This Arab American, woman, scientist is voting for respect

As a scientist, woman, Arab American, I'm voting for a president who respects all three
5 min read
Comment: I'm proud to be voting for a president who will restore the rights of women and BIPOC, and respect the science surrounding Covid-19 and climate change, writes Sarafina Nance.
A woman in a coat referencing Melania Trump votes in California [Getty]
On 5 November 2016, the day after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, I stayed home from work.

I was overwhelmed with a paralysing sense of fear; one that manifested as a constant stream of tears and inability to sleep. I reached out to my friends, many of whom are women, LGBTQ+, and members of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) communities. 

Their fears mirrored mine. I remember intimate conversations sharing our fears about what this election meant for them, and for me. As a scientist. As a woman. As an Arab American.

My anxieties have continued throughout this administration. As a scientist, I have been infuriated and heartbroken watching them ceaselessly sabotage scientific integrity. In their coronavirus response, this administration has put American lives at risk by blatantly lying about its danger and dismissing peer-reviewed and scientifically accepted mandates like mask usage, social distancing, and self-isolation practices.

In their climate response (or lack thereof), the Trump administration has gutted necessary regulations to curb greenhouse emissions and limit pollution. They have pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, dismissing global warming as a "hoax". They have gutted agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in a coordinated effort to cripple science in public health discussions and decisions.

The science denialism that has become a hallmark of this administration is intimately tied with their complicity in racism

The science denialism that has become a hallmark of this administration is intimately tied with their complicity in racism. Within days of taking office, President Trump enacted the Muslim Ban, and its chilling effects were felt by thousands of Arab Americans, including in the scientific community. His administration embraced an isolationist foreign policy strategy that directly impacted the United States' competitive status as a leader in science.

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A diluted but equally concerning rule was proposed on 24 September 2020, when the Department of Homeland Security suggested restricting the tenure of international students in the United States. This science denialism directly undermines the Arab culture and scientific presence in the United States.

As a woman, I have watched in fear as the Trump administration undermined my rights. Most recently, President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court. Her position on the Court will realise the very real threat of overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalised abortion.

Her career and statements on religious liberty paint a picture of a Supreme Court hostile to the rights of women and LGBTQ+ folks. President Trump's nomination of Judge Barrett is only the most recent blow to women's rights, and its impact will be felt most directly by Brown and Black women.

It is impossible to separate these actions from the racist framework that they uphold. Efforts like dismantling abortion coverage, undermining health and reproductive provisions in the Affordable Care Act, halting equal pay, weakening the Title IX Amendment, and rolling back overtime protections disproportionately affect marginalised communities and women of colour.

For example, the United States leads the developed world in maternal and infant mortality, and Black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. By stripping away reproductive rights and diluting - or flat out overturning - provisions to protect women, this administration is complicit in a system that endangers some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

When I cried casting my ballot, they were tears of relief mixed with profound sadness about all that we've endured

As I cast my vote for the 2020 presidential election last week, I reflected on the last four years of the Trump administration. I reflected on the experiences of my fellow scientists, afraid of being banned from the country they call home, no longer able to do their research. I reflected on the experiences of my Black friends, fearlessly leading the Black Lives Matter movement against systemic racism in America.

I reflected on my LGBTQ+ friends, who have faced an onslaught of discriminatory policies from the Trump administration. And I reflected on the countless others who have suffered at the hands of an administration that prioritises the rights of white, straight, able-bodied, cisgender, men above the most vulnerable among us.

I have never felt more empowered and ready to cast my vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I am tired of watching the Trump administration systematically strip the rights of marginalised people in our communities. I am tired of watching the administration denounce science-backed policies, especially those that directly impact American lives and the global community.

When I cried casting my ballot, they were tears of relief mixed with profound sadness about all that we've endured over the last four years. They were tears of hope, too. Hope in a future - and an administration - that embraces science, dismantles the racist structures upholding privilege in our society, and protects the lives of all Americans.

Sarafina El-Badry Nance is a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow, women's health advocate, and astrophysics Ph.D candidate at UC Berkeley. 

Follow her on Twitter: @starstrickenSF

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.