Picture Post Friday will be back next week.
In case you haven’t heard, America’s 45th president was sworn in today.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
I am 29 years old, just a few months short of entering my 30s. The first presidential election I was able to vote in was 2008 and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I cast my vote for Barack Obama. In 2012, I proudly voted for him again. Up until his election, I had only seen older white men take the presidential reins and Obama’s euphoric rise seemed to shatter a glass ceiling minority communities know all too well. It has been well documented that the Obama administration took great care to open up opportunities for minorities, from a diverse cabinet to new hires from all backgrounds to appointing the first Hispanic poet laureate. This was so important because, for the first time in my life, minorities could see themselves represented in the nation’s highest offices. Representation matters.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Since I’ve come into the Jewish community, I have made it a point to seek leadership positions because I felt, and still do feel, that as a minority within a minority group, I must be a role model for those like me are hesitant to speak up because I realized that I needed to take a deep breath and jump. I am an introvert at heart and over the past six years, I have pushed myself to do things I normally would shy away from. For someone who cherishes alone time and does not like confrontation, I have taken initiative and played the community politics game in my own way.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
My mom took great care to provide me with a diverse set of role models. I still remember each name: Eleanor Roosevelt, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dolores Huerta, and so many others. She made sure that I knew that I was not inferior to anyone, a task I am sure was incredibly difficult during the darkest days of my depression. Most of all, she made sure that I always knew that she was right there by my side, supporting me and whispering words of encouragement.
My mother is not a woman to be messed with. She has fought for me, had my high school principal’s office in fear whenever they saw her coming, and once flew to Austin to take on the administration of my college when it became clear to her that I was in no state to defend myself. I owe her everything.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Donald J. Trump announced his presidential run by lumping all people from Mexico and those of Mexican descent into the same basket of rapists, thieves, good-for-nothings and he tried to slander a judge overseeing a lawsuit he is involved with simply because he is of Hispanic descent. He has vowed to end a woman’s right to choose. He is championing a repeal of Obamacare that would leave millions uninsured and see premiums and medical costs skyrocket. He has called for Muslims to be registered in a national database for “national security.” He has said the most disgusting things about women, including bragging about grabbing women by their vaginas.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
I am the proud granddaughter of Mexican immigrants.
I believe in a woman’s right to choose.
I am someone who has benefitted from Obamacare, most notably in the form of lower medication costs for the anti-depressants that help me live a normal life and that will be part of my routine for the rest of my life.
I am the proud daughter of an Air Force veteran and federal employee who will soon enroll in Medicare.
I am a proud Jew who sees the ominous historical overtones associated with a national mandate to register if you happen to be Muslim
I am a woman who is also a sexual assault survivor.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
But, if I had to choose one identifying characteristic, I would say that above all, I am a survivor. I tried to commit suicide multiple times. Think about that. My sick brain turned my thoughts into weapons and tried to break me down to the point where I would kill myself just to escape the emotional pain. This did not just happen once, not just twice, but three times.
I am still standing, scarred maybe, but still here.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
For a long time, I tried to ignore how having darker skin, even by a few shades, increases the likelihood that you would be looked down upon, denied opportunities, and even killed. I am an idealist, I want to believe that people are good at heart and, to some extent, I still believe that.
But now I also see that I have to be part of the fight to protect the American values and rights we are all guaranteed. If I stand aside or turn my head, I am complicit. As a second-generation American, a Jew, a Mexican-American, a woman, a sexual assault survivor, I have a responsibility to not only protest, but to take action.
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
I had tears in my eyes as I watched Barack and Michelle Obama hand over the reins to our new President. I read the transcript of Trump’s speech and cried, because I see flashing warning signs everywhere and I feel like I’m going crazy because no one else seems to see them. This has been a case of deja vu in the worst way.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
My mother is afraid. She was alive during segregation and saw the Civil Rights Movement in real time. She asked me not to participate in any of the countless Women’s Marches going on around the country tomorrow, not because she doesn’t approve of their message, but because she is afraid for my safety in such an environment. My mom never had to give me the Talk, the one African-American parents must give to their children, but this new era in America obviously has her on edge. Out of respect for my mother and a deep desire not to cause her more stress than necessary, I agreed to stay out of the marches.
However, the fact that I am not marching tomorrow does not mean that my heart and soul will not be there with the brave citizens donning their battle gear and prepping their signs. I may not march tomorrow, but I too have pulled on my battle gear and will be alongside my fellow citizens the day after the march and the day after that and the day after that, until all Americans feel safe and welcome here.
For the next four years, with Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” (used in this entry) as my personal touchstone, I will not run, I will not turn away, I will not let my fear overtake me because I am not alone. I know it won’t be easy, but doing the right thing rarely is.
So, President Trump, Vice President Pence, and the members of the Cabinet and Trump administration, I say to you:
Bring it on.