There are still a lot of people reacting to this week’s election results. I’m not going to say there’s a simple solution, or that everyone should just focus on solutions, because many people are rightfully afraid. If nothing else, I’d just like to add my voice to the (thankfully) many people who have said “I’ll be there for you.” Also, apologies for the fact that my vocabulary in Spanish is not what it is in English.
Dear Fellow Latinx,
You are beautiful. I know that statement may seem hard to believe after Tuesday’s election, but it’s true. No amount of hatred, bigotry, or votes otherwise can take away your inherent beauty and value.
I’m writing because I’ve seen many of you over the past few days. Whether you’re carrying a briefcase, a backpack, or nothing at all, there’s an uneasiness in your face. I get it; I can’t hide it either. The fundamental belief that people from everywhere are welcome in America has been undermined. There is no need to wait for the first draft of a new draconian law or the first brick in “The Wall” to believe that. If you’ll indulge me, I want to share a story.
Years ago, my sister worked at an ice cream restaurant. An elderly latinx man worked there, washing dishes. He was packed homemade food by his wife, which he would dutifully bring to work, heat up in a tupperware, and eat. In many ways, he reminded me of my grandparents. Also, he understood very little English. One day, some workers, many years his junior, began to make fun of him and laugh at him. Others joined in and laughed as well. The man, not knowing what they were saying but only reacting to their smiles and laughter, joined in to the laughing. The others, encouraged by this, only laughed harder at the mockery they made of this man.
I think about this story because it was one of the first times I thought about myself in a political way. I was heartbroken to think that someone who is trying to make his life better would be picked on like this. I was angry that people could find genuine pleasure out of demeaning another human being. I know situations like this have occurred ever since; but now, years later, this kind of behavior has been validated by the election of a monster.
What’s perhaps most infuriating to me is the nonchalance of people in the days following the election. The repeated claims of “We’ll be okay”, “It won’t be so bad”, or “We’ll see what happens” tend to come from well-off white men, often in the presence of working class people of color. Others ignore the inflammatory statements and focus instead solely on what the election means for them. Working latinx people have gone from being looked down upon before the election to being invisible afterwards. Our experiences, the threats raised (and now increasingly followed through) against us, our fears: none of them raise concern for some people in this country. Perhaps we should not be surprised by this when a mantra like “Black Lives Matter” received such a negative response from White America. We should not accept this as the new reality. We are not here to serve; we are here to live.
It’s okay to be stunned, or scared, or even really angry. The threat is by no means equal to all of us. No one knows for certain what kind of nightmare we’ve empowered for the next four years. That being said, it is also true that no one knows for certain how powerful we can be if we come together and fight back. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we need to realize we are not alone in this struggle. We are a patchwork majority of various backgrounds, passions, beliefs, and ideas. Our diversity, even within the latinx community, is an asset, not a weakness.
I believe in your beauty, your power, and our collective capacity to fight against what is to come. It’s because of this belief that I have something we all need right now: Hope.