A Letter to My Little Sister About Trump’s Election

At President Obama's Inauguration

 

Dear Bindu,

 

Eight years ago, our mother held your bundled body against the cold as we stood on the lawn of the Capitol building and watched the first black president be sworn into office. I was ten, idealistic and excited that you and I would have the opportunity to grow up in a new age of acceptance and progress. I knew all of our country’s problems wouldn’t be solved by this one election, but it excited me to know that people were willing to give hope a chance.

As I grew older and watched you move from reading The Cat in the Hat to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, watched you ditch pink ribbons for blue hair dye, I became even more aware of our country’s issues. I started noticing disturbing things, and I wondered if you saw them, too. I heard our grandfather being called “Mr. Brown,” listened to stories about Ammama being falsely accused of shoplifting and thought that maybe there wasn’t a place for my skin in the movies and books I loved so much. I was frightened by the horrors I couldn’t protect you from. Unlike the scary sounds in a movie theatre, I couldn’t take you out of the reality we lived in. It’s a reality where children your age are shot in their elementary school classrooms, where police brutality and systematic incarceration are killing huge portions of black and Hispanic populations, where women my age are raped and their attackers are set free.

Maybe now you know why I cry inconsolably in our kitchen sometimes or why Amma, Nana, and I start yelling at the TV. I’m sorry if it upsets you, and I’m sorry if I’ve ever snapped at you because of how upset I’ve been. Despite all this, I hope you’ve noticed the times I’ve been optimistic or even ecstatic about the news. I hope you remember the day Wendy Davis filibustered the Texas Senate for 11 hours to preserve women’s abortion rights or the day that our Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. The day that love won, we went to Columbus’ pride parade together. With temporary tattoos and marker-drawn rainbow flags on your skin, you told me this was the best day of your life. Even at nine years old, you were aware of how important Obergefell v. Hodges is. Anyone who knows you isn’t surprised by this fact, as you are one of the smartest and most sensitive fourth graders I know. You don’t just see the world rushing past you; you see the way it touches people and the inescapable fate it sets in motion.

That’s why, the day after President-elect Donald Trump was chosen to lead this nation, you told Amma, “I’m too young for Armageddon!”

Per usual, your quick wit gave me a moment of joy in the haze of confusion, anger and deep sadness I had been feeling since election night. Hearing your reaction, though, also concerned me. I thought about all the horrific crimes against civil liberty I had seen in my lifetime. For years, we had been living in a world fraught with conflict and injustice, but there was always a sense that we could work through it. I firmly believed in the future peace Barack Obama and other political leaders said we could achieve because these authority figures were setting the example for a more accepting nation. How can we do that now when our "role model" is a man who boasts about sexual assault and calls immigrants rapists?

I can’t stop you from feeling dejected, just like I can’t stop harsh realities from hurting you. You are an Indian girl, and that will come to define your experience in the US, as it has for me. I want to continue to wallow in sorrow and dejection, but at the same time I'm fired up. Remember that all things pass. In four years, we will have another election. Until then, we will keep fighting against the same forces that existed before a bigoted orange came into our lives. We can use this apocalyptic fear and pent up rage to unite against social injustice. Just like we did in 2008, we can knock on doors with our parents and ask people to hear our stories. At the same time, we must set aside hate and listen to the legitimate grievances of all types of Americans, even Trump supporters.  They have things to teach us, too.

On some level, I feel like I don’t have to tell you this. You’re already so open, enthusiastic, out-going, passionate and intelligent. You have so many talents and resources to help you get wherever you’re going. All you have to do is hold on to them. Don’t let anyone, whether it’s a bully in school or in the White House, convince you that you are less than you are. You saw how the world changed when Obama came into office, and you will see how Trump will change it again. You will change, too. That’s how this works.

But please never change the zeal in your eyes or the power in your voice. Never stop yelling (unless Mom is trying to sleep) and never stop reaching out to me. I will be right by your side, and I know you will continue to blow my mind. You may feel low at some points, and that’s okay. But if you ever want to quit, just remember the little girl who looked Armageddon straight in the eye and decided to keep going. She is my role model.

 

Your loving sister,

Vahni

Image Credit: Shankar Kurra, Ashweena Gonuguntla