feel the bern
A HIGH SCHOOL FEMINIST's VIEW ON Why Hillcrest's diverse population should be rooting for bernie sanders in this election
By Zainab tahir, editor-in-chief
A crowd steadily streamed into the Best Buy Theater in Times Square in the fall of 2015. People from all walks of life, of different color and professions, seamlessly blended in together as the seats filled up. Amongst the hundreds of observers, I excitedly bounded in on behalf of Girl Up, a UN grassroots foundation focused on the rights of women for this momentous occasion. Hillary Clinton was about to introduce the Clinton No Ceilings Foundation Initiative. The moment she walked out on stage, the entire audience became silent. Every person was enraptured by her presence. She walked confidently and with the right amount of confidence and amiability. The moment she opened her mouth to speak, I told myself This looks like the next President of the United States. I left that event thinking She is going to be the next President of the United States.
Nearly half-a-year later, I no longer feel the same way. I’m going to be casting my first vote as an eligible voter in the New York Primary on April 19th for Bernie Sanders.
Ever since Hillary Clinton’s loss against Barack Obama back in 2007, it seemed almost imminent that she would come back stronger and ready to leave her impact on American history as the first female president. Her long career alongside President Obama as the Secretary of State exposed her to the redefined and reconstructed definition of the American Dream in its modern state. It is because of this that Hillary Clinton has managed to create a strong support system amongst the minorities of the country and reevaluate her stance on important social and political issues.
Hillary Clinton, however, came to be this person due to the changing trends and ideas taking the country by storm. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been this person long before the ideas and values we hold dear today were considered conventional. The difference between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders comes down to the former’s politically motivated agenda to construct an appealing image of herself. Bernie Sanders, however, is truly dedicated and inspired to revitalize America as the face of a true and just democracy.
Bernie Sanders has a multifaceted approach to targeting and dealing with the deeply rooted political issues plaguing our country. From the economic system to gun control, Bernie Sanders wants to create a more fair and just America. As a Muslim-American minority and teenage feminist, the election is an issue of prime importance for me and should also be for the vast amount of minority students at our school.
I still recall growing up being asked by fellow classmates where my parents were from. I faintly recall breaking into a gap-toothed smile, declaring Pakistan. I remember the confusion in their eyes. A slight tilt of the head. “Where is that?” I smiled because I knew no one ever knew where Pakistan was located. Younger me suspected that perhaps, no one would ever know of Pakistan. It was another country in a sea of many countries. Nothing significant about it.
The first time I noticed a change in people’s reactions was when that same classmate from years earlier asked me again where I was from. She was slightly forgetful. Again, I declared Pakistan, this time without the gap tooth smile. Instead of confusion, I was met with apprehension. “Oh” was her response. That same year, I asked my parents to let me wear the hijab. My parents were wary. They told me it wasn’t the best choice. I was indignant. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I wanted to proudly showcase my beliefs. Reluctantly, my parents let me make that decision. That was the first and last day I requested to start wearing hijabs regularly. I remember how my classmates stared at me with contempt. I remember how they slowly inched backwards. A part of me knew why, but I didn’t understand. They knew me all my life, how could they be scared of an article of clothing? That was one of the worst feelings in the world, and changed my perception of my religion in relation to societal acceptance. I didn’t want to stick out anymore. I decided social conformity was the only way I’d be able to live happily and freely in my homeland, the U.S.
A better part of my childhood was spent struggling with self-identity issues. Millions of Americans are in the same predicament. From Hispanics to African-Americans, to Muslims and to Asians, there is a deeply rooted cultural and racial stigma against minorities, even if they have been living in the United States for many generations.
The issue with the United States is that there is a focus on foreign affairs, when the focus needs to be on domestic issues and allowing the American public to have their issues addressed and solved, first and foremost. In 2003, when Hillary Clinton was pushing for the war in Iraq, Bernie Sanders was amongst the minority of politicians stating that it would lead to a “disaster” to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Years later, this country still faces the issues of the War in Iraq.
