Whose America?

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Hundreds of thousands protested along 42nd Street in Manhattan during the Women’s March.

Crowds of protesters flooded the streets of every major city in the United States; hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City and Boston. Even my hometown of Miami drew over 10,000 protesters. To think, just days before the mass demonstrations, I had no idea of how immense the protests would be. As my social media feed continued to update, I learned that it was not just a movement in America, but it was a worldwide collaboration. London, Nairobi, Berlin, Paris and Prague too? Over 1 million people worldwide protested on Saturday (see article Washington Post ). It was a worldwide march lead by women, with a unified message; the disapproval of the recently elected United States President, Donald Trump.

There has been a tremendous amount of controversy surrounding this campaign and his ascent to the White House. Many have viewed his words as racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and divisive. One of Trump’s most troublesome ideas is to build a wall along the southern border of the United States, in which he initially stated that the Mexican government would pay for (see article Los Angeles Times). He also painted a grim picture of Mexicans and other immigrants from Latin American countries as being responsible for bringing crime and drugs into the United States.

On 16 June, at his campaign launch for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, Donald Trump aired his views on immigration, saying: ‘[Mexico is] sending people that have lots of problems … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.’ (see video The Guardian).  

Not only did Mr. Trump speak harshly  about Hispanics, but he also proposed a ban on immigrants from Muslim countries, (see video CNN News) creating a larger rift within America and its immigrant communities.

According to News One, Trump received single digit support from black voters throughout most of the campaign. His rallies were overwhelmingly white and there were several instances in which black people were physically assaulted by white crowds (see video Washington Post). Furthermore, Trump publicly received support from the white supremacist group, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) (see article Washington Post). Trump’s campaign swiftly denounced the group’s support, however their public endorsement left an undeniable stain. With this kind of negative press, relations with the black community became as tense as ever.

And just 24 hours before a nationally televised presidential debate, a recording of Mr. Trump having a conversation about groping women and “grabbing them by the pussy” was made public (see video New York Times). This brought even more controversy to his campaign and the timing could not have been worse. Surely, his approval ratings would drop. Surely Mrs. Clinton would expose Mr. Trump and use his words and ideas to show just how unfit of a candidate he was. But like a cat with nine lives, Trump survived yet another blow to his campaign and came out seemingly unscathed.  His crowd remained fervently supportive of him.

Going into the November election, the polls and experts had Hillary Clinton ahead with a double-digit lead (see article CNN News). But on the night of Tuesday, November 7th, the unexpected happened. Clinton’s so-called lead never actually materialized. As a matter of fact, the race was a lot closer than the experts had anticipated, and the world witnessed one of the biggest upsets in election history. Though reports will show that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million votes, the electoral map was overwhelmingly red (see article CNN News). The results of the election created an uproar. Members of the Democratic party demanded a recount. It even brought our electoral college system into serious question; many legislators are now arguing to have it removed all together.

What a campaign year! Our country seems more divided than ever. Though many continue to contest Trump’s presidency, the fact remains that he is our nation’s leader.

I was part of the massive crowds that marched, chanted and protested. And as I marched among the throngs of people, something became apparent, more than ever. Dr. King’s words never rang truer:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

 

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Protesters crowd the streets at Grand Central Station.

The historic crowds were impressive and beautifully diverse. The marches brought people of all walks together. However, I had to ask myself:

 

  • When scores of unarmed black bodies were being mowed down by law enforcement, sparking protests and giving birth to the phrase Black Lives Matter, where was the uprising then?  Where was the outrage?
  • When mass shootings of innocent men, women and children in Colorado, Connecticut, and Florida revealed how our gun laws continue to put as all at risk, where were the mass protests then?
  • When families were being torn apart by aggressive deportation practices-again, where was everyone then?
  • When our native American brothers and sisters’ livelihoods were under direct attack by greedy and heartless companies threatening to build a pipeline directly through their water source and ancient burial grounds, where was everyone?
  • Where was everyone on November 7th?

 

All of our struggles are just as important, but they are not always treated with equal care, respect and the unity that they deserve.

The mere threat of the Trump administration galvanized millions world-wide. So what gave this march priority over everything else? I cannot quite say, but moving forward, if we want to preserve our rights and dignity as Americans, it would behoove us to capture a wider lens that includes everyone in the struggle. We can’t just protest when we are inconvenienced. We must speak out against oppression and injustice for everyone.

 

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White Privilege Gone Wild

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Honest and open conversations can be very uncomfortable. That is why so many of us are dishonest; at times. I sincerely believe that most people have good intentions. However, there is a saying that goes something like this, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I think you get the point. America, needs to have an honest and open conversation about something that has polarized our nation from the very onset and will only get worse unless it is honestly addressed …. The true power of white privilege.

