My father used racial and sexist slurs since I can remember. I was seven years old when he called my best friends ni**ers and the women on my mom’s, side including my mom, bitches and putas.
I was 1o years old the first time I really realized there were differences in my existence than others. I was living in Ohio and I was the only Latina in the entire school which went from kindergarten to eighth grade. There was only one other black student and one other Indian student. They were both in my class. I was the only student my teacher had ever taught who spoke Spanish and so I was asked to read anything that looked like Spanish. One time she asked me to translate some Latin in a text book.
Bah Bah black sheep have you any wool?
I’ve been “more than friends” with two other people who, unbeknownst to me, were Trump supporters. I found out three days ago they supported him when I saw them celebrating. My skin is crawling. Worse than that, I dated someone for seven years who supported Trump. He supported Trump since he announced he would be running. I argued with him in April 2015 about my identity as a feminist. He called the protrestors thugs. I remember thinking how Donald Trump had called Mexicans thugs. I stayed silent. I had to justify to him the need to give domestic violence education and information sessions in Spanish. I argued with him on how problematic Trump’s sexist rhetoric was. I did not walk away from all this until May 2016.
I stood silent in the face oppression.
I was 19 when black lives matter showed up on my door step. I walked outside my gate and took twenty steps to the end of the block and saw a riot line and a crowd of protestors. I stood in awe for half an hour. Tear gas deployed and it hit me like a train. I went inside and locked my doors and went to bed. Privileged. I could ignore it because it did not affect me. December 2014.
August 2015. I had just turned 20. I awoke. I had been trained to be a sexual assault crisis counselor and had completed a sociology class on culture, that heavily pulled from Bell Hooks. December 2015, completed a class on critical studies in Education. I became an ally. I was able to articulate from an academic standpoint as well as a human standpoint why we are focusing on black lives. I still remained quiet in my own circles until May. Privilege. Because my existence was not threatened I could choose when to be an advocate and when not too. I began working with sexually exploited minors in May. All of a sudden, the two semesters of social theory, the education class, black lives matter, and all the other things I learned came full circle. Real people, children, affected by white supremacist patriarchal capitalist society [bell hooks term], on a macro and micro level. I spent the summer and fall confronting oppression at every chance I could, at work, with family, everywhere and always.
October 2016: In a political sociology class we finished Piven and Cloward’s 1977 work on the structuring of a protest.
One week later Donald Trump was elected president. I sobbed in a room with my best friends at 930 pm. I sobbed for my clients who are 90 percent young women of color who are systems involved, some who are undocumented. I sobbed for my friends who are undocumented. I sobbed for my non-Christian friends. I sobbed for myself as a queer woman of color. I sobbed for the survivors who would be silenced as a result of his election. I sobbed for the 13 year old Trump goes on trial in a month for raping because my first experience with sexual assault wa at 13. I sobbed for the impact on LGBTQ+ communities and electroshock therapy supported by Mike Pence because I am bisexual. I sobbed for the defunding of HIV AIDS research.
At 1030 pm I was standing on my campus with 300 other students. We sobbed we screamed. We spoke. We clapped. I came out as queer to this crowd [and then the next day to everyone on Facebook]. We marched to Oakland until 3am.
Wednesday I sobbed all day with my chosen family. I shook with grief. I marched again that night. I remember wondering if my ex boyfriend and his family saw the pictures and videos of me and called me a thug as people from my hometown that I went to high school with expressed their disagreement with me directly and indirectly. Everything from the last two years came full circle and personally affected me.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
– Martin Niemöller
It took me two years to understand this. I did not stand up for others as people came for them and now they have come for me. I sit here writing as a 21 year old light skinned, straight passing, U.S. Born, with no physical expression of religion and I am afraid, filled with sorrow, enraged, racked with guilt. To all the folks who are at risk just by existing, whose gender expression is non binary, who are undocumented, who are darker skinned POC, who express religion or culture as part of their identity, I am so sorry I did not speak up sooner. My screams cannot be louder than yours when we cry. I will stand with you to hold some of the risk. I am not afraid of the risks of protest. I will never leave you high and dry ever again – even if that means I stay behind while you make it to safety. I will never be silent in the face of an oppressor or apologist ever again. As a bisexual, Latina, Catholic, u.s. Citizen I am sorry for the antiblackness, xenophobia, homophobia, racism, anti survivor, anti Muslim, antitrans, anti human rhetoric that the communities I am part of have ever created and reproduced. I am not excusing this behavior. I am just so sorry and ashamed at how foul others were treated. I am sorry I did not always police their actions and words. I will do right by you because you matter and you are loved. I will have the uncomfortable conversations and hold my ground. I will make spaces I am part of safer for me and others.
I have tissue for my light skinned tears.