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Waking up to a nightmare

In the aftermath of election night, I scrambled to find a feeling other than despair. I had been way too preoccupied to follow the election live, but before my partner and I went to bed, I glanced at the electoral votes. Donald Trump was just six electoral votes away from the 270 required to become president-elect. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I put my phone down, hugged my partner tightly to me, and we fell asleep; I don’t know how. But I had to separate myself from what was happening, I couldn’t handle the feeling of having this rug, that I had been standing so assuredly on, pulled out from under my feet. I was sure that the next morning, I would wake up from that nightmare.

I’m not surprised, not anymore. How could I not have seen this coming? How is it possible, to be learning about the history of the world, the history of the United States of America, the history of my people, my ancestors, the history of the European-Anglo invasion, colonization, the aftermath of the genocide of indigenous peoples, the aftermath of the slave trade and plantations, the aftermath of anti-Mexican, anti-woman, anti-Black, anti-queer sentiments, and not have seen this coming?

(Dani Toriumi)
(Dani Toriumi)

The truth of America is that we are all a product of its history. I am here, a child of Central American immigrants, a child of those who left their homes to come to a country that does not respect them as equal human beings, much less honor their hard work, their sacrifices, their unique cultural practices or their dreams. A child of those who did that, endured that, because there was no future for me, for their children and grandchildren, back in their home country. No future in these countries reeling from the aftermath of wars, the “Northern Triangle of violence,” countries with incredibly high homicide rates due to gang violence, extortion, corruption and being a chess piece in providing America the narcotics its little heart desires.  A child of those who were willing to risk their lives, rather than continue living under the threat of death.

The truth is that when we look back at history, we have to come to the realization that racism, xenophobia, sexism … is still here, and it’s been here all along. We are living with the children and grandchildren of those who yearn for the “simpler times,”  when life was “traditional” and “American.” But what were those “simpler, American” times? Jim Crow laws and their corresponding social climate thrived well through the 60s — the white man’s need to oppress those around him in order to thrive in America, in order to be the elite class of this new society, was passed down, father to son, mother to daughter.  “All men are created equal,” but history shows how this only meant white men, white men who owned black and indigenous slaves, who built their cities and empires on the backs of brown and black people, who spoke for and committed acts of violence and dehumanized the other half of humanity, the woman, and tried to kill off the homosexual, the queer, the gender-variants among them. But the thing is, now that the dust is beginning to settle around me, that I have read article after article until my head hurt and my eyes squeezed shut, I am beginning to understand what has happened, and what I have to do.

In 2010, Gregory Rodriguez published an article entitled “The White Anxiety Crisis.” In this TIME published piece, he outlines the “white political backlash” that was imminent, as white Americans found themselves slipping into minority-status, most notably in political spheres. I won’t pretend that I know all about how politics, government or economics work. But I’ve read and listened to enough Trump supporters and “unbiased” onlookers to gain insight on how Trump became a savior-figure, a “give power back to the people” hero to the poor, white, working-class demographic, that showed up in astonishing numbers this election season. The success Trump has had is due in large part to his campaign’s emphasis on what a “true” American looks like, who is welcome and unwelcome in America, who is valued, who is the reason for the “degradation” of America, from his insistence on making certain minorities scapegoats, as well as the still-hanging-on racist undertones many of these communities who supported him inherited from their predecessors. It is impossible to deny that as the demographic face of America changes, and as the new, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Americans begin to reshape the country into one that includes all of us, white americans will begin to develop a stronger consciousness of their political interests as a group and what it will take for them to continue being the elite group in American society.