us or the terrorists” is a slogan that fits the kind of violence recognized and legitimized under Trump’s reign. I imagine the KKK endorsed president-elect uttering the same statement. It is clear who creates and powerfully occupies this role as the terrorist. America’s legacy of violence knows no borders, we have created and consumed these categories that dehumanize "the others" and it is now that we have to reconcile the effects.
Growing up in post-9/11 American as a little Muslim girl, my heart is heavy for all the children targeted for their religious, ethnic and national identities. No one needs to hold hurt of this kind, especially when directed from peers, teachers and politicians. There is a lot of work to be done. First and foremost, we must reconcile the racial, ethnic and gender hierarchies within our own organizations. The more united we are, the more power we hold to protect each other. As I expressed two weeks ago, groups targeted by rhetoric and surveillance tactics must also work together as a force that can effectively pressure the University in protecting its most vulnerable student populations. We do not let the University administration off the hook for failing to condemn hate speech that spiked and continued to circulate since the spring semester. Actions like the "Sanctuary Campus Walk Out" on Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. across Rutgers’ campuses become necessary for all students to partake in in solidarity with the most targeted in our community.
Meryem Uzumcu is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in planning and public policy, Middle Eastern studies and women’s and gender studies. Her column, “Fahrenheit 250,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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