As I look at the clock I notice it is a little passed three in the morning on the day after the election and I am hopeless. In the midst of deep desperation, I metaphorically turn to paper and ink to make sense of a nation drunk with xenophobic madness. For years I have written of my hopelessness with institutional racism and ethnic discrimination masked by our society as my liberal friends instead spoke about a post-racial America because they voted for a black man. Tonight, that mask was ripped off to reveal, especially to communities of color, the true face of this country, and I am terrified — terrified of what I see, terrified for my economic and physical safety and that of my children.
Yes, I hear my white liberal friends, especially those who voted for third-party candidates or chose not to vote to prove how principled they are, take hope they have four years to regroup and return strong. But this is the privilege of whiteness — they may be disappointed their candidate did not win; they need not fear for their lives (and no, I am not being hyperbolic). For them it is just an election. For communities of color, the issue is one of life and death.
The candidate who won began his campaign calling my people rapists and thieves and promised to respond by building a wall. Every four days, five brown bodies perish in the desert. A wall will inflate those numbers. The candidate who won made it clear black lives do not matter, emboldening those for whom they never did matter, who now will not fear a future Justice Department. The candidate who won has consistently demeaned women’s bodies and excused predatory sexual behavior, heartening a new generation of misogynists. The candidate who won has made Islamophobia central to his campaign, frightening me as I see the rise of future religious-based battles (if not wars).
I am terrified of white conservatives who stood in solidarity with white supremacy groups to elect a man promising them they are going to take their country back (subtext: from nonwhites). I am terrified of white liberals who are already laying the blame of Trump’s victory on those supposedly Latinxs who voted for him and blacks who did not show up at the polls — ignoring white continuous complicity with unashamed racism and ethnic discrimination. If I am truly honest, at this moment in time, I am terrified of whites — a feeling I have not experienced since my youth. I am old enough to remember a pre-civil rights era, still carrying on my soul and body the stigmata of white hatred.
Already I hear those who are hopeful telling me how we need to come together as Americans and support our new president. Forgive me, but I can never come together with apologists for hatred. I can never come together with those clothed in the white sheets of patriotic yearnings for simpler days when my people and I were relegated to the underside of society. What I witnessed last night was a great white backlash for the audacity of “colored folk” to hope they could be equal. Oh, how dreadful it is to witness how our yesteryear’s jubilant naïve chants of “yes, we can” have turn to today’s haunting dirge.
I choose not to embrace those ignorant of their complicity in strengthening and expanding white privilege through their votes but will instead choose to embrace the hopelessness caused by their actions. No, this does not mean giving up or curling into the fetal position and doing nothing. Such reactions to hopelessness are normative to the privileged who can always afford escape from reality.
To embrace hopelessness means accepting the reality that sin, evil and death trumps our hope for utopias — especially accepting the reality of how white hatred manifests itself among the oppressed and marginalized. To embrace hopelessness means engaging in survival praxis, knowing the battle may be lost, but fighting anyway because there exists no other choice. To embrace hopelessness means regardless of how the story ends, the struggle for justice is what defines our very humanity. Yes, I am hopeless specifically because I am not surprised by the backlash. And yes, today I am an angry Latino man, angry at my white compatriots who claim color-blindness while voting for one who sees color all too clearly and wishes to eradicate it in the America he plans to make great. No — I will not hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” with white oppressors. Instead I ask all who seek justice, especially whites willing to repent of the sin of white privilege, to join me in solidarity as I choose to sing a different song — ¡Basta!