Zoe: “Don't worry, we'll take our country back,” a promise made by Donald Trump throughout his campaign and echoed throughout election night. I didn’t understand what he could mean by “take back our country,” as if his country and my country weren’t one and the same. His sentence haunted me as I obsessively refreshed poll data on election night. I wanted to believe that Trump’s view wasn’t the majority’s. Wanted to believe that those final states would swing away from red and towards an affirmation that they would fight for me, for my community, and for the people that I love to be recognized as members of this country. I have never felt more heartbroken than when I realized that those states were never going to change, and that this country might not be mine.
Ruben: I woke up on Wednesday and, for the first time in my life, questioned whose America I was living in. A boy who’d said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning of his eighth grade school year over the loudspeaker to the point where it’d become his personal prayer—an incantation to his country—woke up wondering if this was his country any longer. A boy who led the Pledge of Allegiance at his high school graduation questioned his citizenship as his country elected a leader who made it clear that his browness, his biculturalism, and his love of country have no place in Trump’s America.
Z: As a little girl, I thought that no words could truly encapsulate the love and pride I felt for this country. Seeing the stars and stripes of the American flag flying in the wind meant justice, safety, and opportunity. It meant that everything was going to be okay, because I was and always would be free. I didn’t want to live anywhere else because I was made to believe that being American was the very best thing that you could be. I was filled with awe at how lucky I was to be a member of a country known for being the protector of the world, for being a melting pot of diversity. I learned the Star-Spangled Banner with pride, sang “Proud to be an American” with complete conviction, and told myself that it didn’t matter that the Founding Fathers wouldn’t think my skin was the color of a true American. Things were different now. America was different now.
R: And the pain this realization caused had me hunched over myself, sobbing tears saturated with the salt and sacrifices that my parents made in immigrating to this country. Through my dry heaves, as I grasped for oxygen in air polluted by hatred, I remembered that I am a patriot. I will fight for this country, even if it is so deeply flawed. Even if it has legally excluded individuals simply because they were not white. Even when the hypocrisy that characterized this nation’s foundation has proven that it is not dead. I will love this country and fight to own it. When people threaten to “take it back,” I will ask them when it has ever not been theirs.
Z: On November 8th, 2016, everything I believed to be true changed; all of those truths about this country I held close to my heart as a little girl became lies. Forty-seven percent of the country voted for a man who called my people criminals, drug dealers, rapists, and with their vote they told me this wasn’t my country to claim. Now, I feel like I’m on a roller coaster and the destination is unknown, the pit in my stomach only seems to grow. I keep thinking of the 11 million undocumented Americans, who stand to lose everything they’ve ever known and worked so hard to achieve, ripped away and deported without a piece of paper to prove the citizenship I know they deserve. To my fellow women who may lose their right to choose what happens to their own bodies. To my brother who just wants to be able to marry the man he loves. What will happen to them? I’m angry—angry that their futures weren’t enough, that their right to humanity wasn’t enough to sway half the country and swing those states.
R: In the fallout of this election, white liberals have told me to comply in denying people’s humanity by normalizing hateful rhetoric just like they do. Don’t force me to hold my words, my anger, and my humanity inside of me. If I’m not able to yell that my humanity is at stake, it will burn. It will burn my throat, and my tongue will be no more than charred ash. If some of you are ready to speak across the aisle, then do so, but do not forget that the individual whom you attempt to extend an olive branch to has denied me my humanity. The branch will be burnt, covered in the blood of the countless Americans of color who have died under the crushing weight of racism. Don’t you dare ask that I force my shaking, brown, melanin-soaked fingers to hand the tainted olive branch alongside you. Not until the other side has seen the ugliness covering the branch.
R&Z;: We believe in democracy. But we will not stand and be told that a candidate and a movement that has denied my place in the nation in which we’ve lived in for our entire lives should be listened to. Until they retract or repent or even do the bare minimum of acknowledging that racism, misogyny, and xenophobia have no place in our government, we will continue to do what we’ve been doing for years. We will write. We will fight. We will protest. We will remind them that this is our country, too.
Ruben E. Reyes, Jr. '19 and Zoe D. Ortiz '19 are Crimson editorial writers. Ruben lives in Leverett House, and Zoe lives in Mather House. Their co-written column appears on alternate Tuesdays.