Last night, my cab driver was terrified. He is of Middle Eastern descent with Islam as his faith in a country with “Christian” values. While stopped at a light, he checked the (very early) electoral votes as they were coming in. As he shared what he saw online, I could see the look of sheer panic in his eyes. Mohammad began asking me questions about immigration, wondering if he and his family could be rounded up and thrown out of the country, even though they are here legally. He asked about american detention and concentration camps. I shuddered at the thought. His questions poured out like the levees of his mind felt safe enough to break. He saw me, a woman of color – an American, and felt safe enough to ask his questions thinking I would give it to him straight. He asked how will this new system work. I went through all the ways this couldn’t happen (man power, votes needed to make this happen, resources, logistics, etc). He was terrified of a particular candidate winning. I assured him that wouldn’t happen and quoted pollsters and rattled off battleground states to watch for. We even laughed at the supporters of said candidate as we drove by the hotel where this candidate’s election party was being held. We snapped their pictures through rolled down windows and mocked their stupidity. By the time, he dropped me off in Harlem, he wasn’t so nervous. He made a comment about how there are some crazy Americans with sick racial ideals but “WE Americans” know how to stand up to those wackos. He thanked me for talking him off the “crazy ledge” and shook my hand before he handed me my packages.
But then today happened. I wish I could sincerely apologize for naively giving this man and his family false hope. By the end of our trip, he was smiling like I’d just handed him a winning lottery ticket. He believed me, believed in our system. Who am I to believe in the better parts of ourselves when the worst of ourselves rages on incessantly? Who am I to be so smug in my own ideals and confidence in the integrity of my country to not only put blinders on, but to also pass out a pair to this man? I never gave credence to today. Today is better left for dramatic TV show scripts and blockbuster Armageddon, dooms day type movies. Today is not the today I signed up for. Chappelle was right. America kept it real, and it went all the way wrong.