I and my fellow “outsiders” MUST head to the polls Nov. 8.
I probably don’t look like what most people picture when they hear the word “immigrant.” I have long red hair that I’ve been dyeing on and off since I was 18 years old, brown eyes like my Cuban father and a round face just like everyone in my mom’s family.
Most people, at first glance, suspect I might be somewhat foreign?—?but then I speak in my flawless, non-accented English and their fears or doubts about my heritage tend to subside. Not many would guess my US passport notes that I was born somewhere else—that I’m actually an immigrant.
But I am also an American.
My family came here when I was just barely eight years old, and my parents (and subsequently me) became citizens of this great country just before 9/11. When the world cried for America, we cried with our fellow citizens for everything we lost that day.
I never felt as American as I did then. And as an American, I’ve felt proud to vote in my country’s presidential elections ever since I came of age and could register under the party of my choosing, casting my vote for the nominee I felt would move our country forward.
But this year, I have to be honest: I am not proud.
In fact, I would describe the feelings I’ve been having during the 2016 election as completely and utterly negative.
It began with Donald Trump’s now-infamous remarks from his June 2015 speech announcing his run for president, in which he claimed Mexicans are “rapists.” You probably remember it, don’t you?:
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
But it didn’t stop there. Throughout his campaign, the man who is now the Republican presidential candidate has spewed words of hate and more hate, causing almost half the population in this country to go (in my opinion) insane with racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and more.
He has slut-shamed, acted like a 13-year-old, vowed to ban porn and more. In fact, those are some of the milder things he’s done or said during this election, and his running mate Mike Pence isn’t much better. Unless, of course, you’re straight, white and male.
And that’s precisely the problem. I am not straight, or white or male. I am a proud bisexual Latina, a woman, a writer, an American. But never have I felt so much like an outsider, like an “other,” than during this election.
Unfortunately, I am not the only one. A few weeks ago, an Asian-American editor at The New York Times was verbally assaulted on the streets of New York City by an older woman who told him and his family to “go back to China.” He wrote an open letter about the experience and Asian-Americans responded by talking about their own experiences with racism using the hashtag #thisis2016.
As a fellow something-else-and-American, I was horrified by the stories I read?—?but sadly not surprised. My own family is currently caught in a battle between those of us of the younger generation, who would never vote for a man like Trump, and my own father, who only cares about the economy and turns a blind eye to everything else (including issues that might affect his own children or grandchildren). In fact, it turns out that this generational tension is causing bitter fights inside Cuban-American families and I’m not surprised.
Yet this isn’t about only my own family; it’s about ALL of our families.
My biggest concern?—?no, wait—my biggest fear about this election is that hate will win out. I am afraid of what all of this hateful speak about “other” people (basically anyone different from the straight, white, male Trump) will do to our country. I am afraid of how we will be able to move forward when 13.7% of the country’s popular vote (according to the latest from Five Thirty Eight) still—after everything!—goes to Donald Trump.
There are people in this nation who actively went to the polls to vote for someone whose “locker-room talk” includes admitting to sexual assault. His continued Islamophobic remarks, claims that he will imprison Hillary Clinton should he win the presidency (that’s how democracy dies, btw) and every other hateful thing he’s said so far are enough to make me want to grab the nearest Trump supporter to scream, “HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY BE VOTING FOR THAT A-HOLE?!”
Thankfully, it’s not just up to me screaming at people to get their heads out of their butts. We live in a democracy (at least for now) where everyone’s vote counts. And while I am terrified of some of the people out there who will be going to the polls this Nov. 8th, I also respect their right to vote and thank them for doing their civic duty.
Because that’s what I learned as an immigrant coming to this county: That it is my civic duty, not just my right, to vote in this and every election.
As an immigrant, I am also terrified of the hateful speak in this country. I am a proud American, and I would like to continue to feel proud of my country. It’s the kind of pride I feel when I hear that “Orange is the New Black” star Diane Guerrero has been cast as the lead in the upcoming CBS drama “In The Country We Love,” based on her memoir of growing up a little too fast after her undocumented immigrant parents were suddenly deported.
I do not have to fear an outcome like that for myself or my family. But I do fear for my fellow Americans (whether immigrants, Muslims, gay or any of the other things that Trump has deemed unworthy in some way). Thankfully, though, I can turn my fear into a vote. And I sincerely hope that anyone and everyone who has a voice, who has the power to stand up for others, who calls her- or himself a citizen of the good ol’ U.S. of A.—whether born here or naturalized, like I was?—?I hope these people will do the right thing and cast their votes for the only sane choice for president.
As Hillary Clinton puts it on her campaign website, “We need comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to full and equal citizenship.” I couldn’t agree more, future Madam President, I couldn’t agree more.