Seriously though, WTF is next?

Anyone remember the time white Europeans revolted and disenfranchised an entire continent of native indigenous brown people in the process? Or stop me if you remember the one about white Europeans enslaving black folks and bringing them to another land to help build up a nation “under God”? What about the time the USA interned Japanese Americans? Experimented on service members of color? Deported native-born Mexican Americans to a country they had never before visited? 3/5’s of a person?

Come on, America has not always been great or safe for native people of color or their descendants or trafficked or enslaved people of color or their descendants. ‘Making America Safe Again’ or ‘Making America Great Again’ does NOT work for people of color.  It hasn’t been safe to drive while black, walk while black, sit in your living room while black, walk while brown, shop while brown, pray while black or seek asylum or refuge while brown or black. We can now sadly say it is unsafe to watch the Astros while brown.

What we need is an end to white supremacy and the normalizing of domestic terrorism while the racist in the White House spews defenseless hate speech intended to fan the flames of hate and engage his base toward ensuring his reelection bid and making America white.

How many times do we have to tell you ‘America’? Fighting words and white supremacy beget violence in a way that we refuse to accept as normal or inevitable.

Hate speech is not protected speech, please spread the word on that one, America! Fighting words are not protected speech, again, pass it on, por favor.

As a native Tejana/Chicana/Mexican American/Latina, my roots run deep in Texas, way before Texas was the good ole US of A. I also fight daily as a lawyer for vulnerable populations, including seniors, veterans, and traditionally disenfranchised folks in need of access to justice.

It breaks my heart that a friend of mine, a fellow Latina lawyer, was harassed at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, my old stomping grounds on August 3, 2019. My friend G. Huerta* and her brown colleagues were called monkeys and told to go home to their country in Houston, Texas—while attempting to enjoy an Astros game.

Mere hours before the tragic and preventable terrorist attack in El Paso, Texas and then later the tragic and preventable loss of life in Dayton, Ohio.

El Paso. Then Dayton. Every day my heart breaks a little more. Again and Again and Again and Again. These incidents of harassment may seem like a turn the other cheek moment but they perpetuate the dehumanization of people of color and this is more than dangerous.  It has seemingly been happening most of my adult life.  It makes me wonder what, if anything I can do.  Some days I am afraid to get on the train.  Other times on the street, I wonder what I would do.  When I leave the parking lot of the mall, I think, I made it.  If someone bumps me at Costco, I wonder if they were mad that the aisles were full, or if they were upset about all the people of color?

After 9/11 I knew our world would never be the same. That same week, while in college, I remember working the front desk of the dorm I lived and worked in I(as a Resident Advisor) at the University of Houston. I knew it would impact brown men and people who look or worship differently than white folks.  I feared the worst and wrote about in for a sociology paper and shortly thereafter became more involved in acting on my principles. I protested the invasion of Iraq.

I stood on street corners with signs and prayers and chants.  I protested in the streets of Houston.  Purple triangles on backpacks represented the people our government disappeared in its wrong attempts at ‘finding and punishing’ the culprits. I canvassed for working people and unions in Ohio and in support of undocumented workers seeking labor protections.  I fought for clean water in Texas and our nation. I marched against the KKK, and later worked with undocumented immigrant children who came to the United States seeking asylum and refuge, largely due to the policies our nation put in place in Mexico through violent force or financial pressures and political influence.

I went to law school with the hope of making a difference.  Student loan monsters keep me up at night, so does the 10th of the month, when rent is ‘due’. But after law school, I was blessed to fight for affordable housing and just federal and state housing policy. It  helped me deal with what Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike did to brown and black and poor people.

I organized and recruited pro bono partners and provided direct legal services for low income Texas Veterans and then veterans and people of color and seniors seeking income and health security as they age in their communities. I woke up in tears that November morning, wondering what I could have done differently.  I hugged my friends and colleagues as we prayed and hoped that it would not end up as bad as we feared it would be. Inside I knew it might be worse.

I sat paralyzed by increased depression and anxiety as white supremacists walked with greater security in spewing hate and committing even more hate crimes against Jews and black people and brown people across this ‘great nation’. I found myself at the Dulles Airport with friends and colleagues hoping to feel something. I was paralyzed again when folks started putting kids in cages at a higher rate and denying even the chance to seek asylum or refuge in this ‘great nation’. I feel fortunate to have been able to use theatre to deal with some of this heart break and helplessness.  I had been off of social media mostly after 45 came into office, because it was too hard.  And here I am back again, not knowing what comes next. What can we do to work toward change, against more violence and hatred. We know what should be done, but what can be done? What comes next? We get to decide together.

*friend’s name changed for this post

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