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How Latina Moms Feel in Donald Trump's America

Photograph by Twenty20

My heart aches right now. I do not feel safe writing these words. Don’t tell me to calm down and heal when the man who called my people “rapists and criminals” won the presidency.

Many are asking that we unite together behind him. You have to know that that is nearly impossible to do when this president-elect and the people who supported him believe fervently that my family and I don’t belong here. During his campaign, Donald Trump said that “anchor babies," (referring to the children, like me, of foreign-born residents) shouldn’t be American citizens. I didn’t think so many people agreed with him. I didn't think so many people considered such a blatantly racist and xenophobic policy was more important to them than human decency and kindness.

As an educated Latina, the fact that so many people preferred him to Hillary Clinton feels like a double whammy. This country sent a message that being a strong woman, and a person of color, are not desirable traits. I'm personally offended by these results.

But really, this isn’t about me.

Schoolchildren in my community, which is 99 percent Latino, had to wake up wondering if, and when, the president-elect would send their families away. A mother asked someone I know, “Do you think I should take my children and leave now?”

My neighbor just asked me if I really think he is going to deport Latinos.

We are all wondering what happens next.

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Though I am an American citizen, my skin color has always made me an “other.” This election confirmed to me that I do not have a place in this country. A friend of mine posed this question to me: “How do we explain it to children that sexism and racism are not acceptable, when this country just elected someone like this? "

Is there an answer to that question? I'm listening. I'm also acting.

While it is hard to do right now, we need to believe for the sake of our children that we can and will make a difference.

To me, the political has always been personal. I think one of the ways we start changing our society is by being mindful of what happens at home. It starts with how we talk to our children about this. We have to teach our kids their heritage, and encourage them to honor and respect it. We need to talk to them about race with honesty—do not be scared to discuss race. Do not pretend that race wasn’t a factor in this election.

Also? Let's stop pretending that class doesn’t exist. Don’t pretend that when people feel like they don’t have options, they won’t vote for the person who is promising them nice, shiny things—even at the expense of others.

Teach them to think critically, to questions things. Even if it means sometimes they will question you, too.

We must make conversations about civics, politics and race the norm. These are not taboo topics; these conversations are essential to the function of our democracy.

Talk to them about history. The history on which this country was built and the history of places around the world where bad people have succeeded because good people stayed silent.

My Latina friends and I have to worry about raising our kids in Donald Trump’s America. It’s a reality that, until yesterday, I never thought we would have to face. Look at what happened, just the day after the election:

Latino students were being harassed by their classmates. Students were chanting, “build the wall.” It's hard not to think that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I was so naive. I just couldn’t believe that our country would elect someone like this. I failed to discount the hopelessness so many Americans must feel that they voted for his promise of greatness. That is another reality we must reconcile with. But not today, not when we are all in fear of what comes next.

For Latina blogger Lendy Salazar, this has been a painful awakening. “You do not like the people I love," she wrote. "You chose politics over humanity, and that is hard to take in.”

The other thing we must confront is finding out that colleagues and friends voted for Trump. Nallely, another Latina mother, told me, “I don’t want to associate with anyone who thinks this man might be a role model for my kids, let alone be our president.”

Jazmin the mother of a baby boy shared with me something that struck a nerve. “We musn’t raise our children with fear in their hearts.”

But what fills my heart with joy is this: So many people, white allies and others have been expressing their own discontent with the hate speech that dominated this campaign.

While it is hard to do right now, we need to believe for the sake of our children that we can and will make a difference.

Ironically, my biggest hope is that Donald Trump was just saying these things to get elected, and that he doesn’t actually intend to carry out his promises.

But what fills my heart with joy is this: So many people, white allies and others have been expressing their own discontent with the hate speech that dominated this campaign. I believe that, together, we will prevail, and we must remind our children that many people care about them and our families.

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What is also important is that we all do some soul-searching to determine how we can lend our service to the nation and society at this juncture in our history. Here's the pledge I'd like to everyone who's devastated by this election take:

  1. Volunteer
  2. Participate in demonstrations to defend your rights or the rights of others.
  3. Make political and civic discourse a part of your family’s life
  4. Donate money to organizations that are advancing causes you care about
  5. Include your children in the above mentioned activities?

My friend, the filmmaker Denise Soler Cox, shared this quote by writer Cherie Moraga. It spoke to me as I was writing this piece:

“I am a woman with a foot in both worlds; and I refuse the split. I feel the necessity for dialogue. Sometimes I feel it urgently.”

For those of us who who represent two worlds we have insight that our country needs now more than ever.

Let us not be silenced by the voices of those who want to deny us our humanity.

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