Don’t get me wrong,  all Americans have a certain level of privilege that the rest of the world does not. The founding fathers established a legacy in the United States that is quite unique. Because of our geography; bordered by the vast Pacific Ocean to the west and the great Atlantic Ocean to the east, we are essentially impossible to invade on a mass scale from other world powers or our would-be enemies. Therefore we are arguably, one of the safest and secure countries in the world (arguably). With the exception of Donald Trump’s recent attacks and ridiculous rhetoric about our neighbors to the South, the true narrative of the Mexican people has considered them to be an overall asset to our nation, rather than a liability.

Furthermore, with our advancements in technology, industry and conquests during the  past century,. we have become the world’s greatest Super Power. Not to mention gaining a pretty substantial economic head start from 300 plus years of slave labor. In 2016 all Americans, whether black, white, Latino, Asian, gay, atheistic, Christian, Muslim or Jewish,  all receive some relative benefit from being a U.S. Citizen; that most of the planet does not. Most of these privileges are bundled in the realm of quality of living, but not necessarily quality of life.

Yes, the average U.S. household has access to running water, electricity, internet, shelter and cable television. But women still only make 75 cents on the dollar to men for performing the same job. Millions of middle-class Americans of all races and backgrounds were robbed of their pensions and life savings during the 2008 economic crisis, while big banks were bailed out. Poor white children from the Midwest and the South sign their lives away to go die in the fight for “freedom,” in places they could not identify on a map, before they are old enough to crack a Bud Light. Unarmed black men are killed by the police at five times the rate as white men and double  the rate of Hispanics.

What does all this have to do with white privilege? Well, because America was founded by the white elite and is now run by their heirs, they have created this divisive culture and have the privilege to ignore it, because what happens at the middle, lower and darker classes of America does not inherently affect them. With the emergence of white-ism, the idea and belief that any thing affiliated with being white is the standard of what it is to be American and that everything else is foreign and therefore illegitimate. This cup of ignorance is poisonous to the human spirit and though may taste sweet for a few, it is bitter and lethal to most.

With all of our so-called social advancements, our government has yet to apologize for 100 years of legalized human trafficking and another 100 years of state sponsored terrorism and apartheid. Bandages have been placed on our society’s injuries with affirmative action and the election of a first Black president, but our country needs surgery, not simply stitches. White privilege has created this false sense of accomplishment and arrogance among millions of Americans, who believe that they have actually achieved their status in life on their merits alone, discounting their inheritance of privilege.

And now the entire world gets to witness the worst and most dangerous form of white privilege gone mad in the actions, words and conduct of Donald Trump. He is the reason why America has to admit to the immeasurable power of white privilege. Donald Trump has no political experience, has proven on record that he is a mediocre business man at best, has divided our nation even further, publicly disrespected the family of a fallen veteran, has not developed nor articulated any policies that would yield any benefit to our country and yet, he is in position to be the leader of our great nation.

Our eyes are wide-shut, because quite frankly the greatest alley, advocate and asset that Mr. Trump has, is his white privilege. His privilege runs so deep, that his ignorance is actually perceived as noble and virtuous according to his constituents. They regurgitate ridiculous rhetoric such as, “at least he’s honest” or “he’s going to make America great again.” Meanwhile his incumbent Barack Obama, a black man could have never even gotten on his party ticket, unless he was the most brilliant candidate among his competition, which he has proven time and time again, because of his blackness. But truth be told, even Mr. Obama benefited from the privilege of being raised by a white mother and white grand parents.  And more pressing,  Hillary Clinton, a woman who has over 20 years of political experience and our former Secretary of State shamefully has to compete against an unworthy opponent.Because you see, white privilege is also patriarchal.

Donald will ride his white privilege all the way to the Oval Office, if we stand by and let him. But those of us outside of the sphere of white privilege are limited in our access to power. We can only hope that more of our influential white brothers and sisters start to be honest about the mess that America has made. Admit to the inherent and obvious powers of being white and privileged in America; to use that same privilege to stand for those of us who do not have the same reach. We can only hope that they are willing to get dirty, get honest and get uncomfortable, not just for their immediate gratification, but for the defense and honor of us who cannot and will not ever be able to sit at the “bargaining” table. At least until more and more white folks begin to openly and honestly admit that Emmitt Till, Freddy Gray, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland and Trayvon Martin were denied due process because the color of their skin.

Dr. King summed up our a current situation nearly 50 years ago with the following quote:

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Only light can cast out darkness, love conquers hate and peace ends wars, but in our case, only the privileged can call out those who have privilege. It must be done so that liberty and justice for all becomes fact, because today, it is fiction.