2020 Election, Opinions

‘We the People’ saved ourselves this election

At the demonstrations in Long Beach this past week, speakers from the Filipino youth activism group, Anakbayan, as well as activists from the Democratic Socialists of America, Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, Long Beach Tenants’ Union came together with Black Lives Matter Long Beach, taking the lead.

As we student journalists stood in front of Long Beach City Hall this past weekend, rain-drenched alongside demonstrators who were celebrating the results of the presidential election, I felt the future of what was to come.

A youth organizer from Anakbayan spoke about the human rights issues in the Philippines, reminding us of the international implications of Joseph R. Biden’s election to office.

Trump’s “America First” policies have led to a Muslim ban and criminalized recipients of the Deferred Action for Child Hood Arrivals. He has divided us by race, religion and nationality, making it explicitly clear that the American dream is not a promise to everyone who comes seeking new opportunities.

His rhetoric has directly placed other Americans in danger, his fiery tweets sometimes caustically rubbing wounds into sore relationships with other nation-states as well as his naming of the coronavirus epidemic as the “Kung-flu virus” has aided in the uptick of violence against Asian Americans. His actions at home and abroad are directly anti-American.

Trump’s policies of American isolationism have marginalized immigrant communities that still feel a responsibility to fight for the injustices around the world.

Youth have taken it upon themselves to educate others and learn through social media about issues related to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Nigeria, the conflict in Armenia and Azerbaijan, collective funding for the survivors of the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon and many more.

Speakers throughout the demonstration emphasized that community was the source of strength and the healing factor of the past four years. They encouraged demonstrators to connect with local activists and to stay invested in future actions.

This past summer following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others, protests ignited across the country. What has defined this new era for civil rights and fighting for criminal justice reform is the diversity of protestors.

A multi-generational mosaic of yellow, brown, black, white, blue, green, all colors of the rainbow arriving and standing together to call out police violence and for the dignity of their Black neighbors.

Black Lives Matter Long Beach and Queers Obliterating White Supremacy organized the past summer’s “In Honor of Stonewall: March for Black Lives”. Then, the crowds were large, buttoday, the crowds are significantly smaller. But, the same organizers I recognized were still out in the streets, calling for radical change to abolish systems of oppression.

For some, Black Lives Matter has faded into the amnesia of consumerism clickbait news we see on social media. I have personal misgivings of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s track record as a district attorney and Biden’s 1994 crime bill. More than checking off diversity quotas, we have to keep pushing and holding these offices accountable to our needs, to the people who have been historically disenfranchised and marginalized.

Yet I am hopeful because having our first female, South Asian and Black female vice president is only the first step. I cried in relief when I saw Harris walking across the victory dressed in white. She spoke of her mother, an immigrant at 19 years old coming to America, and it has reminded me of how far this country has come.

I think of my parents, the opportunities they came for. How I grew up afraid I would never find a place where I would be seen as queer, where I would be accepted for the way I loved or for my hyphenated Americaness. Constantly foreign in my first language and foreign in the country I was born.

I have found the spaces to be fully whole, in the people I call home. The poets, the writers, the changemakers, earthshakers, naysayers. My home has become a diaspora. The people I love, I will name them and I call this land is ours and we shall endure. Black, Indigenous, people of color, people who defy the gender binary, my Jewish and Muslim friends.

This land is also ours, this land is too where we belong. This difference is, white supremacy burns the oxygen in every room. When we take up space, we make room for others too.

Yes, the system is broken, but it is “We the People” who have pushed to fulfill the promise of “all men are created equal.” This is the 100th year anniversary of when women, specifically white women, were given the right to vote. It has just been half a century ago when people of color were truly enfranchised with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We have come this far, there is still so much further to go.

Those who are committed to the liberation of all people must ask of these next four years, how to envision a new future in which all of us are given space at the table. The hegemonic structures of capitalism have many of us believe there is only room for one issue at a time. That there is limited attention, that gaining rights is a zero-sum game, where someone always loses when someone else wins.

Immigrants, the LGBT community, the disabled and the elderly, are heterogeneous communities that have unique struggles. However, it reminds us that we are truly stronger together, uniting our struggles and standing in solidarity so that none are forgotten.

This is a matter of life and death on the behalf of our trans neighbors, our undocumented neighbors, our Black neighbors. People march the streets to be seen as human, to draw our identities from the margins so they are inescapable; to force the public to see us in the streets, to hear us and recognize our humanity.

Now the time to celebrate, and tomorrow, the work begins again.

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