I am scared … and you should be too!

I feel unsafe, because in my efforts to be in community with white liberals there is a silence when I try to voice my pain.

The morning after Donald Trump’s election was extremely dark and terrifying for me. I’d come to terms with identifying what I fear the most, and that is losing my freedom. And, because I believed Trump at his word, when he made his white nationalist promises, I believed I would eventually have to lose my freedom or even my life fighting what was about to come. On top of my short list were two things: military rule in inner cities and any “rounding up”, extrajudicial watching or mass detention of Muslims. I imaged myself chained together with other Christians outside of a mosque. I didn’t like the idea of pain being caused to others in my name.

What took me for a loop, and looking back now I am ashamed to admit I did not take seriously enough, was Trump’s constant rage and vitriol against members of the Latinx community. Those of us on ‘Trump Watch’ were being emotionally drained day after day by Trump’s gaffs and weird behavior, his constant lying and name calling, the rolling back of decades-long progress and the erosion of our democracy. So by the time my heart was broken by the audio recording of a little girl separated from her mother, I didn’t realize my resolve had already been crushed. And wasn’t that the point? Then, someone – feeling emboldened by Trump – decided to travel to El Paso and enact the largest mass killing of Latinx people in our time. And, we fear, this is only the beginning.

I’ve found myself frustrated with white liberals who have to say, “we are all immigrants” in order to feel anything about the situation. I am not an immigrant and I am not Latinx, but I do know what it is like to be hated by someone you haven’t met, just because of the color of your skin. I remember how crushed I felt when I was five years old, and the man from the Korean fruit market thought I was going to steal the orange I was holding. He didn’t know me, but he should have. This was my neighborhood and my mother and I shopped there all the time. I was a good girl, and everyone knew that. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see it. That pain stuck with me, and more than forty years later, I am still suspicious looking in any store – or really any time I am standing still in public.

I know what it’s like to feel hunted by authorities. After hearing the stories of Sandra Bland and India Cummings (a young woman with a similar story here in Buffalo), I am gripped with terror whenever I see a cop car. Black women are not shot like Black men, they are beaten and maimed and left to die in their cells because of a lack of medical attention. Then their deaths are called “suicides”. What matters most to Black women is our dignity, and so, that’s the first thing authorities will attack. For better or worse, Black women see attacks on other Black women as Russian Roulette. This time it was not me, but it could be my turn next. God help me, if I am ever the victim of violence. I will probably not call the police.

Listening to the testimony of Latinx people this week (those who are citizens of the U.S. and those who are not), they have been afraid to go out of their homes. Their stories made me reflect on my new desire to stay close to home. I don’t think I am afraid of being abused or killed. I don’t feel safe, because I don’t know which one of my neighbors, colleagues and friends support this madman and his agenda. The media would have us believe that Trump is only supported by uneducated, poor, white men; but building a 45% base is not possible with that group alone. We are told that people who want more conservative judges on the bench or other things, “hold their noses” and support Trump in spite of his racism. I no longer believe that. I’ve had to come to a harsh reality that most white people on some level must agree with Trump and that some would rather not have me – on their street, in their neighborhood or in my workplace. 

I feel unsafe, because in my efforts to be in community with white liberals there is a silence when I try to voice my pain. When we are at a table having a discussion, even my closest friends don’t seem to have my back. They are, in part, empathizing with the perpetrators in a way that makes them tone-deaf. It is silly to think that white anti-racist allies who are unreliable in conversations about race, will be helpful in our fight against white supremacy. The betrayal and the disappointment have made me want to walk alone.

Finally, the young white men who are being manipulated by Donald Trump, really are in a lot of pain. Our culture sets unrealistic standards for manhood and then prevents them from participation. The same economically depressed white communities where there are no jobs and few future prospects are the places with the highest rates of opioid addiction, mass incarceration and gun related suicide deaths. And yet, instead of hope, Donald Trump gave them hate. Love is natural and grows on its own; but hate has to be stoked constantly. Like the followers of Dr. Martin Luther King sat in churches together and sang spirituals to gain the courage to fight for justice; people who are working up the courage to turn hate speech into action are riled up at Trump rallies. Excitedly leading chants of “Build the Wall”, Trump puts a brown face on to their pain. Trump’s rise has been accompanied by an uptick in bullying and hate crimes, bomb threats, murders … and now, mass murder.

Black and Brown people are living in terror. I am afraid and I think we all should be. Silence and apathy won’t protect any of us from a mass murderer’s bullet. The time has come for us to resist the white nationalism of Donald Trump even if we are afraid. The key is that we fight as one.

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