As an international student at New York University, people may think that the US Presidential Elections would not really affect me. People may have thought that I do not have to deal with it because I will be going home for the summer anyway. Some might even say that none of the policies that could be implemented could take a toll on me. However, as we have seen with the Muslim ban(s), I may not be personally affected, but there are Muslim international students who have to worry about whether or not they will be able to go home to see family without risking not being able to be let back into the United States. November 8th, 2016 was probably as difficult for me as it was it was for everyone else I know would be directly affected by a Trump Presidency. On one side, I was in total shock, and on the other, there was a feeling in me that believed that there was a possibility. The United States has always prided itself as being a country of tolerance and pure democracy, but Nov. 8th proved the contrary. As soon as the results came out, I could not wait to go to and study abroad in Paris. The months leading up to the elections has been filled with an enormous amount of tension in the air and it could sometimes become very overwhelming.
As someone who comes from a country that has had the same president since 1982, it may seem like I don’t have the right to even speak about what is going on the States. I was born in Cameroon, a country located in Central Africa with a government similar to that of the United States. Although I have never lived there – I moved to France at the tender age of 6 months – I have always known it as a country with the same president: President Paul Biya. It is especially interesting talking about him with my parents and relatives because they never have anything extremely negative to say about him, even though the longevity of his presidency may seem a little out of the ordinary. Because I do not live in Cameroon, I do not pay much attention to its politics, even though I know I should. However, as a current student at a private university in the United States, a lot of my political focus has been on that of the United States.
I think anyone who studies, works, or lives in the US should stay aware about the implications of the Trump Administration. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Trump awakened a new wave of discrimination and prejudice against minority communities, and as a foreign, black woman, I am part of those that could easily be targeted.
For some reason, however, even in Paris it seemed that I could not get away from all the news about Trump. From his senseless attempt to place an immigration ban (twice) to his unending controversy concerning Russian implications in the US Elections, there is nowhere that one can turn where Trump isn’t mentioned at least twice a day.
Even as I study abroad, I feel the need to always be watching my back. Specifically, here in France, the current presidential elections seem to be mirroring that of the United States. By this I mean that there are certain candidates that share the same political ideologies as the candidates we’ve seen during the US Election. For example, Marine Le Pen, could be compared to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. We can compare her to Trump based on their similar stances on immigration and refugees, and to Clinton based on the fact that they are both women who ran/are running for a position that has been male dominated for so long. There are many liberals in France who are afraid of a Le Pen presidency, because of what they have seen happen with the Trump Administration, but as we have seen with the consequences of “Brexit” in the U.K., this new wave of discrimination and prejudice could – but hopefully not – continue on. We want to see ourselves as a post-racial world, but we all know that that is not our current reality. We need to all become more aware of the things that are going on around us, even those of us who are studying abroad. Whether we are in Chicago, Memphis, Florence, or Paris, we can all be affected. As people who live in first-world countries, we want to believe that minority communities cannot possibly still be enduring hardships. On the contrary -minority communities have not been more negatively affected than they are now.
I tend to try to look on the bright side of things and I see my privilege as being able to study abroad a blessing. However, this blessing does not erase the fact that I will indeed go back to the United States next January, and there is a part of me that gets nervous about the idea. Regardless, as a person who wants to work towards and believes in the betterment of minority communities, I am going to take this nervousness and translate it into action.