Wednesday morning, my boys asked the result of the election and began assembling a nuclear fallout kit. We couldn’t catch them. They tore through the house gathering canned foods and Nerf guns, certain this election spelled doom.
“Will they know I’m of color?” my eldest asked me not long ago. I cried over the question. He was talking about the police, a group he is likely to run in with as he grows due to his neurology. “High functioning” is code for “normal-looking” when it comes to Autism. The term has no understanding of his challenges and creates false expectations when it comes to his behavior. He fights with body and words when he feels threatened and he often incorrectly perceives threats. Soon he will be a teenager, and it will happen in a country governed by a man who mocks disability and has set violent, racist precedents for citizen interaction. Will they know he’s of color? It is not lost on him or me that it is a privileged question to ask. But what will it mean for institutional racism if our government institution is governed by racism?
So my son gathered supplies for his survival and I considered whether I would cry then or later. The threat he perceived was real. Is real. Our populace has been given the go-ahead to harm one another based on false assumptions tied to racial, religious, gender and ethnic identity. Terrorism has been okayed against minorities within our borders. We have become the thing we have fought because, with this election, we’ve fought it everywhere but here.
Two sons and a daughter. A little girl just coming into her social consciousness in a country that has okayed sexual violence against her by sweeping aside the abusive actions of a figurehead and allowing him greater voice in our national landscape. He will be the first President she remembers. He will set the tone for her expectations of men in power. I’m grateful she is an optimist. That will help us deconstruct the bitter results of her rights being denied based on her anatomy. She can still learn that she is strong, worthwhile and that no man has a right to touch her sexually without her permission.
My tears came later, when my second son returned from school and told me how one of his classmates spent the day crying because he is afraid of being separated from his immigrant family. How devastating it is to live in a country full of humans who can so easily set your humanity aside based on your genetic or locational origin. How terrifying to think it is so important to suppress women’s rights and autonomy, to discard a secure future because you are scraping after a lost history, that you would vote against a right to safely exist.
The other question they asked is, “Can we move? Can we move to Canada?” They want to abandon ship. All hope is lost. They have no faith in America because America has betrayed them.
I don’t want to jump ship if for no other reason than in doing so, the terrorists who live here triumph over me. Nor do I want to raise my children in a country that devalues them so greatly that even at the most tender ages and through an enforced in-home media blackout, they can still see their insignificance in the eyes of those who either did not show up or voted for a man whose platform is hate for who they are and where they came from.
It was when I cried that my children awoke from their own fear. My eldest reached out to stroke my back. “It will be okay,” he said. “Mom, it will be okay. You’ll see.”
I still need time to grieve the hopes I had that the voting majority would not ignore the incredible issues of social justice that have been brought to the fore in the hateful chaos of campaigning. With this election, the issues are more pressing than ever. The purpose of social justice is to establish equity in care for one another as global citizens, but even our neighbors are standing in our yards willing to say what mine did, “With respect to your history, I think immigrants should have to leave.”
My neighbor was talking about my father. Both of my brothers-in-law, fathers to my nieces. He was talking about my friends and family beyond my state. He was talking about several other neighbors up and down the street. He added, “Syrians probably are hiding terrorists. All Arabs are terrorists.” He meant me.
He said it to my face. Held tight to my child’s shoulder to make sure he stayed to listen and told him, “You need to know your mother is wrong. It’s important to elect Trump because he won’t be able to get anything done. He doesn’t have the background in politics. We need to keep America safe.”
And with that, he made America unsafe. He became our next-door terrorist because he said it in all his words, we don’t matter. We don’t deserve to be here. We are wrong.
I heard it my whole life. Same story: you should not be here. I was a half-breed, a mixed kid, evidence of my mother’s betrayal for marrying outside her race and doomed to Hell because my beliefs and skin tone differentiated from my peers. I was born in America, raised in America, but I don’t get to be American. I have been afraid for so long. And with Trump raised up, I don’t get to be human. As a woman I have been relegated to an ornament for his arm or penis. No matter how much his team scrubs his policies or his website, he is still the man who defended his sexual misconduct and denied his racism while encouraging violence against all of us who are not white men. The people he surrounds himself with are the same team who fought against minority rights his entire campaign, and in Pence’s case, far longer.
Maybe America can be the beautiful thing it has always wanted to be. It will take work, many hands and many voices. I believe we can overcome anything as long as we continue to share our stories. That is why I have shared what is here, and why I will continue to speak up in whatever way I am able beginning with reassuring my children that they are loved despite the message their world has given them. They are the future. They are hope.
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