A couple of days ago I had a small medical procedure that involved sutures near my ear and included a head wrap bandage that left me looking a bit like Jacob Marley’s Ghost in the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.
Moderately vain woman that I am, I wrapped one of my long scarves around my head to hide the bandage and set off from the doctor’s office en route to my stepmom’s house which was a significant distance away.
It should come as no surprise that the one time I wanted to scoot home unnoticed, I missed a turn and had to stop for directions twice. I ended up driving through a very rural part of Georgia where I began to consider that a headscarf worn to conceal a bandage might make people see me not as stylish, but perhaps something to be feared.
I’ve wrapped many a scarf around my head to protect my hair from the wind or sun and added sunglasses at times in a playful attempt to emulate a variety of film stars such as Sharon Stone or Elizabeth Taylor, but never have I worried that I might encounter hostility or suspicion because of what I normally consider a fashion statement or something to protect me from the weather.
I’m generally not easily intimidated, I served in the military in the late 70s and early 80s and because we live in a world where women are more likely than men to be victims of violence or harassment, I learned early how to suss out situations where I might not be physically safe and how to avoid them.
I viewed it as living a state of awareness rather than one of living in fear.
I thought I was pretty good at it until the other day when I sashayed out the door with my scarf-wrapped head on my way to the car. It was not until I stopped the first time for directions and drew a couple of odd looks and no help at all from the two men at the gas station that I began to consider my head scarf might be an issue. It’s possible they didn’t know where the major highway in question was in relation to the gas station, but I left feeling like something was off in the exchange.
Given the open hostility and racism modeled and encouraged by Donald Trump at his rallies and in his Twitter messages over the last eighteen months, for the first time I became aware that there might be more ways to feel unsafe than I am accustomed to.
The next time I stopped was at McDonald’s where I was able to get coffee and directions from a nice woman behind the counter. I will admit that the lingering look of an older white male ( mid 50s like myself ) made me wonder if he was trying to decide if I was one of those immigrant people Donald Trump thinks need to go back to where they came from or a dangerous Muslim with malicious mischief on her mind.
Being a white female raised in the Christian faith in America, racism has never been part of my personal experience in that it has never been directed at me.
Safely in my car having found the right road back, I thought about the brief taste of the anxiety I’d felt and wondered about the people who deal with fear and dread every day due to clothing that reveals their religious faith, or those whose skin color marks them as other to some of the more radical and angry groups of largely white audiences mobilized and encouraged by the hate speech at Trump rallies and the folks who are his supporters. I’m not saying all Trump’s supporters are the same, but how could anyone pledge their allegiance to a man who at best insults everyone and tries to eviscerate those who challenge him.
The big question here is not whether I imagined the odd look or the possibility that someone might say or do something ugly to me because they thought I was a Muslim, but how did America go through such a radical transition in such a short period?
We are a nation of immigrants with only a small percentage being native to this land and if I was afraid to be mistaken for a Muslim woman, how do those who need to dress in the ways of their faith feel about living in a country where the words ” Freedom of Religion ” no longer truly mean Freedom.
I’ve been more afraid for America than I can remember having listened to the reactions and praise for Trump’s ideals over the last few months.
More than fear, I have felt a level of grief I had not expected watching people lose themselves to their darker sides and behave openly in ways that are shameful and embarrassing for those Americans who appreciate diversity and who honor the struggle in all of us to be better together than a nation divided by bigotry and hatred.
I will be holding my breath tomorrow as I watch the election returns and want to say to every person who has truly felt the fear that I probably only imagined, my vote will have been cast for the candidate I believe can lead us back to a stronger better nation where there is a place at the table for everyone no matter what they wear on their head or where they may have originally called home.
One indivisable nation because that is who we are when we are at our best!
