All elections are important. The 2020 presidential election was especially so, particularly for South Asian Americans and other communities most impacted by the two drastically different visions for America's past, present, and future that were on the ballot.

In the Election Stories project, SAADA invited reflections from the South Asian American community on the hopes, fears, feelings and memories that marked their lives in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election. We heard from a range of community members - new parents worrying for their children, young adults thinking about healthcare, immigrants deciding whether to stay in the country, and individuals inspired to newly identify as activists. We now invite you to browse through those reflections and read stories from the South Asian American community in that historic time.

Please click on "Browse by Submission" above to read through each individual election story, or on "Browse by Question" to read through the responses to specific questions.

Note: All responses in this project are presented anonymously. See more on the history of South Asian American political engagement , citizenship & voting , or reflections on America in SAADA's archival collections.


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What is something about the 2020 election cycle that you want people 100 years from now to know about?

Maybe a little off topic but voting is still difficult in 2020! Things like voter registration, false ballot boxes, and the suppression of mail in ballots have made this not just a contentious election but also a difficult one. I hope 100 years from now that doing something as seemingly basic as voting because a much more accessible process.
How have the last four years impacted you personally?

I was a U.S. green card holder at the time of the 2016 election, and I fully intended to stay a permanent resident and not a citizen for my whole life. After the 2016 election, I began to fear for my immigration status for the first time in my life. I started the citizenship process soon after the election and am a U.S. citizen now. I am still sometimes worried about my citizenship status, especially since I know that naturalized South Asian American citizens have had their citizenship revoked in U.S. history, and I sometimes remind my natural-born American husband where my immigration papers are if I was ever questioned or detained.
How have the last four years impacted you personally?

I feel like I've woken up and become radicalized. Growing up in the Obama era made me complacent, made me feel like the government was looking out for me. I know that the biggest check on the government is the people. The last four years have been a major civics lesson, and I'm paying attention like my life depends on it, because it does.
In what ways, if any, have your feelings about America changed since the 2016 election?

I never really considered having to leave the US. I figured I'd raise my family here and grow old. Since Trump's election, I have increasingly felt like we may move outside the country to provide our daughter with the life we hope for her because those opportunities, freedoms, and safeties won't be available here. I ponder what the signs are for when to get out. The other thing I remember worrying about very soon after the election is that we'd given our daughter a very ethnic name. As a mixed-ethnicity child, I don't know exactly how she reads to others now or in the future, but her name marks her as "other." I became worried that the country might be heading in a direction where that was not safe. And I started worrying more for my husband and her safety in general, and as the far right-wing has worked to erode more and more rights for women and minorities, I have started worrying for my own safety as it has to do with access to reproductive health.
In what ways, if any, have your feelings about America changed since the 2016 election?

Its challenging to sum up how I feel about the USA since the 2016 election, because my feelings shift from day to day. In some strange way, I feel validated. So much of my experience was hidden or unseen before 2016 and now that xenophobia, racism and misogyny have taken center stage, there’s more open conversation about these issues and the importance of being engaged in politics and in dialogue with the full history of this country. I feel hopeful for the future and for what we can all bring to fruition. At the same time, I feel tired and distressed. The general news media have been disappointing in their continued focus on ratings and clicks while there seems to be a very real lack of critical thinking and understanding of science amongst Americans, which is concerning. Precedents have been and continue to be set, which could set us down a backwards path.
What issues are motivating you most to vote in the 2020 election?

I have worked to become more involved in local and national politics since becoming a citizen in response to the policies of the Trump administration. I can't pick a small subset of issues that motivate me to vote, but I want to be part of pushing for progressive change in my region and in this country. I carefully research all the people on my ballot so I can make an informed choice. Becoming a citizen so recently makes me take my right to vote very seriously. I also worry about voter suppression because my race is listed as "Multiple" on my voter registration card (since I am biracial), and I have already twice had delays in processing my voting information/requests (as compared to my husband whose race is listed as "White"), so I am extra vigilant about preparing to be able to vote.
What are you most hopeful about for 2021 and beyond?

A possible vaccine. Walking into a store without a mask. The rest we can discuss after the results of the election.
How have the last four years impacted you personally?

I'm more fearful of traveling outside of the city - suburbs and small towns have shown increase in hate-crimes against BIPOC so I avoid road trips to small towns. I've experienced more racial slurs in the last four years in Seattle, which is known for its liberal views. Lack of leadership from the top has created a health and economic disaster with the global pandemic.
What is something about the 2020 election cycle that you want to be sure we remember in the future?

I think the mobilization of the vote has been amazing. How so many people are encouraging each other to vote and engaging friends in family in a proactive way.
What issues are motivating you most to vote in the 2020 election?

Racial equity, immigration reform, law reform, health care, climate justice
What are you most hopeful about for 2021 and beyond?

Hopeful? No, I'm desperate. For the long upward journey from out of this hellhole. Rejoining the Paris Accord. Salvaging the Iran Nuclear deal. Restoring relations with allies. Putting the brakes on carbon emissions, restoring limits on polluting industry. Getting cronyism and corruption out of the executive branch. I fear we may not recover for decades.
What are you most hopeful about for 2021 and beyond?

While immigrants and other communities of color seem to be perpetually under siege during this current presidency, I find hope in resiliency of Black, Brown and other immigrant communities. At this moment I can feel an increased consciousness around concepts such as Black liberation, abolition, mutual aid, and dismantling the white supremacy our country was founded on. I sense a stronger solidarity between communities of color and an investment in a critical reexamination of the histories we have been taught. We are learning how to talk to our parents and loved ones. We are not remaining silent. Despite the outcome of this election, we will need to stay vigilant and connected with one another to really build the systems we need to all feel free. I remain hopeful that we can.
What issues are motivating you most to vote in the 2020 election?

I registered to vote as soon as I turned 17.5 years old. It is just something my family and I do. I use each election (municipal, primary, general) as an opportunity to assess how much or little I understand about my community's issues and figure out a way to talk about them with more people who may not have the bandwidth to do deep dive research.
In what ways, if any, have your feelings about America changed since the 2016 election?

I worked in Missouri progressive politics at the time, and saw Trump's election and the massive red wave as the pinnacle of the GOP's 30 year strategy. Gerrymandered state districts and term limits give an illusion of a broken system, proactively disenfranchising voters from the idea of a democracy. Trump's administration has brought to light the myth of American exceptionalism. It has exposed both the myth driving South Asians to the country and the myth Indian Hindu Americans continue to believe to align themselves with whiteness. My feelings about an unjust nation state and its citizens have hardened, but not fundamentally changed; this is a country and culture built off violence, oppression, and ego.
What are you most hopeful about for 2021 and beyond?

There is a remarkable conversation around rebuilding a society that works for everyone, and I have hope that grassroots conversations and work will move the needle. I'm seeing established and new pro-Black policy groups in Columbia, MO and Dearborn, MI. I see young Asian Americans in Michigan and Missouri educating themselves on their histories and developing the confidence to take local action.
What are some aspects of life (personal, political, or cultural) from the last four years that you want people 100 years from now to know about?

I want people to know that fighting for justice and your own right to exist is a constant active fight, regardless of how comfortable you may feel.