Dear Donald Trump

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Day, and the 2nd Presidential Debate, I felt that this was the best way to articulate how I feel in the midst of this election (mostly, I wish it would just end).

As an avid past watcher of the Apprentice and awareness of who Donald Trump was prior to the election, his comments do not surprise me. Frankly, they do not upset me either. They reveal a larger issue that people are only now discovering. This, I believe, is the bigger problem.

Sexual assault, why a seemingly trivial subject, is actually extremely important in a political process. Sexist remarks often become policies that determine how much women are paid, how much they get on maternity leave, whether they are required to carry a fetus to term. To ignore the comments reveals the character of that very person, the core values that take precedent over ones livelihood. 

For as long as I can remember, I witnessed sexual exploitation and/or assault, from someone else, or on my own person. Movies I watched contained scenes of half-naked women being choked, smacked, kicked, raped, and it seemed normal. When I began to wear a bra, go through puberty, I was stared at, catcalled, gestured at, and even touched. At age 12, my mother yelled at two older men for whistling at me. At age 16, a man on the street asked me how I would like to be fucked. A man I was “talking to” at age 17 told me, “you look like you like to be choked”.

When I was 19 years old, a man I was dating raped me. I liked him a lot, and remember feeling butterflies when I spoke to him. I remember saying no, three times. I remember wearing a giant tan sweater, leggings, and Ugg boots. I remember feeling paralyzed, like I was in a dream. And I remembered his apology: “Well I am sorry you thought I did that to you, but you seemed to want it too, and it was the fault of both of us”.

Though many would find this shocking, its not. Women often are raped and sexually assaulted by people they know, quite well, which makes it harder to prove sexual assault: being in a relationship or talking to someone means they have jurisdiction over your body. I could not tell, not report what seemed consensual to others. 

Donald Trump is also great at circumventing guilt.

In the 2nd Presidential Debate, when asked about the Access Hollywood BTS video, in which he told Bill Bush to grab a woman by the pussy, he responded:

“That was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I am a person who has great respect for people, for my family, for the people of this country. And certainly, I’m not proud of it, but that was something that happened. If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse — mine are words; his was action. This is what he has done to women. Never been anybody in history of politics in this nation that’s been so abusive to women, so you can say any way you want to say it, but Bill Clinton was abusive to women.

Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously. Four of them here tonight. … And I will tell you that when Hillary brings up a point like that and talks about words that I said 11 years ago, I think it’s disgraceful and I think she should be ashamed of herself, if you want to know the truth.”

I was 19 years old when I was raped, and because rhetoric is spoken like this daily, the rapist believes he did nothing wrong.

I know for most, I am preaching to the choir. For most, no one knows about my sexual assault. It has been something shameful that I have battled since, it completely changed the way I see myself, see others. I feel the trauma daily, every time I see a woman raped on-screen, every time I hear a politician advocate for a rapist’s acquittal. I identify with the trauma of African-American, Latina, Asian, White women who are raped on college campuses, by bosses, in their homes.

Equally unfortunate is the narrative of toxic masculinity, that promotes a rape culture for both men and women. Men are raped daily and are told they cannot reveal this, as it makes them less of a man. They are told to “take” virginity, to give it to her rough, for fear of being gay, of being a pussy. Aggression is required in order to have a healthy relationship.

Sexual assault is also often racist. I recall the case of a police officer who raped a multitude of poor, Black women, targeting them specifically because “no one would believe them if they reported it”. Muslim women cannot share that they have been raped because they would be shunned from their communities. Latina and Asian women are either sexual deviants or fetishized virgins. There is no in-between.

I have family members who plan to vote for Trump. Who do not see the correlation between Trump and the marginalization of thousands of people. Who only see their future and not the future of their children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren.

I am not here to teach, or promote, or highlight Trump’s comments anymore than they already have. I am not here to overwhelmingly support Hillary Clinton with open arms. I only came to share what is already known. The hate rhetoric Trump spews is acknowledged and welcomed by a vast majority of this country. His racist comments are the same. Be aware of those that say them in your own circles, in your own homes. They are not here for you, for me. “Something that happened” continues to impact people daily, and it is important that it is discovered, addressed, and dismantled.

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This post is not an act of gratitude. I am not feeling grateful, having trouble feeling a sense of gratefulness, a sense of pride for this country.

