Left-wing NPR’s Asma Khalid, a hijab-wearing female Muslim, said she felt “unwelcome in her homeland” as a journalist covering the presidential election cycle with a focus on then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Khalid recalls her experiences in an NPR article published on Wednesday.
Painting a picture of white and rural Americans as hostile towards her based on her overtly Islamic dress, Khalid claimed that she “tried to understand voters’ frustrations and empathize with their concerns.”
Although claiming to attempt to “understand” and “empathize” with Trump’s supporters, Khalid assumed that all of them needed to be disarmed through a courtship routine she developed while growing up in Indiana:
“One of the benefits of growing up as a brown girl in an overwhelmingly white town is that you get accustomed to making white folks feel comfortable with you at a young age. It wasn’t intentional; it was merely a mode of survival. I suppose it’s something you learn inadvertently when your sister is called a ‘n****r’ before she even knew what the word meant.
And that skill set was perhaps the most valuable tool I brought to this election.
So, for example, whenever the Pledge of Allegiance was recited at a GOP event, regardless of whether I was balancing a laptop on my knees, a notebook in one hand and a microphone in the other, I instinctively stood up.
I noticed — sometimes — my fellow journalists didn’t stand; they would finish the email they were writing. But I also knew I couldn’t afford to give the people in the room any more reason to doubt me.
Later, with some of these same voters, I would share stories about how the pledge was recited every week in my school. And they would trust me a little bit more than before.
I watched their eyes widen, as they heard me discuss corn, Hoosier basketball and steel mills. And slowly, within about 15 minutes, the suspicion would evaporate and we would discuss presidential politics.
Sure, it was often tiresome to spend so much effort destroying the preconceptions, but it was also a strangely amusing challenge.”
Khalid took particular offence to a retired Army man she claims to have spoken with in Manchester, NH. The man asked her about the Islamic mass murder attack targeting the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris, France. The man also asked her about he viewed as an understated reputation of Islamic terrorism from Muslims in the aggregate:
“And then suddenly he turned to me and asked in an accusatory tone what I thought of Charlie Hebdo.
I must have had this confused look on my face — because I was wondering how on Earth we got from Romney to France. But I sputtered something about being a journalist, and that I don’t think killing journalists is a good idea.
He then went further. He asked me: When are all of you Muslims going to have your ‘million-man Muslim march’ to condemn terrorism? He said intently, almost friendly — it was what we ‘needed to do.’
Donald Trump did not create the fear of Muslims; he merely tapped into it.
In that moment with James, I said nothing. I wanted to point out that Muslims have been condemning terrorism for years, but it’s my job to hear what voters say, not argue with them.
And so I probably smiled awkwardly like I do sometimes — and tried to pivot back to Mitt Romney. I quickly finished the interview. I’d had enough for one day.
On the drive home, the more I thought about James, the more frustrated I became. The world is gray and nuanced, and so often my friends got the benefit of being composite people: Floridian, Catholic, scientist.
But often when voters saw me, all they saw was Muslim. They didn’t see Hoosier, tennis fiend, fashion-obsessed journo.
Khalid went so far as as to cast overtures of friendliness and hospitality extended towards her as somehow related to anti-Muslim sentiment:
“Other times, the reactions were just inexplicable — the GOP leader in Ohio who brought me local maple syrup as a gift for the road and then asked for a hug, or the couple at a Trump event in Florida who invited me to spend the weekend on their boat.
Maybe it was cathartic for them, I don’t know.”
At no point in her journalistic memoir does Khalid extend any evidence that she attempted to “understand” or “empathize” with American voters she interviewed regarding concerns about Islamic terrorism. Instead, the entire recollection comes across as a pursuit of bigotry against Muslims harbored by Trump’s supporters, and whites more broadly.
NPR enjoys tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization and receives federal funding for its operations.
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.