I woke up on November 9th and wept.
I wept because I couldn’t stop thinking of my parents. My parents who escaped one communist dictatorship after the other. They came here with nothing except hope – the kind of hope that isn’t deterred by money or lack thereof, the kind of hope that pushes people into a search for a better future. Despite their best efforts, they slept night after night in the only place they could afford – their car, sometimes homeless shelters whenever there was space – with my sister having just been born a few months prior. My parents who did the only thing they could do, which was visit an immigration assistance organization for Hispanics, and asked for a point in any single direction. The president of the organization at the time gave them a place to stay with the promise that my father would find himself a job. He did.
I wept because I am not the only one with a similar story, and I wept because it felt more redundant today than any other day.
I grew up in Miami with a certain privilege of being surrounded by minorities – that is not to deny the colorism and racism that is still heavily prevalent, but there is an understanding. An understanding of immigrant kids who know what it’s like to know worse, to constantly be reminded of how lucky we are to be here. It was only until later, although still young, that I realized there was people out there in the world – many, in fact – who thought people like me and my family were inferior. My family – my father who bought my sister and I every doll we wanted despite there being money for little else, my mother who always made sure I made it to school, my sister who I looked up to in every single way. How could they be thought of as any less than any other mother, father and sibling?
Every kid of color comes to this realization, and the moment of that realization leaves a heaviness that never goes away after that. A sort of dead weight.
I wept because, broken and fragile and apart my family may be, we are survivors of a system that does not favor us. A system that easily overlooks a presidential candidate’s remarks that demean us and strip us of our humanity. A system that fails us time and time again because, after all, we shouldn’t be here. Only Americans belong here – you can go back home. You, who white “Americans” packed into ships like sardines and sent into slavery, can go back to where you came from. It’s not like we brought you here. You are free to seek political refuge and leave if you do not agree with our new President. It’s not like we refuse to let in those who are choosing to do the same exact thing, except they are perhaps much more unlucky thanks to the darkness of their skin.
Donald Trump is not my President. He will never have the honor of being referred to as my President. It’s not me who put him there, and it sure as shit wasn’t my people.
If you refuse to analyze this information, if you refuse to let the weight of this be felt on your shoulders as a white person – yes, you, who laughed at him and treated him as a “joke” while the rest of us felt the very real threat of his words – you, who refused to educate your white family and friends for fear of retaliation – you are the one at fault. You are the reason why racism, sexism, homophobia and islamophobia are so alive because you stand by and let it happen.
If you voted for this man, if you were complacent in his election – I do not want you in my life. This is not a matter of political differences because Donald Trump is not a politician. By voting for him, you told every woman who has survived sexual assault that she deserved it, that it will happen again, because men can. By voting for him, you told every little girl that she will only ever be a body – never a president. By voting for him, you told every black person that their life does not, in fact, matter. By voting for him, you told me that my family and I don’t deserve to be here, when all we’ve ever wanted is to live with political freedom – and I take that very, very personally.
Don’t consider yourself any “ally” if you are not willing to own up to what exactly that word entails. Don’t automatically include yourself as a part of the conversation without realizing the platform you stand on that we don’t.
I am tired of trying to make sure my white friends – are we friends if you favor someone who threatens my safety? – don’t feel uncomfortable. Fuck that. I am tired of making space for you. I am tired of my people being last-minute held as the “potential saviors” of the election because you refused to do your part and educate yours. I am truly down-to-the-bones tired. We are not here to save anyone. All we want to do is survive.
I am weeping now but I know I won’t be forever. I know these sacrifices weren’t in vain. I know I won’t always feel like a third-class citizen and that my voice someday will matter because it has to. Because I will scream and shout and yell until it does. I know today felt like the end of the world but I know it was also the start of something very big.
Words by Vanessa