BY NICOLE VILLACRES '18
I have been quiet throughout the election. It has gone so far that those closest to me took my silence for apathy. I don’t know that my opinions on the results matter because they come from a body marked by differences. Differences that these results have shown are not valued but vilified. There is not one aspect of my intersecting identities that has not been targeted by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
I had talked to my family in passing leading up to the election. My tio is stoic. My brother resorts to immature insults. My abuela calls Trump a payaso and refuses to have his voice echo through the home she has built here. My mother tells me she is worried and asks what is going to happen to us. The “us” she speaks of is more than just our small immigrant family, but encompasses all of the immigrants of the past, present and future. What this election represents is an erasure of so many stories.
I don’t know that my story would be the same if we immigrated now. I can’t speak to how the overt racism, sexism and every otherism would have molded and shaped my identity as a child growing up in the South. I can only say the white America that I grew up in white-washed my name and shamed me into not speaking my own language. Only within the past three years have I begun to reconcile with my internalized hate.
All of these sentiments have always existed in the U.S. and they’ve ebbed and flowed between being overt and covert. And now, through this presidential campaign, all of the covert hate that has been simmering for so long under the surface has been drawn out by a demagogue. These sentiments are now increasingly normalized and proudly displayed on poster boards. Although the result of the election does mean that some of these sentiments have the possibility of being institutionalized through policy, these sentiments would still be here even if Hillary Clinton had been elected. I heard people say they would be able to breathe a sigh of relief after Nov. 8, but I knew that regardless of the outcome, there would still be those who openly did not want me here.
I attended the sit-in outside of the library on Wednesday and I felt angry and frustrated. The tears my white allies cried left a bitter taste in my mouth. I shouldn’t have had to bear the burden of comforting them, but that is exactly how I felt. To some extent, yes, they will have aspects of their identity marginalized and targeted, but the policies will disproportionately and overwhelmingly affect people of color and immigrants. We have already been dealing with this since the day we were born. This is a time when the intersection of identities becomes increasingly important because some will be impacted differently than others.
I see a refusal to even realize that what happened yesterday happened during the 2004 presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry. Like Trump promised to strengthen defense by reiterating the importance of being “unpredictable” with nuclear weapons, Bush too pandered to white Americans by giving them the chance to vote against gay marriage. Both Trump and Bush ran on platforms of fear-mongering. In 2004, it was Bin Laden, in 2016, it’s ISIS and marginalized people. Both candidates brought voters who normally wouldn’t have decided the election to the center and did so flawlessly. Yet we didn’t learn. Instead of focusing energies to promote Clinton based on merit, time and time again I heard “at least she’s not Trump.” Bush supporters painted Kerry as aloof and untrustworthy, just like Trump supporters did Clinton. The same rhetoric of fear in risk used in 2004 was rehashed in 2016 and no one realizes that. History has repeated itself and we are shocked.
I can’t help but to see behind the tears, the same faces that chanted “Bernie or Bust” or promised to use their vote for a third party in protest. And while I do understand that the majority of the third party votes would have likely gone to the conservative party, it is still a privileged sentiment that was spread on our campus.
For a split second, Arkansas was reporting blue on Tuesday, and my heart skipped a beat. In the end, Arkansas came in red but I can’t help wonder how much was lost to those protest third party votes or the votes that people abstained from casting. I’m not assigning blame and that is not what this is about.
I don’t mean to invalidate the feelings that people are having because of the election. I recognize that it is a combination of so many different factors. So many more people in this country are now being aggressively and publicly marginalized, specifically through Trump’s stance on reproductive rights. I recognize that the tears are from fear of what is to come. But the problem that I have is that I and so many others have been experiencing those marginalizations our whole lives and I am not comfortable being in a space where people are coming to terms with their marginalization. I don’t feel like I am in a position to walk people through this experience they’re having. I have cried about my marginalization my whole life, but I did it silently, and the public display rubbed me the wrong way.
Where was the white outrage that I saw outside of the library when the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was struck down in 2013? By striking down that particular section, the Supreme Court freed nine states, in which there was a history of officials denying voting rights to blacks, to change their election laws without federal approval. I saw little outrage when the announcement was delivered by Chief Justice Roberts, a Bush-appointed Republican, claiming, “our country had changed.” I saw little outrage months ago when North Carolina tried to implement a racially discriminatory voter ID law, a law calculated to disenfranchise poor minorities with an obviously unconstitutional poll tax in the form of photo ID.
The results of this election did not come as a surprise to me. I don’t have the solutions to the frustrations I felt. I don’t think I need to have the solutions because my priority right now is taking care of my family and my community.