In a little under two days, I watched a statistic become a physical entity. On average, a Black man is murdered every 28 hours. In a little under two days, I was forced to watch Alton Sterling and Philando Castile die on a computer screen. I watched them be murdered by the very people I have grown up believing they would protect me. In cold blood. Like a circus act, or a scene out of the Hunger Games. I stared at post after post of videos of men face down and face up, blood drenching their shirts, eyes blank, with captions like “so horrible” and “#AltonSterling”. And in Alton Sterling, I saw Romell. I saw my Dad, my cousins, my uncles, friends. And I felt confused. How am I not safe? How is my family not safe?

Black and Brown bodies. Their deaths on display because Americans love a good shock. Executions used as supplementary evidence on CNN, displayed over and over. Americans stare blankly, mumble “that is so horrible” or “well he DID have a gun”, and flip the channel to Modern Family.

I wish I could say that these deaths make me want to fight back, but I can’t grieve fast enough to make a plan of action. I can’t attend a protest for Philando Castile if I am still in utter shock over Alton Sterling. I’m forced to read their last words next to a hashtag, another name to put on a shirt, but it doesn’t matter how much I shout and scream #BlackLivesMatter, they will keep killing us.

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I feel tired. I’m tired of feeling like a trending topic. I’m tired of allies, both White AND Non-Black, comment on how “terrible” this situation is. I’m tired of hearing from friends and colleagues who mention angrily that there is still someone in their lives who shouts #AllLivesMatter. I’m tired of feeling frightened every time my partner glares at police officers because they could take it the wrong way and he will be next. I’m tired of waiting for the next hashtag so people can ask, “oh, BLM movement is still happening?” I’m tired, and my heart hurts.

And with that exhaustion comes shame. The “allies” that I critique share the same characteristics as me. I am not vocal for those in Iraq, Syria, Medina. My Facebook shares are my only acts of resistance. We all are guilty of purposefully reducing human dignity and human life to a photo share. Trending topics don’t stop ISIS from bombing the 2nd holiest site to Muslims and don’t stop the media from calling it Radical Islam. I still can’t breathe. I can no longer keep my hands up. When will our world be given time to heal? Will we always be subjected to this violence?

My action will be self-care. Prayer. I cannot advocate for myself if I am surrounded by the very images drowning me. I must surround myself with people who care for me, support me, and remind me that the world is not filled with people who believe they have the power to determine who can stay and live on this Earth. I will ignore those that tell me “not all cops are bad” and “not all White people are racist”. I will heal from these public executions, because my life depends on it.

See below for ways you can participate in self-care during this time:

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Toni Morrison & Colorism

Have you listened to the most recent interview with Toni Morrison on NPR? If not, PLEASE look. The link is at the bottom of this post.

Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve only read one novel of hers, Beloved. She is a woman that is EXTREMELY important, not only in literature, but for African-American women everywhere. Her new book, God Help the Child, is a topic that I have only recently delved into but has left me drowning.

Growing up, I lived with my grandparents, my sister, and my dog, in Conifer, Colorado, a small little town up in the mountains. I later moved to Lakewood, a larger suburb about 15 minutes from Denver. My grandmother is mixed, and my grandpa (not biologically), is white.

We are a happy little mixed family, and just like Toni Morrison, I felt like the whole world was like my world: a world where race didn’t seem to matter, everyone was nice, and all families were as diverse as mine. My great grandmother made greens and enchiladas for every holiday; we had cookouts with ribs and bbq.

The Fam (minus my sister)

 

Sure, I had some race encounters in high school, but they were easily squashed by my grandma’s kind words and my grandpa’s defiant tone, telling me that those people never mattered in the first place if they feel the need to comment on who you are.

When I arrived at Loyola University Chicago in the fall of 2013, I was so excited to sign up for our Black Cultural Center (our student union) and meet other African-Americans who shared the same passion as I did. The first day, after speaking my mind at a meeting (about something that felt so insignificant), a person turned to me and said, “You are so lightskinned.”

I can honestly say that I had no clue what they were talking about. I had never been called “light-skinned” in my life, but I had heard the term before: my grandma would often tell my sister and I stories of not feeling black or white enough for any aspect of society, and the lack of acceptance she often felt. She strived to remove any feeling of that sort in my childhood.

After the meeting, I remember calling my grandma crying, not understanding why I didn’t fit in with a group of students I identified with. As a kid, I wasn’t black enough – I didn’t know stereotypical racist elements like gang signs, the newest rap music –  and now I’m too light-skinned, not light enough, talk white.

