by Shaelyn Saraceni
Friday, November 17th, I was able to attend a conference put on by Faculty English Professor David Lacy, which aimed to educate people about the rise in hate speech and hate crimes in the US since the election of Trump. There were three lovely panelists who agreed to speak up about their experiences with hate, and I was privileged to talk with each of them more after the conference.
The first panelist to speak was Estrella Hernandez. Estrella was born in Mexico, but she has lived in the US since she was eight years old. English is not her first language, and people have made fun of her or told her she doesn’t belong here because of her accent. She wants to pursue happiness and take advantage of every opportunity she is given. Estrella was a DACA recipient. The recent actions of the Trump administration may decrease her chances to pursue her dream. (Click here to read my article about DACA.) For those who do not know what DACA is, it gives temporary protection for immigrants who came to the US as children “illegally,” have a clean background (no criminal record), have lived here at least five years, and came here before they turned sixteen, according to NPR. DACA allowed these immigrants to work, get a driver's license, and live without being fearful of deportation. Nobody should ever be made to feel like less of a human because of their national identity. Estrella hopes people will be open minded about the Dreamers, including herself, and understand that they have big dreams. They are working and living by the law, paying taxes, some going to school, and trying to create a good life for themselves.
The second panelist was Alana Ramsay. Alana is an African American woman who identifies as lesbian. Alana grew up in a structured and strict Christian household. Though she attended church almost her whole life (excluding the present), Alana felt fairly accepted by most of her Christian friends. She did, however, share some unfortunate experiences with her family and a few friends. Some of Alana’s family did not support her when she came out to them. They told her it was just a phase, or didn’t say anything at all. She shared that her parents would deliberately stop watching a show or avoid watching a movie that contained people in homosexual relationships. Once, a friend told her that there should be a holocaust for gay people. This sort of homophobic behavior did not make Alana feel comfortable or confident about coming out. In fact, she did not come out to her family until very recently. The unwelcoming attitude she received about her identity (something she cannot change about herself and should not be ashamed of) from some of the people who are supposed to love and support her the most shook her world a bit. Nobody should ever be made to feel like less of a human because of their sexual identity.
The third panelist was Zainub Tayeb. Zainub is the student body president of Folsom Lake College, and identifies as a Muslim woman. Zainub grew up in the US, and has dealt with much hate throughout her lifetime. As a child, post 9/11, she and her family experienced their house being egged and TP-ed almost daily because they were Muslim. As she has grown, she has become an activist for women’s rights, especially Muslim women. Her family has experienced discrimination in airports multiple times. One time in particular, her father was detained for hours unnecessarily and was not able to say goodbye to his dying family member in the Middle East because he missed his flight. When Trump was elected, she and her family felt physically fearful for their lives and freedom. Many people have decided to show their ugly, hateful sides since the election of Trump because they see him as a beacon or excuse to yell things like, “Go back to your country!” Ignorance is bliss considering all caucasians are from European descent. I wonder if the British would’ve left the country if the Native Americans had yelled, “Go back to your country!”
Though many have not gone through or suffered traumatic and life changing experiences like the ones these strong women have encountered, it is vital that people hear these stories. Walking in another’s shoes may be impossible, but imagining oneself in another's situation—the feelings, thoughts, and concerns that would be encountered—can help strengthen sympathy for each other. It's time for people to take a good long look at themselves in the mirror. Are these the people we want to be? Hateful, ignorant, and judgmental we will fall. Together, we stand strong because love conquers hate. Make America great because it never was and never will be until people learn to love each other. That may sound cliche, and very well may be. However, we are all here on this Earth together. I would much rather die knowing I did everything I could to love everyone and cause as little pain and suffering in other’s lives as I can.
I would like to thank David Lacy, a white male atheist, for hosting this event. He saw the problems in society and found people who were willing to speak up about it, even when he’d never personally experienced the discriminations these women had encountered. We all have a duty to stop hate and spread love and acceptance.
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