I remember being told by someone that supposed to be close to me “not everything is about race.” I was also told “go back and fix your own f#cking country” after I was about to vote after becoming a citizen. One of my favorite was “you voted for Obama simply because he is black.” If you get to know me you will realize that one of the things that I fight the most in life is labels. I hate them, I hate the shortcut obsessed society, I feel like it is cheating. You cannot replace a good conversation about someone’s origin story with a wikipedia page.
The day after the election I cancelled plans to travel to Colombia. The plan was to take our daughter there while she was still able to just sit on our lap and that way my extended family could meet the new member to our crazy clan. People called me paranoid (a label that I am actually ok with, because I do constantly worry.) People said I was blowing it out of proportion. In my mind a movie played. We are coming back to the US and because I am a naturalized citizen I might have to go on a separate line and my daughter (even if just for a little while) would be separated from me. It played over and over in my head, how her being ripped away from my arms would feel and how I would not be able to just comfort her because I would have to go do some “extra” screening. Like that time that having a beard meant I was going to be subjected to a “random” check. It does not sound so paranoid now when there are not just news of people being separated at the border for seeking asylum. There are even instances of actual citizens being separated from their kids by mistake. The common denominator is just that they are people of color.
The first time I went to a BBQ in the US was in Caldwell Woods. Yes the park where someone decided that just wearing a Puerto Rico shirt was enough to questions not only citizenship but also to harass someone. If you have not heard about it go check it out, I’ll wait.
I have many good memories of that park. I was first introduced to the concept of a picnic. There would be more picnics there. There was also the Colombian picnic for the celebration of Colombian independence. The blending of cultures of the outdoor gathering with treats from back home. The loud music where a bunch of crazy Colombians dance Salsa and celebrate being around each other so far away from the land of our birth.
One of the first people to befriend me in high school here in the US was from Puerto Rico. I love that flag. I love all Latin American flags. They bring memories of the people that I have met from those countries. They are beacons of togetherness. I know that a Mexican flag will mean the possibility of good mole, Argentina access to good chimichurri, Puerto Rico some good arroz con gandules and the list goes on. I don’t have the reaction of get the f#ck out of my country, cannot even understand why someone gets to that. I know it is fear of change based (the guy in the video even says it) but I still don’t understand it. I guess the only thing that maybe begins to explain it for me is when I see people flying the confederate flag.
So to make it clear and personal to those that don’t understand why this is about race. I am judged by the color of my skin constantly. I have to enter every conversation with an explanation or a joke about drug dealing because of my country of origin. I have to listen to people call me one of the “good ones” because I am a professional or came here legally. It is the reason that when then candidate Trump called Mexican’s criminals and rapists I took notice and was very scared for our future. Because it is hard to ignore that white nationalism is showing it’s ugly head and if you don’t stand up to it, you are silently supporting it. Like the cop that stood by while a woman was harassed, when you sit there and let people talk about “brown” or “black” people and you don’t speak up you are no better than that cop. I get it, you don’t consider yourself racist because you don’t identify with the old drunk guy yelling expletives, but if you don’t open your eyes you become that cop that simply stood by and did not do his job because the person at the other end of the abuse was simply a brown person.