Well written Liz! (Either Sharon Stone looks a lot like you, or vice versa. 🙂
You are very kind, Jim and it’s funny that her photo came up first when I was searching for actresses wearing a head scarf. I expected Elizabeth Taylor, but was pleased to see Sharon Stone especially as others have at times mentioned a similarly of features or expression that we share. I don’t really see it, but I have heard it more than a time or two and from different folks. Hope you’ve voted!
I don´t think you imagined the fear. In the 80´s, I used to wear a big scarf like that for the cold in winter and the only comment I once drew was that I looked like “a babuschka”. Now, a scarf worn that way is interpreted quite differently all across the western world (like Sweden, where I am). I am really hoping this American election will be a turningpoint and some sense will prevail, but we will see. I hope your wound has healed well.
Well said Elizabeth.
I was so glad to read your post Elizabeth. In spite of your op. you are on form with your blog. Mike and I wish you a quick recovery.
So beautifully written – clear, honest and meaningful.
Wow! (Insert mouth wide open here.) The one thing that has driven me absolutely crazy in regards to Trump’s comments being changed by the media and then spread around like the gospel truth is he has only ever talked about sending ILLEGAL immigrants out of this country, not the legal ones. HUGE difference! Shocked and saddened that you would perpetuate this idea that Trump supporters are bigots, racists and haters. Quite the opposite is true. We want a united country, not the divisiveness fog that has permeated this country since Obama took office and would be perpetuated by Hillary (who, might I add, hasn’t even had the decency to address her supporters and it’s 11:39 am EST). What you witnessed while driving thru rural Georgia is Obama’s legacy. The legacy that hopefully will be nullified in the coming years. This is a revolution.
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”
Quote from Trump, not, changed by the media. If that isn’t bigotted I don’t know what is !
In my comment above, I was referring to people stating that Trump wants all immigrants to be deported from the US. He wants illegal immigrants to be deported. As far as Muslims, Trump didn’t pull a religious group out of the hat and say THIS group is not allowed in our country just because I don’t like them and their religion. It’s called being reactionary to the idea supported by Clinton of open borders, during a time when terrorists are entering countries disguised as Muslim refugees. That isn’t just speculative, it has happened. I wonder if you are calling the rest of Europe bigoted since they have also closed all their doors to Muslim refugees entering their countries. The UK has the Biometric Identity Card which reduces the amount of illegals coming into the country, as well as preventing the entry of those who pose a security threat. The US has no such system. You took the headline of “Trump wants complete shutdown of Muslims entering the US” and left out the part of “until the US has a system in place to ensure that those who are entering this nation are coming here under the right pretenses”.
Too many errors to answer every one (this is after all Elizabeth’s blog !) but to pick on a few.
1) The UK does not have any form of identity card, let alone a biometric one. It has biometric passports, but they are not compulsory.
2) Europe has certainly not closed its doors to Muslim refugees ( where on earth do you get this information ?) Thousands of refugees, including Muslims are entering Europe across the Mediterranean every week, not to mention asylum seekers entering from the east. No one checks what religion they are in order to ban Muslims – or anyone else ! They rescue them from drowning at sea.
3) Sadly, terrorist acts in Europe have MOSTLY been carried out by people with European nationality.
How do you check at any border if someone is a Muslim ? If they really are intent on violence do you think they would give a truthful answer ? That is why Trump’s statement was ludicrous
I’ve made four attempts to write out a response with data and articles refuting what was said above. Each time, the blog would not respond when I was trying to post. At this late hour (or very early), I figure what is the use, you have your view and I have mine. Time will tell if Trump was a good choice. I wish you both well.
Let me say this, Wendy … whatever is going on with WordPress or your particular server, your inability to post a comment has nothing to do with me. I have approved each of the comments I have received from you even though I have not had an opportunity to respond as I would have liked. I have been away from sustained internet since the election only able to snatch brief moments of access on free WiFi which is not near long enough for all I have to say. Additionally, I am totally heartbroken and pissed off over the election of someone I see as a despicable human being. It may take a couple more days before I can compose myself enough to say more and before I have uninterrupted access to the internet.
