I, too, DREAM America

Here is a little known fact about me—my parents never named me. That honor belonged to my dad’s niece Madé, and when my parents were an ocean away she took care of me like I was her own. If I closed my eyes I could recall her vividly; The long hang of her dark curls, the blood red of her lips stretched out over her brilliant smile. She was such a natural beauty she never wore anything other than lipstick. I could recognize her face anywhere, but only because I grew up with a picture we took together right before I came to America by my bedside. I only know how much she loved me through stories. 

I never got to truly know my cousin because she was gunned down in the street in front of my grandmother’s house the year I left Colombia or the year after by two men on a motorcycle. From what I understand, no one was ever held accountable but my family has always had an idea about who was responsible. In the end, the only truth is this: my cousin was not an exception, she was the rule. Colombia’s history since the turn of the last century had been a violent one that set the stage up for what had occurred throughout the 80s and 90s- conflict between the Colombian government, paramilitary groups, crime syndicates, and left-wing guerrillas like the FARC. A conflict that is still ongoing and is the longest running civil war in the Americas’ history. 

This conflict bred an unstable society, one where it’s police force and government officials are easily pocketed by the cartel kings of the city. It made the new normal anarchy, as if drive-bys and kidnappings were just every day news and my friends- it was. My parents couldn’t live like that any longer, and couldn’t see their children live like that either. So they did what they could and brought me and my older brother to the United States, one-by-one. I was the last to leave Colombia, a full year after everyone else had left. I was three.

I’m considered one of the lucky ones. I was naturalized a citizen in 2010 under President Obama so last month’s breaking news that 45 moved to end the DACA—or the Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals—didn’t send me into a panic, but it did send me into a rage. There is a quote by Mandela that wandered into my head that morning, he said “Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.” I was safe, yes, but what about the 1 million undocumented people in the United States, 78% of which had applied for protection under the DACA? 

The median entry age for DREAMers is six. Oftentimes they come younger than that; too young to remember the country of their births, too young to remember the language they had spoken once upon a time, if they ever even did. The only flag they’ve ever pledged allegiance to is the American flag, the only anthem they’ve ever sung is one about a star spangled banner. To exile DREAMers back to a country where they are foreign and misunderstood, to a land they haven’t seen in ten, fifteen, twenty years, is cruel. To leave a child nationless is cruel. 

Yet, the Trump administration means to do it regardless. Why? 

The only answer is a hard one to swallow. To call a spade a spade, the only unhyphenated group in America is white people. Everyone else is hyphen-American. African-American. Asian-American. Latin-American. This creates the illusion that America is: white, when it is so much more than that. It’s hot dogs at a baseball game just as much as it is $1.25 tacos from your neighborhood taco cart. It’s blue jeans just as much as it is hijab. 

Honestly, I’ve been wildly depressed this year by the state of the union. The rise of Trump’s radical brand of conservative racism and the fusion of the KKK and the Nazi party to form the “Alt-Right” has been a rude awakening that there is still so much work left to be done. I felt a little defeated at the idea that bigots had the power to make me feel uncomfortable in my home but I’m officially through playing the world’s smallest violin, both in my personal and public life. And the best part? I think everyone else is too. 

Yesterday was election day, and it was a day of hard fought wins. Kathy Tran became the first Asian American woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Charlotte, North Carolina elected their first black woman mayor, Vi Lyles. Danica Roem, a trans* woman, defeated Bob Marshall, the man who wrote the anti-trans bathroom bill, in Virginia to become the first trans* state legislator. And Virginia, New York, and New Jersey all went blue. Last year was a set back, but not a defining one. I know all my peers are willing and ready to defend freedom, and those who once marched against us will march with us. 

The revolution will be televised.