A Personal Reckoning
Tuesday, November 8, was supposed to be different. It seemed so certain. My nerves seemed unneeded but uncontrollable. I was ready to be inspired once more as I had been 8 years ago. I was ready to continue to make America a forever better place for myself and future generations. The result has made me fear to my core. I live in a country I feel like I no longer know. I feel personally offended and personally attacked. Below are some of my reasons.
As a Child of Color:
I never knew I was so hated because of the color of my skin. I was raised to value being unique in more ways than one. Growing up in my white suburb and going to my predominantly white school, I never felt like others viewed me as a disease upon their way of life. I sometimes felt different and every now and then felt like I needed to assimilate. People sometimes asked about my culture, my religion, my skin. Some of it might have been inappropriate. Some of it made me feel exotified. But I never doubted the good intention of my classmates, neighbors, friends and that my presence in some way enlightened their ignorance. I thought I had a relationship with my white community where I was an asset which added wealth to their American lifestyle, not a liability which somehow halted their way of life.
I look back on it with new eyes. I now remember those rare snide comments about who I was and realize it was indicative of so much more. I realize that I was somehow invading the personal white space. I realize that my presence threatened them. Maybe my neighborhood didn’t vote for Trump and maybe my friends didn’t vote for Trump but the fact remains that more than half of Americans did and much of white America did. Trump stood for white supremacist values, perhaps most clearly marked by his endorsement from none other than the KKK. He uncovered an hatred that perhaps always existed. I will continue to relive my childhood in the days to come and think about times I was discriminated against and thought little of it. I will think about the one off situations which were indicative of a deep seeded hatred for people like me with brown skin or any other color skin. My memory is forever shifted.
As a Child or Immigrants:
My parents are perhaps the most American people I know. My dad immigrated to Texas with $20 in his pocket, made some unlikely airport friends, won himself scholarships, and succeeded in America. He saw America’s promise. His success isn’t what makes him American, but his true belief that what separates America is the ability for anyone to succeed. He preached to me that America has no hierarchy and I should question anyone I pleased. He preached that I had value no matter what I looked like. He preached that these were the values that united as Americans. That we somehow had this creed that inherent social status was non-existant in America and power derived only from myself. This would be my gift as an American child. My mother taught me to never compromise my beliefs. She treated everything with a healthy skepticism and never fell for the glitz. She taught me to question everything and take nothing at face value. She is the most principled woman I know.
This is the basis of what made me American. Our immigrant past was precisely what made us so American. We were a part of a nation that rejected any hierarchy. We were a part of a nation where our voice mattered. We were a part of a nation that we had the power to change.
Trump’s America is not this America. Xenophobia is rampant across the world, and rather than rejecting the conservative wave, America has hopped along for the ride. Trump ignited a hatred for immigrant groups. Trump’s win gives license for people to have disdain for my presence here and for my parents’ presence here and cuts at the core of what my parents taught me was most American. There is a hierarchy of race is in this country and the American people just spoke to keep it that way. Nothing hurts me more than to think the hopefulness of immigrants is somehow false. I believe in the America my parents painted for me, but apparently half of America doesn’t.
As a Woman:
Hillary was going to be my champion. She has inspired me for many years and especially inspired me in the last year. She was everything Donald Trump was not. She was an intelligent advocate for me and I truly felt her passion.
It is not that Donald Trump was simply not as enthusiastic about my rights, he actively was against them. He committed sexual assault and bragged about it. Billy Bush got fired for her his comments, rightfully so, but Trump was just elected President of the United States.
So many people kept saying they were not enthusiastic about Hillary. So many excuses about her not being trustworthy or plastic floated through public discourse. People’s subconscious bias went unchecked. Many women and men I know, even those who voted for Hillary, did not acknowledge she is the most qualified person to ever run for President. They harped on baseless claims rooted in a distrust for powerful woman.
I am a woman who recently entered the workforce and I see this bias daily in my personal and professional life. I see that people are scared of powerful woman and so easily paint them as villains. There is a higher standard women are held to and this election just wrote it in stone.
I was ready to celebrate powerful women and thought that the country would want to as well. I am so devastated that I cannot celebrate history. I am so devastated about what this means for my future as a woman with dreams of great success.
I need to take a moment I feel distraught, heartbroken, fearful, and dumfounded. His garbage rhetoric rings in my ears constantly and it keeps me awake at night. The stakes are high for all Americans, but perhaps highest for those most disadvantaged already. I am a citizen and live a charmed life. I live in a community that is diverse and I honestly believe truly accepts me. Others don’t have this. Others who are here both legally and illegally will continue to be nervous about their deportation. Their life will be so critically impacted. The trajectory of their American path is forever changed. He might not enact policies as extreme as he advertised but the fact remains that he was elected despite vile rhetoric. He just got permission to do more. America just told us that insulting swaths of the nation does not disqualify you to lead. So many Americans are sitting on the edge of their seats to understand if they have a place at this new American table.
I will continue to fight, more than I have ever in the past, for the vision of America I truly believe represents my upbringing. It is an America that welcomed me for all my differences and provided the fertile land for the success of the most diverse groups. It is an America that not only accepts differences but embraces them and understands our diversity is what has always and will always make us great.