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Are You Legal?

When I heard that Donald Trump was elected President of the U.S. I felt varying emotions. I felt sadness, I felt disappointment, and I felt scared. I’m a woman, I have a young sister, my career is just starting to take off, I’m halfway through my college education, and my life is vulnerable and could be very easily shaken right now. I’m on a steady rise, but my stability could be altered by drastic changes by our government. My education and access to health care could be affected, and aside from these concerns I realize that my voice is needed now more than ever. I felt, and still feel, that I must speak, and I must let it be known that I will not hate.

Honestly, the true fear didn’t really sink in until later on in the evening of November 9th. My parents had shared their concerns, I had gone to school and spoken to many other people about their fears, but it was as if I was in a dream. I kept thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought. I was, and still am, praying that I will be proven wrong about people including the president-elect.

But then I got a text. I got a text from my boyfriend who was leaving school, and this text felt like a kick in the stomach. It hurt, it made the anxiety increase, and suddenly things became very real.

Someone just asked me if I was legal.”

My heart dropped as my fears suddenly came a reality. What I had feared most, more than anything else, was that this election showed that America hasn’t progressed as far as I believed. Maybe it’s because I’ve always lived in New York so bigots are a less common occurrence, maybe it’s because SUNY Old Westbury is so diverse, or maybe because I’m young and naïve, but I truly thought people were kinder than they are.

My heart broke for the person I love as well. This man whom I hold dear to my heart.  The one who protects, holds, and loves me, was suddenly being treated as if there was something wrong with him. He was being made out to be “less than,” and he saw a disgusting side of humanity. He was shell-shocked – he’d never been asked anything like that in his life, but there it was. As plain as day by a complete stranger:Are you legal?”

I’m scared now. I’m scared for his safety. I’m scared when we go out in public, and I’ve never feared these things. Others are scared for me as well and have warned that I now must learn how to cope with these comments, because more likely than not they will get worse before they get better.

This man isn’t dark in his skin tone, but apparently he isn’t white enough for some to belong in America. The features that I love and admire are now targets. His straight, thick black hair, his full lips, his sharp cheek bones, his brown eyes are now all reasons to be harassed. People are now assured in their hatred because they have seen that so many others possess the same hate, and it’s coming out in putrid ways.

If you are someone who has not experienced hatred, that is a blessing but please don’t believe that it does not exist. Please don’t believe that we are all upset just because our candidate lost, and certainly don’t think that we hope Donald Trump and society fail. We want our president to be great, and we want to be wrong about our skepticism. I don’t want to fear for those I care about, and I don’t want to be harassed in any way. But the truth of the matter is that I saw the person I love get questioned, and I saw the hatred people possess for those who are different. And I couldn’t do anything but write this article.

Unfortunately, I am not alone. Hatred is on the rise on college campuses and even in middle schools.

But we must not validate or perpetuate it.

It is times such as these that it is crucial to remember the words of Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.” I will continue to do so, and I trust that my fellow collegiettes will also.

 

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Jessinta Smith

Old Westbury

Jessinta is a Media and Communications major at SUNY Old Westbury, and has written for varying outlets including Out.com and StudyBreaks. She edits, writes, and is CC for HCOW, and discusses everything from mental health to politics. To see more of her work or get in contact with her, visit jessintawrites.wordpress.com.
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