In 2008, I was a college sophomore at the University of Dayton with a poster of Barack Obama on my dorm room wall. I was voting for the first time in my life and coming to terms with the reality of bipartisan politics. Born and bred in Chicago, where a majority of my friends, if not on the liberal spectrum, was minimally left-leaning, my transition to Dayton, Ohio was a difficult one. Before then, I didn’t personally know any Republicans and could not fathom a society where humans actively denied others access to affordable health care, bodily autonomy, marriage equality or any other basic human right. While only in Dayton for two years, I got a front-row look at the multifaceted state of politics in the U.S., which was much more intricately divided than just Democrats and Republicans. I learned this lesson after an incident broke out in my dorm – a moment that I find myself remembering again as Obama gets ready to leave the White House and president-elect Donald Trump prepares to take his seat.
When news of Obama’s big win rolled in, Black students, like communities across the country, celebrated, taking to dorm hallways to sing and shout. But it wasn’t all glee. White, (assumingly) disappointed John McCain voters took issue, telling the students of color to tone down the festivities. Soon, altercations erupted all around, prompting the administration to respond with a formal email. It was a blow to all the Black and brown students. No disciplinary action was taken against the white students who violently attempted to silence the cheers, but we – the student leaders of color – were called into the multicultural center, where, instead of genuine apologies or space to heal from allegedly “well-meaning” staff who were “on our side,” we were met with apathy.
We were being systemically silenced.
Fast forward eight years, in the wake of a Trump presidency, I feel as if I’m living in a perpetual state of déjà vu, battling the figurative muzzle that most liberals wear throughout any criticisms of our standing president.
For the last several years, my work has centered on social advocacy for marginalized communities, particularly undocumented immigrants. As a queer, disabled, woman of color, it has at times been difficult to navigate these spaces, but I try to support the labor in whichever way possible, fighting for a pathway to citizenship and supporting organizers doing the work on the ground.
While various populations are affected by our country’s failing immigration system, Latinx communities find themselves at the forefront of this battle. I am personally familiar with the many barriers undocumented folks face in the U.S. My mother came over from Zacatecas, Mexico when she was 15 years old and strategically married herself off in order to be able to attend to her cancer-stricken daughter without risking deportation. That reality has resonated with me, deeply, and it’s why I, while fearful of a Trump presidency, cannot erase Obama’s harmful rhetoric and policies on immigration and romanticize his administration in ways many liberal leaders and media personalities have.
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