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Everyday Trumpism, Old and New: This Latina Will Fight Back

"As a brown-skinned Latina, the daughter of immigrants, an activist and all-around compassionate being, I am going to be honest: I’m frightened."
Yesenia Barragan is a Latina activist, historian, and Postdoctoral Fellow at Dartmouth College.
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People rally against the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in California, Nov. 12, 2016. Crédito: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

I was five years old when I first learned what the word “spic,” a racial slur for Latinos, meant.

It was the early 1990s and my parents, working-class immigrants from Latin America, were looking to get out of our crowded apartment in Hackensack, New Jersey. We were the first Latinos on the block. It took years for our white, Italian and German neighbors to stop treating my family like rats ruining the neighborhood. My mother, a refugee from rural Colombia, and my father, born in the impoverished streets of urban Ecuador, were sick of it. They thought they could have a fresh start in Pennsylvania, where they heard of beautiful but affordable houses being built in the Poconos, near the NJ-PA border.

We were waiting for what seemed like hours in the reception room of the realtor’s office in Pennsylvania as droves of (white) families who arrived after us hustled in and out of the office for their house tours. Finally, my father asked what the hold up was.

“I’ll never sell a house here to a spic like you,” the old, white male realtor angrily spit in his face.

The other day, I discovered that 65.2% of that county in Pennsylvania voted for Donald Trump. Thanks to the racist wrath and ire of that man, a forerunner of the Trump generation, Carbon County has remained largely “spic-free.”

As a brown-skinned Latina, the daughter of immigrants, an activist and all-around compassionate being, I am going to be honest: I’m frightened. Both for myself and every marginalized person in this country.

And don’t get me wrong, I was frightened before, too. President Obama, also known as the “Deporter in Chief,” deported more immigrants than any other president in our history. While my indigenous brothers and sisters fought off attack dogs and riot police in Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Hillary Clinton remained neutral in the face of human rights violations and impending environmental devastation.

But the monster that I fear in America is intensifying under Trump. In addition to the bigger political fears I have—on healthcare, immigration, LGBTQ rights, the climate, you name it—I’m especially alarmed with their quotidian manifestations, what I’m calling “everyday Trumpism,” or the violent, day-to-day affects and actions of the foot soldiers of Trump (a stand-in for Christian white nationalism) against anyone remotely suspected to be “Other.”

I’m talking about the fact that hate crimes have soared in the immediate days after Trump’s election.

I’m talking about the fact that white students formed a physical wall of students to block Latino students from going to their lockers and classes at a junior high school in Dewitt, Michigan.

I’m talking about the “deportation letters” delivered to Latino and non-white students at Shasta High School in California.

I’m talking about the two kindergarteners—yes, kindergarteners—at Farnsworth Elementary School in Utah who told their Latino classmate, “You wetbacks need to go back to Mexico.”

Or the white students who paraded around the halls of York County School in Pennsylvania shouting “White Power” while carrying a Trump sign.

Or the man who grabbed a Muslim student by her hijab and started to choke her in the parking garage of San Jose State University in California.

Or the fact that white people feel ever more emboldened to use the horrific “N-word” against African Americans in this country. One black woman in Indiana was approached by white men in a truck who yelled at her, “Fuck you n*gger b*tch. Trump is going to deport you back to Africa.”

Or the Asian man who was followed by white men in Simi Valley, California who told him that “pure America” was coming back.

Or the woman who was walking to a store and was sexually assaulted by a man in a Trump hat who grabbed her by the crotch.

Or the burning of a rainbow, pride flag in Rochester, New York.

Or the huge spike in calls made to LGBT suicide hotlines in the wake of Trump’s victory.

In other words, I’m talking about that realtor in Pennsylvania who violently added the word “spic” to my five-year-old vocabulary.

Yes, I’m frightened, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t fight back. Now more than ever, we need get to work and mobilize against everyday Trumpism. That means speaking out against these horrendously racist, sexist, and homophobic acts as they manifest in our everyday lives. That means organizing in our communities and being honest about the kind of protection and support we need to sustain ourselves in the coming weeks, months, and years. That means offering support and solidarity to the fighters on the frontlines, the social movements of our day and age— Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers, our trans and queer comrades—and those who, for whatever reason, cannot join us out in the open. That also means being real about the fact that both the Ku Klux Klan and the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, endorsed Trump.

We need to connect the dots. We need to get to work. We have no other choice. In the meantime, this Latina will see you in the streets.

Disclaimer: We selected this Op-Ed to be published in our opinion section as a contribution to public debate. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of its author(s) and/or the organization(s) they represent and do not reflect the views or the editorial line of Univision Noticias.