My political awakening occurred in the fall of 2008. It started with Obama posters reading "HOPE" hung on dorm room walls and the knowledge of several Amherst peers having taken off the semester to "organize" - a strange concept for me at the time, having not grown up discussing politics much with my Latino immigrant family - for the then senator. Over the next four years, the Amherst seminar rooms and my whip-smart peers constantly left me in awe as I learned that the consequences of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression I saw in my community growing up, and felt myself, were not our fault nor constructed in a vacuum. Cathartically, I learned this pain was attributed to political structures designed by men for men who had never heard our stories, and had no interest in learning them. I learned for the first time that the "personal is political", and a fire was lit in me to drive change for the marginalized, to unabashedly fight for what I believed in. I ran for and joined student government as a college senior; I spent my first year out of undergrad in DC, lobbying for women's, girls', and Latino civil rights; I returned to Texas to organize and register voters for Wendy Davis' gubernatorial campaign; I had the words "Profiero morir de pie que vivir arrodillada" tattooed across my ribs, inspired by it all.
Since those younger years of my 20's, I felt myself cool. The fire - that had me protesting on the steps of the Supreme Court, sit in at the Texas Capitol against restrictive abortion laws, and work for girls' nonprofits, living on food stamps, but happy - dimmed as I became more of an "adult": more emotionally and financially conservative, more determined to keep my head down, work hard and strive to make "that money". That way, I too could influence the nonprofits, politics, and causes for which I worked with the currency of power.
I now feel fooled. I feel like I've reached adulthood with a semi-pollyanna view of the world to imagine that a majority would be motived as I and so many I know are to vote in favor of equality, love, and opportunity for the disenfranchised; that privilege and greed of white men would not always eclipse the basic human rights of people of color, women, and other minorities and our overlapping identities. We are looking at a man in the world's most powerful position who has encouraged and promoted violence, misogyny, sexual assault, sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, anti-muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment, among other atrocities, who, whether his people admit it or not, will inspire a new generation that the few steps marginalized people have made forward deserve to be taken away and dragged through the mud.
It is too soon for me to say we must get up and fight. I know there must be time to grieve, to rage, to sit in confusion, and pull each other close and then push each other away when we need our space, particularly as we - minorities, women, the historically disempowered - who will be most affected by this decision figure out where our very living-breathing lives land in this.
I encourage you to take that time, to do what needs to be done to process what happened last night. I clutch to these words by Audre Lorde routinely: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is an act of self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." You do not need to have the answers now. You do not need to know what the next step is. All that I know is that, personally, that fire I have only let flicker on and off over the last few years has been reset ablaze - that my thought that I'd never work in politics again has been shattered.
I came of age in Obama's time of hope and change. I still believe in it. I believe that as a woman of color, I have the right to fight for the world to be at my feet, and the duty to inspire others to similarly fight for it. I don't have any other choice but to continue to look forward, draw strength from our ancestors who have fought off worse, and believe that, together, we'll overcome. We always have.
You are stronger than you think.