Our safety net frays as our skins remain undocumented.
There are two things I cherish most about elections. First, the opportunity to participate in a democracy, stand in line with my fellow Americans, and cast my vote as I see fit. Second, forgetting about everything election related the day after.
Election cycles have become a barrage of campaign ads and biting rhetoric. Ads and rhetoric that spill into our daily lives and interactions. And some elections, this past one especially, become so heated they begin to tear apart friendships and families. So it’s natural to cherish the democratic part, but celebrate the end. This year the end of the campaign was just the beginning.
For some, that beginning was America getting back on track to becoming “great” again. The President being “refreshing” in all of his “alternative” ways. The media being put in its place. And politics no longer being politically correct.
For others, like me, it was the beginning of American leadership fading day-by-day. What others may consider refreshing to us is breathtakingly frightful. The attacks on the media are downright un-American. And the end of political correctness is a return to acceptance of prejudice and hatred.
We would like nothing more than to move on with our lives. To forget politics. To know that the election is over and there is nothing more we need to do as citizens until the next cycle begins. In other words, to continue being the passive participants in democracy that most of us have been accustomed to being.
But we cannot move on. What is happening affects us in our homes. In our hearts. And in our minds. There is no time to relax. No chance to merely observe from afar. We are in the crosshairs of this administration and passive participation in the face of active decimation of our values and our value as equal Americans is untenable. We must remain vigilant and become active in politics like never before.
True to its campaign promises, the Administration is beginning to shape policy based on anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric. We have already seen its attempt at the Muslim ban, with another attempt in the works. Mass deportations are starting with painful stories emerging of parents being picked-up at schools and elsewhere in front of their children, and one even from a hospital bed. Withdrawal of President Obama’s transgender bathroom policy, leaving this most vulnerable group without the most simple of life’s comforts. And we are seeing a continuation of the hateful rhetoric, but now from the ultimate pulpit of the White House.
All of these actions are coupled with the Administration’s deafening silence in the face of attacks against minority communities. Six Muslims were killed, others injured, by a self-proclaimed Trump supporter in a mosque in Canada and the President did not utter a word about it. Jewish community centers have been closed due to bomb threats and two Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated, but days went by before we heard a general comment from the President. Two Indians were killed by a man shouting “get out of my country” while thinking he was killing Iranians, and not a single word from the President. The silent message is clear — our lives are not of equal value or worthy of comment from this Administration.
Those of us in the crosshairs have experienced prejudice before. We have seen it in our schools when bullies or others who put us “in our place” were considered to be “just kids being kids.” We have suffered it in our places of work where complaints about unequal treatment have been disregarded and met with responses of “there must be some other reason for it.” Or in our personal lives when racist comments are made about us to our face followed by the excuse of “but not you, you’re different.”
But all of these past experiences had one thing in common: a safety net. We knew in school we could go to our teachers if necessary and, more often than not, they would protect us. At work we knew we could go up the chain to right a wrong. And through it all, we could see in society from local and national leaders that such actions were not acceptable and not to be tolerated.
Day-by-day, the safety net is fraying.
Whether it is the Muslim ban or the mass deportations, minorities — especially Muslims and non-white immigrants — are being targeted as being different, being “bad hombres,” “bad dudes,” or otherwise not real Americans. The Administration’s excuse is that only criminals are being targeted. Only undocumented immigrants are being deported. Or only visitors are being questioned.
But the more the rhetoric and actions focus on these limited groups, and the more acts of hatred are met with silence, the more all of us in those groups will be seen as the same through the color of our skins — we will all be the bad hombres, the bad dudes, not real Americans. We will become strangers in our own country. And we will be left vulnerable to more discrimination, more hate crimes, and further weakening of our constitutional rights by our own, elected government.
Because when we leave our homes, we don’t wear our passports or background checks on our sleeves. When we live our lives, our skins remain undocumented.