Why I Refuse To Be Silent

The last few weeks have been an emotional time for a lot of us; I spent the first three days of the election frightened, saddened, angry, more angry, and then found myself having conversations with people on social media which resulted in my choosing to eliminate them from my online presence as I don’t have time to be polite about why I’m angry, frightened, or a combination of other emotions, and opting to never, ever be silent on this election and the ripple effect it will have on both myself and other people from the disenfranchised communities ever again, even if that is for the next 4 long years.

Suggesting to me that being angry is my being close-minded to the other side is tantamount to saying that I don’t have the right to be angry.

What do I have left if not my anger?14993318_1532366693440970_4012096830172006674_n

I get it–those who voted for Trump don’t think of themselves as bad people; which is understandable because who wants to think they are not good? However, they chose to support a candidate who openly embraced a platform of sexism, racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. They chose to decide that it wasn’t a deal breaker for a candidate to blatantly, openly discuss sexual assault then excuse it as “locker room talk”. They decided that it wasn’t a deal breaker when this same candidate called Mexicans rapists, drug dealers, and criminals–when he painted illegal immigrants with the same brush, they chose to decide that it was okay.

It is NOT okay.

It is NOT okay that Trump has selected his team of people from the white supremacist, Neo Nazi group that call themselves the “ALT-RIGHT”. It is NOT okay to suggest that this is now the new normal so we all better get used to it. It is NOT okay to tell me and the people of this country who will be the victims of this to just calm down and stop being angry. It is NOT okay to bury your head in the sand and pretend that the world is all sunshine and rainbows. Because guess what? We also exist in this world, and are deserving of a better future, and are deserving of feeling safe RIGHT NOW.

I am not an illegal immigrant; in fact, I was born and raised in California. However, I am Latina and for a lot of people in this country, illegal is a term that fits anyone who speaks a language other than English and looks different from them . It is a term that has been used against many of us from different parts of the world; it is a term that has been used in ways that are meant to insult, to hurt, and to harm.

I have family members who came here illegally because they had no other choice; historically El Salvador has been torn apart by civil war and political unrest. My father had no option but to flee or he would have been killed; my mother had to leave or she too would have been killed. My grandmothers, my late grandfather, my aunts, uncles, and many others ran to the United States because they had to for the simple reality of survival. Many of the illegal immigrants who come over the border using coyotes or other ways do so because they truly have no other options; some of these people crossing illegally are children who have been sent to try and make a better life for themselves.

Perhaps these people don’t understand why so many of us are afraid because they have never experienced sexism or racism or ableism or classism or xenophobia or being discriminated against due to religious beliefs. Perhaps they do not have family members who are considered illegal immigrants and perhaps they might have family members who are illegally in this country, and they assume that Trump meant the “criminal” portion, which begs the question of how exactly will that be determined because if you are an illegal immigrant running from civil war or poverty or lack of opportunity you don’t take the time to hand a paper in at the border with the option of “NOT A CRIMINAL” checked off.

Perhaps it is because they didn’t feel they had the option to abstain from voting or perhaps they think that Trump’s lack of qualifications is some sort of refreshing change. Perhaps it is the stance they take on some political issue, I don’t know. However, what I don’t understand is how you can suggest that those of us who are angry should just deal with it and move on “because it’s only four years”.

Excuse my language folks but: FUCK THAT.

I have spent many hours over the last few weeks really, truly questioning why exactly am I, and so many others, not allowed to feel hurt and angry? Why must we constantly turn the other cheek? Why can’t we be allowed to be angry and protest this travesty of an outcome? Why must we continually be the better people when so many on the other side of it are free to criticize or interject or demand we play by their rules?

pha1nl69s02qbweFor the eight years that Barack Obama was president, there were multiple incidents of blatant racism, xenophobia, and callous, disgusting displays of disrespect towards him for the simple reason of he was a Black man. The blatant protests where people used a dummy who was black, hung it and then lit it on fire, the creation of the birther movement (which was heavily pushed by Trump himself), the fact that Republicans wouldn’t call him by the title he earned. This constant demand he prove that was rightfully the President because he may or may not have been born here, due to the color of his skin? Having this man who was incredibly gracious and respectful despite the insults, need to openly present his birth certificate which no other President has ever had to do, is a huge reminder for those of us who aren’t white that we don’t belong here if we don’t look like we do.

But we aren’t supposed to remind people of that. That wouldn’t be fair, right?