And though I felt objectified for the color of my skin, I know that this is a rare moment, that most often, the target of abuse is directed toward my beautiful, darker-skinned sisters. My mixed-race identity has given me an automatic pass in life at times: I am immediately considered attractive, exotic, etc. As a kid, I had family members that were darker and lighter, and I admired the beauty in every single one of them. But, as in the case with most things, society does not see them in that way.

Colorism is a problem in our society that is often never mentioned. Racism is discussed in the traditional sense, but the nuances are not there to tell the real story.

Toni Morrison’s new book provides a deep reflection of what it means to be ostracized because you are darker. It provides another layer to the problem of being black itself, and it is a continual problem that we must address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links:

http://www.npr.org/2015/04/20/400394947/i-regret-everything-toni-morrison-looks-back-on-her-personal-life?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20150420

 

Where Can I Find a “Post-Racial America”?

Today, amidst the many posts surrounding Mizzou, I encountered a post that a friend of mine shared. In it contained screenshots of YikYak posts (informally known as the depths of racism in all college campuses) from Loyola University Chicago. So far, Loyola has been relatively untouched by the events, with exception to the Walk-Out Protest in solidarity that is being planned on Friday. 12208793_10203600181083490_1297347910840391789_n 12243479_10203600181243494_9140140835491568294_n

For those who cannot see, the comment under “black lives matter. period” is “#notheydont”.

This is a direct quote from the Loyola community. It was stated in anonymity, as most ignorant people do, because they understand that their words are hurtful, and believe that staying anonymous will keep them safe.

America prides itself on being a place where all individuals, regardless of skin color, gender, or sexual orientation, can live in a society where they will not be discriminated against, protected, and practice free speech. All of these rights are removed with one solitary threat. While freedom of speech applies to all citizens, those who want to stand in solidarity with Mizzou are bombarded with thinly veiled threats and insults, referring to us as “shitskins”.

We speak our mind, share our thoughts, and are told that we are irrational. Unjustified. How many times will we have to be called Nigger before we are acknowledged? How many threats will we receive?

How Many?

Lately, I have seen and heard many comments (either pertaining to me or about a friend) that have more than angered me. In the wake of Ferguson and the amount of Black people that are dying at the hands of white police, the open dialogue of derogatory tweets, cultural movements in fashion, Twitter, etc…the world seems to be tensing with every moment. Being away in Rome has blunted the effect, but my Facebook is overwhelmed by what seems like two different sides: the #BlackLivesMatter and the #AllLivesMatter.

I have friends of all different shapes and sizes and races, and I discuss race with each and every one of them, whether they want to or not. Some of that dialogue, I am aware, is often uncomfortable to some. This I can understand; we live in a world where we were taught that racism no longer exists. The time where people of color hang from trees and are mobbed in restaurants and drinking from different water fountains is “long” gone.

Well, it’s not.

Like many things, racism is a manifestation of a long history in America. It takes many forms and continues to evolve with each generation. Picture yourself: you are sick, very sick, and you decide to go to the doctor. You have a bacterial infection in your body, they say.

For example, you go to the doctor, and your doctor prescribes a medication that he tells you must be taken for 21 days. You obediently take the medication for 14 days, but as you start to feel better, getting back into the swing of your life, you forget to take the rest of the medication. You are healed, but not completely.

We have taken steps to prevent many aspects of racism that my grandparents and great-grandparents had to suffer through. Slavery is gone, the Civil Rights Act is in effect, Affirmative Action is thriving. But, we didn’t take the medication for the prescribed number of days. The virus is still in the body, slowly reproducing until it can take over your body again, and this time, it is much stronger.

That virus is the nuanced racism today. I still am asked questions that exemplify that I am different, unusual, or unique. I am all of those things, but they all have nothing to do with my race.

MY PEOPLE ARE DYING. Am I supposed to stand back and pretend that everything is okay, everything will fall into place? I have to remember another name, and one day, it could be someone I know and love. It could be me. It doesn’t even matter how I am portrayed in the media anymore, I don’t care if they were a “thug”, I just want to wake up one morning and not hear another African-American has died at the hand of white police, and are not receiving repercussions for their actions. Is this an accident? Because it doesn’t seem to be. Police brutality is an issue nationwide, so why are only African-Americans dying?

We riot because our hearts are heavy. Our souls hurt. For years and years we are subjected to oppression in the most systematic ways, and I believe that many of us are tired of being in the hole. We are not fighting back, we are fighting for our life.

Do we not deserve life?

 

 

 

Phot courtesy of Buzzfeed and Sait Serkan Gurbuz / Reuters