This summer, I drove with my mother and brother to New Orleans. We live in South Florida, known for its high Latino population so, needless to say, living in South Florida as a Latina is far different than living as a Latina in many other places in this country. I was born to immigrant parents who are from Ecuador and Colombia. To some people, I might be considered "white passing," and to some I'm considered "ethnically ambiguous." That has undoubtedly shielded me from certain levels of discrimination and I am aware of that. But on this trip in July, my mother was openly mocked for speaking to me in her first language, Spanish. I had to tell her to quiet down and not draw so much attention to us in a dim gas station in the panhandle of Florida. I am extremely privileged to say that I have only ever felt scared in this way a handful of times in my life, but after the derogatory comments Donald Trump has made about immigrants and the wall he wants to build at the border, I only fear this xenophobia will only grow in Donald Trump's America. But have a message for President-elect Trump: I'm not going anywhere.
I can't lie. I believe that when Trump won the 2016 Presidential election, hate won. Trump supporters say, "We need a change!" or "We're tired of crooked politicians!" and those ideas are fine on their own, but the fact that the Republican party's choice was a misogynistic, racist billionaire-reality television star says almost everything there is to be said about this country's current state. The fact that our President-elect has said things like, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best ... They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people” just says it all the more.
Now that Trump has won, many of Clinton's supporters, a huge group of people who led her to win the popular vote and had so much hope, feel like they don't belong. On the morning of Nov. 9, if they didn't already, those nearly 58 million voters started feeling the sense of hopelessness and fear that marginalized Americans have felt for nearly every moment of their lives. In the short time that Trump has been the president-elect of the United States, harrowing reports have been spreading of Trump supporters gaining the confidence to be more aggressive than ever. In Buffalo, New York, a wall was vandalized with the writing, "Make America White Again" along with a swastika. Middle school children were heard chanting "build the wall" in their school's cafeteria. Unfortunately, the list is only growing, hour by hour.
This is a wake-up call to stand tall and say that you will not let fear and hate win. For me, that means sticking by this country, regardless of how much Trump wants me and my people out.
As a woman, I have had my share of sexism thrown my way. I have been exoticized by drunk frat boys at a party. I have been followed home from a night out and hassled on the streets. I have had people question my intelligence. I know I am not alone in this. While I am a proud Latina woman and have a unique set of experiences, I am also a proud ally and stand by my beautiful friends of every race, religion, sexual orientation, and beyond. I don't deserve a "cookie" for this. I don't deserve a pat on the back, because this is common decency and not a competition to be won. These are actual human lives at stake and we will not be set aside.
The reality now is, we all live in a country where Trump will be president, and many of his supporters agree with his racist and sexist rhetoric, which is extremely dangerous. This is not something we all just need to "get over." Latinos and other people who feel hurt by this outcome must not be ashamed if today we feel like we need to take a break or seek out someone to speak to, because it is in these moments of reflection that we can find the strength to continue on.
This is my country and all I have ever known. I was born in the United States from two separate immigrant families that chose this country to be their home. They chose America because it stands for hope and acceptance, and I won't allow Trump to take this hope away from me and millions of other Americans. I refuse to believe the loss of compassion, respect, and empathy for other human beings is what it means to "make America great again." Fear is not what made America great to my family. Unity and promise of a fruitful and safe future for every American is what makes America truly great. Now is the time to take action to make America safe and welcoming for all individuals. Together.
In the aftermath of the election, I have been compelled to engage with some hateful comments on the internet that I have noticed from Trump supporters — people who choose to denigrate and hatefully discount the valid feelings of women, the LGBT community, and people of color all over our country. I have tried to be understanding and patient amongst this surge but, in return, I have mostly received personal insults. What does this accomplish? Nothing. I choose not to go down the dark road. I will not let people tell me I am being "dramatic" or over-reacting. Trump's voters have spoken loud and clear, and now I vow that my voice will be just as passionate, but in a way that incites the change I know we really need.
When I look at my beautiful Latino family, with our rich history and traditions, I want to always know that we will be protected. I want to stay in the country I was born in and make sure that my young cousins and future Latino children can proudly say that they are appreciated and worthy and that America wants them, too. I want to leave them with a country that is worth fighting for.
Image: Daniela Cabrera