On my personal Facebook, I posted a few status posts that were angry. I also received responses that were angry in return but were also incredibly disrespectful and rude, not to mention incredibly naive and elitist. As many of us in marginalized communities know, when you have been silenced and told to “not be so angry” or “your tone is making me uncomfortable right now” or “I feel like your anger isn’t helping”, you reach a breaking point.

I reached mine in the last few days.

Here I must say that I recognize and know that I have privilege in ways that many do not; I am college-educated, able-bodied, and have a roof over my head. The reality is that for those of us who live in these communities that were constantly belittled, attacked, and mocked during the last year, it was about the very safety of our lives and about being able to freely live our lives without fear of being attacked or killed just for existing.

refuse to stop being angry and funneling that into helping to demand change for the betterment of this generation and the ones to follow. It is imperative that those of us who are tired now rise up and demand that glass ceiling we know so well to be utterly and completely broken.

I had a thought during a discussion with a dear friend: what do you do when you step back and realize that some people you love will certainly never GET it?

I also thought to myself: Why should I police my tone if others don’t? Why can’t you understand my fear? What must you think of me when I lament the racism I have suffered, the sexism, the utter dismissal of my very self if you didn’t think of the reality behind your choice for those of us who aren’t able to afford this luxury of just riding this out for the next four years?

As many of us know, we are conditioned to remember the many moments of our lives where we experienced racism, sexism, or some sort of micro-aggression that has occurred because they begin when you are far too young to understand them. Yet as you grow, you learn to file it away, to keep it in the back of your mind because you know that it is important to never, ever become complacent. You learn as you move through the public sphere how to recognize and deal with those moments quickly in public and then in private, how to digest them properly.

These moments have formed my identity as a woman, as a Latina, and as an intersectional feminist. These moments are for me, significant to the statement of “the personal is political” because that is what this election has become for many of the American people the second that Trump first openly embraced xenophobic, sexist, racist, and bigoted rhetoric. These moments in my own personal history are the reason why I cannot allow myself to ever be silenced ever again, not even for the people I love. Those moments as a child, as a teenager, as an adult are what molded me into someone who wants more for the generations to come.

11 and told by a male classmate that it was okay if I was bad at math as girls just always are. I am still uncertain if this boy was trying to comfort me as it was openly known I wasn’t very good at math.

14 and told I needed to learn to respect authority by a female teacher who GRABBED MY ARM, pulling me into a room with other students on a field trip just to scold me because she felt I was disrespecting her authority. She had been bullying many students throughout the school year and I refused to be quiet about it.

16 years old and told by a male teacher that I was required to learn to cook, clean, and sew if I wanted to be a good wife. I’m not certain why he was under the impression that that was the only goal for me.

18 and witnessing that same male teacher tell a friend of mine that she should never have children if she was going to ask stupid questions which had me heading straight to the principal without pause.

That same male teacher trying to prevent me from walking at my graduation because I wore a tie, and also threatening to send me home from the senior class trip because I had chosen to stay at the hotel to comfort a friend who had lost her grandmother (which had been cleared by the other chaperones and teachers on the trip).

19 and having to petition a grade at my community college because the female teacher didn’t like my attitude, despite my participating in class and getting A’s & B’s on all assignments.

23 and told by an older white female student in the school office I worked that I was the first Latina she had ever met without “four or five kids”–likewise I was informed that I should have them soon or else my body would “DRY UP”, which is obviously not how the reproductive system works.

Being told that my being ethnically ambiguous was sort of neat and having to explain that no, it really isn’t at all because when you reveal your ethnicity that creates labels and boxes people subconsciously place you into which buys into the stereotypes of Latino culture.

Being told that my feminism was cute. Yeah. That happened.

An interview for a job resulting in a question about my citizenship which is completely and overly crossing the line–not to mention illegal? I was confused how that had anything to do with my experience and skills.

Loved ones telling me that my feminism was pointless and unnecessary; that my constantly pointing things out and making them uncomfortable was problematic and annoying.

I refuse to make myself uncomfortable for the comfort of others; I refuse to allow myself to curb my language and tongue because I was born a writer and if I don’t keep writing about the things that make people uncomfortable then I am failing myself as a human being and as an artist.

As the late, great, utterly fantastic Nina Simone put it, “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.”

So keep writing. Keep protesting. Keep painting and drawing and sculpting. Keep making music that calls out the mistakes being made. Keep sharing and posting and tweeting. Keep the noise loud.

Keep not being silent.

Until next time,

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