Monday, November 14, 2016

Moving Forward


Saying the past week has been tough would be the understatement of the century. When I wrote this post on Monday, I felt so optimistic and so delighted about our future. I also thought it would be the last time I mentioned the election or anything politics-related. For days I have debated speaking about the results and I have finally decided to share some thoughts. 

At about 7am Paris time, I woke up from a snooze and put my hands to my face and sobbed quietly. I took the results extremely personally, and I don't think I'm the only woman to do so. To me, these results said to young girls everywhere: You will never be good enough. It doesn't matter how hard you work, how much you believe in your cause and yourself. You will always have a voice that's too shrill. You will never be as good as a man

I thought about home and how much I long to go back to the states. I thought about how it all felt empty now, what would I be going home to? Will I have health care when I go back? Will my LGBTQ friends still be allowed to celebrate their love under the law? Will I have my reproductive rights? Will I be discriminated against because I'm a Latino woman? Will we still be the country of religious freedom? Will my favorite journalists still be allowed to condemn the actions of our President? Will my family go back to living a life of oppression, the same kind we fled before? 

Yesterday I saw a woman on the metro reading about Trump in a newspaper, the headline called him an "OVNI" (UFO) and I felt so ashamed. And I think we all have felt every single emotion since that night, fear, sadness, shame, disbelief, anger. 

But what I really want to talk about is, how do we move forward? And let me say right off the bat, that normalizing the hateful rhetoric of an unfit candidate is NOT the proper way to go. The media, which played a very dangerous role throughout this election, seems to have forgotten many key questions that have not yet been answered. So it is our job as citizens to never forget. Never forget sexual assault and the women who were brave enough to come forward being laughed off as some sort of boys' banter. Never forget about the hateful speech against Muslims, the disabled, Hispanics, African-Americans. 

The way to move forward is by staying engaged and aware. Holding our elected officials accountable, making our voices heard, supporting organizations who share our interests and will fight for our rights with us, volunteering, are all ways we can make our vote heard, which unfortunately seems to have missed the mark the first time around. Above all, never giving up is the way to move forward. 

If nothing else, I think this result will shake many of us into action and inspire us to fight for the things we care about and the future we want. After watching hate and division win the race, the most American thing to do is to not let it win the war. 

There are a few ways:

Donate & volunteer: Help organizations do great work. I have been involved with Unicef and UN for Women for years on an international level, but now we need some help domestically. Togetherlist has put together a platform with some great organizations to help out and become familiar with. If you want to let our future Vice President know that you don't agree with his stance on women's reproductive rights, please make a donation in his name to Planned Parenthood

Stay alert: Become familiar with the senators, congressmen and women in your state. Be on the lookout for local elections, and show up to vote in two years to let your elected officials know whether or not they deserve to keep their job. There is an embarrassing percentage of people who opted out from speaking their minds this election, it is unacceptable. Write, call, email. Samantha Bee (aka the Queen of Late Night) is asking you to mail your stories of post-election hate crime to House Speaker Paul Ryan (and yes! Online hate messages count. Send them right over).

Stay informed: Facebook has received a lot of criticism over its negative role in this election. The spread of fake news that went unchallenged, the hateful and negative messages shared, offensive imagery (from memes to the use of Pepe), are all elements that skated by through facebook during these last months. Don't just consume the news mindlessly, really question everything that's being said, research, challenge the information out there. 

Create love, tolerance, and speak your mind: I am grateful and lucky to come from a mixed background. For me, tolerance and acceptance of all cultures has been embedded into my life from an early age, from my personal experiences. However, not only is this not a given (turns out, many young Latinos stood by the hateful rhetoric against their own culture), but it needs to be taught and shared among us. Open your mind up to others, get out of your comfort zone. Engage in meaningful conversation, don't just be passive aggressive to avoid confrontation or contrasting views. For women, speak up. Do not allow sexism to go unchallenged. When mansplaining happens, call it out. When jokes about assault happen, shut them down. The same goes for racism, call it out, every. single. time.

If we don't stand up to ourselves, who will? 

In these last days I have felt unwanted, left behind, like finding out that someone doesn't love me back. Like the country I defend every time I'm told something rude about it doesn't really care for me. But it would be narrow-minded to believe this. There are very real problems we need to address about very negative feelings in our country, but it would be erroneous to think that we are alone. It would give in to the very same ideas of the hateful campaign Donald Trump ran. 

And lastly, I'd like for young women, myself included, to know that we are enough. Tell yourself that in the mirror every day. May we be strong women, may be raise strong women, and may we fight for women everywhere. 

"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences." —Audre Lorde

PS: A short video about the 1969 Commencement speech above.