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How The 2016 Election Impacted My Perception Of The U.S. As A Mexican American

I don’t remember much about four years ago, in the months after Donald Trump was elected, but I do remember being depressed and disillusioned. After months of seeing that despicable man encourage xenophobia towards Mexicans and Latin American immigrants, those in the disabled community, African Americans and other marginalized groups, I genuinely did not expect him to win. I thought there was no way this country would elect him. 

Even more, I felt hurt and betrayed. I took his election personally as a first generation Mexican American, as Donald Trump has caused an immeasurable amount of harm and trauma to my community. I suppose if you ask just about any marginalized community, they too could immediately think of an atrocious act or statement targeted at them. Not only did he perpetuate the racist sterotype that Mexicans are “rapists” and “drug dealers,” he dedicated much of his efforts as president into ruining the livelihood of undocumented peoples through attempts at repealing DACA, keeping children in cages at the border and allowing ICE to sterilize detained women. It baffled me to see how the country could be so heartless to allow this genocide to persist, all because of lower taxes or whatever disgustingly selfish reason people vote for Trump. 

Donald Trump beside man in black suit
History in HD/Unsplash

Thus, I can’t just “agree to disagree” or put politics aside when it comes to Trump. While I am extremely privileged and lucky that the members of my family born in Mexico are citizens, it wasn’t always like that for them. I don’t claim to know what it’s like to live in fear of being separated from my family, but I have enough common sense and a heart to understand that that is a pain no one should ever experience, especially on stolen land. That’s not just due to the fact that I am Latinx or that I’ve had loved ones endure those types of struggles, that’s just me being a human being who cares about the wellbeing of others. 

In general, because Donald Trump exposed many people to be closeted racists who simply don’t care how his policies and rhetoric affect others, I began to be quite wary of people that don’t outwardly present themselves as anti-racist. In my head, I can’t help but think that behind their polite smiles, they look at me as an inferior person from a family full of drug dealers and rapists. Trump’s election made me hyper-aware of the possibility that it could be anyone, not just those donning a red hat or white hood. 

person holding a sign that says \"humanity against Trump\"
Photo by M. B. M. from Unsplash

The fact that this man was elected in 2016 was a huge wake-up call. Despite the significant strides that have been made towards equality, no matter your race, gender, sexuality or religion, this revealed that there is a substantial number of people who do not want to see this progress, as it decreases the privileges they have been granted for centuries. For a while, I sort of lost hope, but I’ve since realized this is an uphill battle that we need to keep fighting for.

Though voting Trump out of office is a start that is absolutely necessary to begin to address the damage he has caused, we shouldn’t lose momentum and get comfortable if we, hopefully, get Joe Biden in the White House. There is still much justice to be served for the crimes and human rights violations committed against minorities in this country, and an election decision will never be enough. Biden must be held accountable for the progress he has vowed, and has yet to vow, will be achieved under his presidency. Overall though, the day Trump finally packs his bags and leaves the White House, no longer having the power to wreak havoc on minorities, is one that cannot come sooner.

Mariah is a second-year English major at UCLA from Palmdale, CA. Besides being a feature writer for HerCampus UCLA, she is the creative director for the Equity and Accessibility team on UCLA's Academic Affairs Commission and a member of UCLA's Latinx Film and Theatre Association. In her spare time, Mariah loves finding hidden gems on Netflix, making earrings out of polymer clay, and writing stories.
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