It has been 3 days since the election results have stunned me and half of the US population. It has been 4 days since I read your blog and I am very sorry for your experience.
I was born in St. Louis of immigrant parents(invited by the US government to be practicing physicians). I have lived in my ancestral country for 8 years and returned to the US in 1970. Even though I am a US citizen, I have been told to “go back to where I have come from”(as recently as 2 years ago), denied service in restaurants and other places, mowed down by shopping carts, questioned by healthcare professionals because they couldn’t believe I am the parent of my Euroasian sons all because of the color of my skin and the shape of my eyes. I have risen above all this, to do well in my chosen career with harder work, more determination and drive. After awhile, I have forgotten that I am different until some ignorant racist person brings back the reality that I am not of his/her race. My 12-14 year old children were taunted on the soccer field, when their opponents couldn’t take the ball away from them in soccer games. Some coaches told me I didn’t belong in their league. I coached a team that was a cacophony of different ethnicities and religions. We practiced a lot and worked hard and yet homogeneous teams and coaches tried barring us from playing, questioning my teams ages, and the right to be in this country leading to questioning their right to register for playing in the league. The campaign and election results have legitimized bullying rhetoric that strikes fear and shakes me to my core. The result causes me worry, that intolerance for my Muslim friends, my gay friends, married or not, can continue to have the same rights as married couples, my nieces and nephews out of college, but not yet 26 will have healthcare coverage/be dropped for preexisting conditions, or have the right to decide their own reproductive capacities, and if there will be a total disregard for the preservation of the air, water, and land quality that is in constant threat from climate change and fracking.
I don’t have any other country to call home, but I sincerely believe the majority of this country hold values that reign supreme above our elected officials. We need to hold on to these beliefs and hold these leaders accountable if they forget. They are instruments of government that can be impeached and replaced. I will keep an open heart and mind and give Mr. Trump an opportunity to heal and improve our lot, but if he steps out of line, I will use all the fire I have within, to join an insurrection to get him and the congress out quickly!
Eloquently expressed Armella. It is all too easy to open the floodgates holding back bigotry and bullying. Not so easy to close them again.
Thanks John and Elizabeth for bringing a sensitive subject to the awareness of more people. I pray that all that read this blog have the generosity of heart to be more tolerant and accepting of all diversity.
I’m with you on this one Elizabeth. On election night, as I lay alone in my bed watching things turn Trump’s way, I had the blanket pulled up over my chin the way a child does when it thinks the boogeyman is in their room. Because as far as I was concerned, the boogeyman WAS in my room. Trump did NOTHING to discourage the attention and adoration of white supremacisists and bigots and just general “haters” during his campaign, and now we all have to pay the price for it. And what I can’t understand even more, is the so-called non-bigoted, intelligent people who voted for him, how could you vote for a man so full of himself and so full of hate and disrespect for so many others, speaking vitriole at every rally, stirring up the haters and making them think they found the leader who would speak for them. We always knew these people existed in America, but they were “under a rock”, knowing their views would cause trouble. Not any more. And that’s why we’re afraid.
Hate seems to be still spreading from her camp. Why hasn’t she appeared on social media and tell her supporters to stop this marching and destroying other peoples property. She asked Trump if he would accept the outcome of the vote on TV and his reply was not sure and she was all over him for his comment and so was the media. Well it seems these supporter of Clinton can’t accept the vote as well, yet she isn’t coming out and condemning these fine people. You complain about people’s fear of those who wear scarfs. There wasn’t any fear before 9-11-01, or Boston.
I really appreciate your sensitivity here, your thoughtfulness about that momentary experience. We will need souls like you in the days ahead.
How are you doing, Elizabeth?
Isn’t it interesting how one piece of cloth can change people’s perception of each other. I subscribe to a rideshare driver’s support group on Facebook and a recent post had a photo of a female driver with a bandana over her nose and mouth. Immediately others called her a “thug”, but it’s purpose was simply to guard her from breathing in dust.