When politicians continuously refer to immigrants and minorities in this country in relation to their country of origin, they are devaluing their status as an American citizen and their role in this society. In the case of Muslims, the common misconception is that Muslim-Americans care more about Middle Eastern affairs. In reality, many Muslim-Americans are focused on living their lives here and are justifiably concerned with the domestic affairs. Bernie Sanders’ focus lies in this country and on all of its people. When asked about the conflict with ISIS, he has stated that he believes the United States should not be the frontrunners against ISIS. He believes that “The United States and other western powers should support our Middle East allies, but this war will never be won unless Muslim nations in the region lead that fight.”
In the 1960’s, Bernie Sanders was involved with the Civil Rights Movement, and was campus organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) at the University of Chicago. He participated and led sit-ins to protest racial inequality and picketed at restaurants. He was arrested in August 1963 at one of these protests. In 1965, he participated in a march with Martin Luther King Jr.
Bernie believes America has a foundation built on immigrants and believes we need to protect this heritage, while protecting the rights of immigrants and all American citizens. He believes the agricultural foundation is built upon the backs of hardworking Latino workers, and youth unemployment amongst Latinos needs to be addressed and fixed with a reformed economic plan.
When questioned by a female Muslim student about anti-Islam rhetoric, Sanders started, “Let me be very personal if I might. I’m Jewish. My father’s family died in concentration camps,” he said. “I will do everything that I can to rid this country of the ugly stain of racism which has existed for far too many years.” “Our job is to build a nation in which we all stand together as one people,” he continued. “And you are right, there is a lot of … hatred being generated against Muslims in this country. ... If we are going to stand for anything, we have got to stand together and end all forms of racism.”
In recent Democratic Primaries, Hillary Clinton has taken a strong lead, especially with the results of Super Tuesday. While Bernie Sanders is known to have a strong social-media backed voter base, and has the youth vote, many minorities are still voting for Clinton. A huge part of this has to do with her association with former President Bill Clinton, and President Barack Obama, both supports of minority rights. Nonetheless, with Bernie Sanders’ win on March 8th for Michigan, the election can take a positive turn in his direction.
Surprisingly, however, Secretary Clinton does not have the support of female voters, which eliminates a huge portion of what her campaign presumed her voter base would consist of. As a feminist, I believe strongly in the idea that there needs to be a female president for the United States. However, like many others, I believe that we need to be careful in the woman we choose to hold that position. Hillary Clinton should not be president simply because of her gender, but rather the valuable qualities she can bring to office. To put it simply, however, she simply isn’t the right candidate for this position, in comparison to Bernie Sanders.
According to the Times, “Exit polls in neighboring New Hampshire showed 82% of Democratic women under 30 backed Sanders, while 56% of women over 45 backed Clinton.” For women of an older generation, it seems only right to vote for Hillary as she is the only female candidate to have made it this far.
The generational divide stems from the younger feminists’ favoring of the concept of intersectionality in feminism. Inter-sectional feminism promotes the idea that race and class are two concepts intertwined deeply with gender well, that the three cannot be separated. In other words, a straight middle-aged white female, like Hillary Clinton, is a feminist whose experiences are different in comparison to a trans-minority female from a lower class. For many young feminists, Hillary Clinton’s gender is a trivial factor when factoring in the privilege she benefits from as a white upper-class female.
With that, Bernie Sanders’ platform for equality in all aspects of social identities-sexual orientation, class, race, and even gender, is more appealing and relevant. Secretary Clinton has brought in older feminists like former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who stated that there is “a special place in Hell” for women who don’t support other women, and Gloria Steinem, who stated that young women support Bernie Sanders because “the boys are with Bernie.” While both have since apologized, it is important to note that women like Carly Fiorina have stated, as she dropped out of the election, for women to “not listen to anyone who says you have to vote a certain way or for a certain candidate because you’re a woman. That is not feminism.” Feminism is more than just gender, it is about equality, and that is something Bernie Sanders promotes in all aspects of daily life.
Walking out of the Best Buy Theater, Hillary Clinton left me feeling hopeful for the future of women’s rights all around the world. Yet, all of these issues and more, are the reasons why I am voting for Bernie Sanders. I am simply an eighteen year-old American teen looking to attend college and living in a nation prosperous for all. Let’s hope this doesn’t end with a Trump presidency.