Ten years (and what seems like a lifetime) ago, I made my first trip to Washington D.C. and the White House to participate in a Dignity Walk on behalf of more than 200,000 “Comfort” women who were sexually enslaved by the Japanese government during World War II. I couldn’t fathom how a government could sanction the institutionalized rape of innocent girls– some as young as 14. This seemed like such an incomprehensible and savage concept; the only thing that gave me hope was that it had taken place before I had been born and on foreign soil.
Never, in my wildest imagination, could I have foreseen that a man who boasts about sexual assault as if it were a… privilege granted to celebrities- who blatantly disregards the notion of consent and dehumanizes entire races of people- would be elected as President of my country, and move into the very White House upon whose lawn I stood that decade ago.
I cried myself to sleep last night, and again when I woke up to the realization that all of this was not just a bad dream. Reading Facebook posts from friends calling for us to come together now that the election is over and overcome this divisiveness leaves me wondering how naive these people must be. I’m an immigrant… plain and simple. I was born in another country and brought here. I’m now an American citizen. Although I was adopted from Korea when I was only 3 months old, and this country is the only home I’ve ever known, I’m told to “Go Back to China” and asked where I’m really from ad nauseam. I wonder if my White American friends and family know what it’s like to feel that you never belong… that you are less than – or worse – to be explicitly told that by others.
We are not the ones trying to divide us. We are not the ones saying that you don’t belong here, that we should build a wall to keep you out. We don’t ask for more rights than you, only the same… and to be treated with dignity.
Sadly, having lived in Texas for this many years– I almost expect to encounter racism/discrimination/misogyny on a semi-regular basis. The only way I’ve been able to bear it is thinking, clearly mistakenly, that it’s not like this for the rest of the country. It’s just a Texas thing… or even a Southern thing. This election season has proved that, in reality, it’s more pervasive than I could have foreseen in my worst nightmare.
While I loathe Donald Trump; his words and actions… I don’t cry because he is President for the next four years. Even though I would have loved to witness the election of our first female President, my heart is not broken simply because that President is not Hillary Clinton.
I weep instead because I realized in one terrifying night just how many people there are who think that “Making America Great Again” means excluding myself and people for whom I care deeply – who hate things that we’ll never be able to change… like the color of our skin, our gender, or the people we love. My soul aches because, for the first time since I discovered my infertility issues, I feel a sense of relief that I don’t have a child to whom I have to explain why they don’t belong in this country of ours.
I feel the collective terror of all marginalized groups in America, because I know that tomorrow the scapegoated “enemy” could be Korea (or China… because, let’s face it– we all look alike), and there are enough people in our country (and in power) that would support our persecution under the guise of patriotism. My mind cannot comprehend witnessing, in one lifetime, both the glorious triumph in civil rights when gay marriage was made legal, and also the election that will assuredly undo that and any other progress we have made. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
How did we let this happen?
I don’t grieve for the government, or policies, or positions– I mourn the loss of the respect I had for people in my life who supported or even merely overlooked Donald Trump’s hateful, abusive rhetoric. I’m saddened and shocked by neighbors, friends, and family who now celebrate his victory while the KKK and Putin do the same. You are judged by the company you keep. I see your true colors, and I will not forget. I hope someday you comprehend the magnitude of what you’ve done, and that it’s not too late for our country and legacy when you do.
This helped me to understand how the election happened, but it doesn’t address the ignorance that exists in both rural and city settings. I apologize for the language in the article.
Amanda S. says
Always spot on. My heart is broken today. I feel like in this new America my daughter and I matter less. I don’t know how to reconcile that. A lot of my friends woke up feeling the same today, and that’s not right.
Stephanie Drenka says
It’s so disheartening. I knew that I wouldn’t have a place in Trump’s America– I’m just in a state of shock now, because I never imagined that it would actually come to fruition. I hope that our generation can fix what he’s broken before your daughter’s time!
This. Exactly how I felt last this entire election and last night. I cried myself to sleep and told Donnie that I pray our babies come out white like him instead of brown like me. I told him I’d rather people think I’m the nanny and direct their hate towards me than my children ever having to experience it. I’m sad. I’m disheartened. And completely terrified of what’s to come. The ignorance and hate of the people who elected this man is something I will never comprehend.
You will always have me though Stephanie to fight for you and at your side when needed.
Your “spick” friend from Chicago who married a white man to “come up” in the world ?
Stephanie Drenka says
Love you, Lizette. Found myself wishing yesterday more than ever that I was back in Chicago. Hugging you from across the Midwest, and know that your baby boys will grow up with the best role models and support systems there are. This has lit a fire underneath me– ready to get back to that person I was in college who didn’t think twice before organizing demonstrations or speaking out against the DePaul Conservative Alliance. We were raised and educated to know better than this… our time will come.
A while ago, we briefly met through Twitter; I am also a Korean adoptee. I continued to follow your blog but became busy as a mom to a now 14 month old baby.
I was adopted at six months old and for the first time in my life, feel concerned that my naturalization is not enough to protect me from what has bubbled to the surface of this country.
Despite having a white family, a white fiance, and a mixed race child, I wonder how this country and our new government will view and treat me. I feel slightly unhinged worrying about it, but in my heart I feel no POC, LGBTQ person, or immigrant is “safe” right now. It makes my heart hurt.
I wish you all the best.
Stephanie Drenka says
You’re definitely not unhinged… or alone. My unsafe feeling is based in history and fear of it repeating itself. Trump’s efforts to dehumanize latinos and muslims reminds me of the anti-Japanese sentiment that led to internment.