Are you capable of giving comfort? It feels like the world is ending, and along with this, I haven’t felt comfortable in so so long.
What It’s Like to be a Black Woman in America….
What It’s Like to be a Young Black Male in America….
What It’s Like to be a Hispanic Woman in America…
What It’s Like to be an Undocumented Immigrant in America…
What It’s Like to be a Muslim in America....
What It’s Like to be a College Student in America…
This ENTIRE year and election has me thinking about What It’s Like to be a Person in America.
I have been trying to refrain from imposing my world views on others because I don’t think any one person is capable of understanding the sum total of human functioning and how we are SUPPOSED to interact with others. However, I have been exposed to a series of recurrent unfortunate events that I will take as a sign for me to say something:
Voting day, for those who were not able to take advantage of early voting, was Tuesday, November 8th. And if you feel any of what I feel, you’re probably worried and stressed because you are being encourage to make a decision between candidates that have had the misfortune of representing themselves horribly to the public eye. But the MOST unsettling factor that I am concerned about is this:
One common understanding that we all have about the current state of our society is that we all have labels. You’re a mother, a friend, a brother, an accountant, a soldier, a girl, an astronaut, etc. But the one label that seems to cancel out ALL of these is being labeled a CRIMINAL. This is not to say that some people are undeserving of punishment, but criminals are not even considered humans, much less any of the labels I mentioned above. Even when they are out of the “system”, they are never truly out of the system. We seem to forget, or maybe we simply don’t care, about any other redeeming qualities surrounding these people because we are focused on one instance of maladaptive behavior that has permanently changed their lives.
Now time for the real purpose of posting this:
As a PERSON living in America, I have found myself walking a thin line between how I want to behave and how I have to behave. Contrary to what is displayed on the media, the underlying problems of racism, homophobia, transphobia and gender inequality (among others) have not changed over the past few years. What has changed during the course of my lifetime alone, is the level of civil unrest. As children, most of us have been taught to be self-aware, but nowadays that level of awareness has transformed into one of self-censorship and uncertain identity.
Not two days ago, I was downtown with my friends, all claiming different racial and ethnic backgrounds, when I was approached by a fellow black woman, who asked “Why I was dancing with that guy”, referring to one of my white male friends. She seemed relieved by the fact that we weren’t dating. She had no problem with me dancing with one of my Nigerian friends but was all too comfortable approaching me to state this one fact. Not long after that, I was approached by another person at a different bar, this time by a black male, who was wondering why I was dancing with three of the Hispanic friends i was with.
Unfortunately, this is NOT an uncommon occurrence. Part of what makes me who I am is that I crave being around people who both share and do not share the same ethnic identity as I do. For the sake of my future careers, and to function in life altogether, I need to understand people. The instances mentioned above only served to confirm my fears that these past two years have been just as DETRIMENTAL to the American Psyche/Moral as it has been beneficial. It has been detrimental in the sense that 1) we have now confused “Having love for your own race” to mean that you cannot show love to people that don’t fall into this category, 2) we now have to stop and think about the friends that we hang out with for fear of persecution from others, and 3) you can’t even walk down the street without wondering whether the people passing by either love you or hate you based on their assumption that YOU either love or hate them BECAUSE of a shameful, societally constructed, physical characteristic that we call race.
Tying this all back around to my words on criminogenic labels, this presidential election has brought to the table one major label to the name of one candidate and numerous other labels to the name of the other. We all see this and we acknowledge this, yet we choose to call one candidate a criminal, excusing all of this person’s other redeeming qualities in order to make them out to be the worst possible candidate in the world. But there is a major major difference between being a recurring offender and being a person, who has engaged in one or two apparent criminal acts. I’ve heard the arguments surrounding this issue, and I sympathize with those who choose to point out that this was indeed a federal crime, but to say that this person is more harmful to America than our other primary candidate is a huge mistake of fact.
This mistake stems from the fact that even though our other primary candidate may not be the Racist, Homophobic, Transphobic, Sexist, Bigoted person that people make him out to be, and even though he may not have personally INTENDED to make his campaign to be what we see in the media today, his “political” decisions serve to fuel the hatred among the American people in situations similar to the ones I experienced two nights ago and the day before that and even the day before that. What is worse?, people will sometimes ask. You tell me what is worse.
America, and other nations like ours are stuck in the middle of trying to solve societal issues while blatantly ignoring them when it comes to instances such as the election we are in now. Hilary is in NO WAY the ultimate savior or problem solver that we need, but electing Trump is of concern to me, not because of the distasteful manner in which popular opinions portray him, but because his campaign brings hope to those who DO openly have hateful sentiment towards oppressed groups. For those who take interest in government and economics, there are ways to mitigate our upcoming president from making radical change, but there is no way to stop the growing fear and hatred that people have in their hearts if we put someone in charge who has become a symbol for the exact opposite of progress (whether he wants to be or not).
To be honest, my fingers have been trembling as I write this because not only do I not like making people feel as though their opinions don’t matter, but I also don’t like having to speak upon concerns that should be of unspoken, mutual understanding between all people. Despite this, I have to say that the choice is rather obvious to me. The economic problems attached to the face of one candidate do not compare to the continuation of social downfall attached to the other.