A Call to Educators During Trump’s Administration

Another day, another controversial Trump action.

On Wednesday, Trump announced that he was taking away protections of transgender students from using the bathroom designated for the gender they identify with.

I’m not concerned about Trump, I’m concerned about schools. I’m an activist, of course I’m going to fight this. If a school is being transphobic towards its students, I’ll protest, send letters , call representatives, whatever it takes.

But I can’t be in school with these kids. I can’t keep an ear out in their classrooms and make sure their not being bullied. I can’t be an active bystander and get them out of a threatening situation. I can’t be their teacher and let them know that regardless of how I feel about their identity, I care more about their capability as a student and a human being.  

I can’t do any of that, but educators and students can. Even though these protections are being messed with, schools still have the power and freedom to allow students to chose to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

So, educators, principals, guidance counselors, students, we’re looking at you.

What were you doing for transgender students before this? Barack Obama put the protection of transgender students until Title IX during his time in office, did you help protect that? We all know that just because something is a law doesn’t mean it’s always enforced, especially in the education system.

Brown v. Board was passed in 1954 and schools under the law had to be desegregated, yet schools didn’t really start becoming integrated till the 1960s. Why? Because educators didn’t care that it was the law they felt it was morally right that black and white students didn’t go to school together. Or, if they didn’t feel this way, they were silent and complicit and rarely challenged their schools so they implementation would occur faster.

So, I’m hoping you in 2017, we are not repeating the mistakes of history. We are not letting our personal moral beliefs stand in the way of a child’s education. I hope you are not silent and complicit if you see a transgender student being bullied or discriminated against. We need educators to be self-aware. Who are you protecting, and at what expense are you protecting them?

Even Betsy DeVos, the highly controversial new Secretary of Education, thinks taking away these protections is a bad move. DeVos did not support this decision and wanted to make sure that schools were doing their part to make sure that bullying and discrimination would not be tolerated.

School is a place meant for learning and growth, not hate and terror. Make sure you are doing your part to ensure that school is a safe environment for every student.

Homophobic Hip Hop

If you’re like me, the release of Migos’ new album was the highlight of your week when it came out, and you’ve been blasting it ever since. At the gym, in your car, walking through campus; it really doesn’t matter, because the album is consistently lit enough to get you through any part of your day.

Following the release of their album, Migos interviewed with Rolling Stone, during which the interviewer asked how they felt about iLoveMakonnen coming out. Apparently this was news to Migos, and there was an awkward silence before Quavo expresses his surprise. Even more, they express distaste with the fans and others who supported iLoveMakonnen’s decision, with Offset saying, “This world is not right.” Along with many others, Migos seem to believe that not being cisgendered and heterosexual undermines the credibility of a hip hop artist.

This attitude is not at all new to hip hop culture. While some artists have been accepted in mainstream culture recently, for the most part the hip hop culture and lifestyle is seen as incompatible with anyone whose identity lies outside of gender norms. This credibility issue continues to come up, with even artists that say they support LGBTQ artists not wanting to have ties with them. When giving statements supporting the LGBTQ community and the artists that identify with some part of it, straight hip hop artists often preface their support with, “I’m not gay but…” Why is this qualifier necessary? Why is hip hop so determined to separate itself from certain groups of people?

Some artists don’t believe hip hop culture will ever fully accept LGBTQ artists in their ranks, because, according to an interview with Snoop Dogg, it’s such a “masculine” genre. Migos themselves have often raved about the diversity of hip hop in Atlanta, yet cannot reconcile the idea that diversity can include personal identities about sexuality. With hip hop lyrics often littered with slurs about gay men, artists who don’t identify as straight men are often disinclined to be real about their sexuality, in fear of losing “credibility” in the hip hop culture.

In a Vulture article earlier this month, the writer posits that rejecting the idea that anyone who is not straight can be a “real” hip hop artist is simply bigotry used to protect the hierarchy in hip hop culture. To be a “real man” means certain things, and for the most part, hip hop doesn’t seem inclined to work to change that.

There have been a train of artists working to provide more inclusion for LGBTQ artists in hip hop. Many, like Jay-Z, have changed their tune concerning old lyrics spouting homophobia, apologizing for them. The recent uptick in artists coming out has forced many hip hop artists to grapple with their own homophobia, and if they are still going to discriminate against artists, and other individuals, who don’t fit their idea of a “real” hip hop artist. While hip hop has often been used as a tool of social activism to fight against injustice, it seems that a glaring blind spot has existed with LGBTQ rights, and will most likely exist for a long time until many more artists within hip hop work to change that aspect of culture that discredits artists who aren’t straight men.

 

For further reading:

Snoop Lion Talks Homosexuality in Rap Music, Frank Ocean’s Coming Out

Migos’ Wild World: One Night Inside the Studio with ‘Bad and Boujee’ Trio

Rap is Less Homophobic Than Ever, But It Has a Long Way to Go

How Homophobic is Hip Hop in 2016?

Has Hip Hop Outgrown Homophobia?: A Timeline

From A$AP to Jay Z: 15 Hip Hop Stars Who Think Homophobes are Muthaf*ckers

An Honest Discussion with a Black Cop

When I went home for Thanksgiving, I was ready for the relaxation, food, and fun with my family. I didn’t think that I would end up having deep conversations and debates with my family members, specifically my uncle. My intentions were never to have any type of conversation; it was Thanksgiving after all and we were supposed to be enjoying each other’s company. However, my uncle and I began talking.

To preface this, my uncle is a cop. He came in with a blue lives matter wristband. At first, I was a little defensive. Of course, cops need to be protected as well, but at the end of the day, the blue comes off and the skin they are in remains. The black skin my uncle is in remains. I’m as nervous for him to be out doing his job as anybody else. He’s a good cop and great at his job, but there’s still forces outside of his control.

I asked my uncle what he thought about all of the cop shootings that we had. His opinions were ones that stuck me. Not in a negative way, but in a way that had and continually has me thinking of how everyone can do better. My uncle is a corporal, which means he sometimes train the new recruits.  He recalled a story of when he was with a recruit that did a horrible offense.

My uncle decided this particular recruit was not feasible to be pushed through to the next level of work, so he wrote it in his report. The next week, the same recruit had been pushed through anyway, even though my uncle had specifically said in the report he would not be good on his own. For the next couple of months, that recruit had been demoted and pushed through time and time again for breaking the rules or doing something that put others in danger.

My uncle explained that the police force is looking for quantity over quality. They need people, regardless of how good or bad they might be. Sometimes it’s not as simple of having good cops and bad cops. It’s not that the good cops aren’t doing anything. It might just be that there are higher ranking police officers pushing people through who aren’t trained well enough to have a gun and a badge. While my uncle is saddened by the shootings, he hates the narrative that the good cops aren’t helping because they are. Citizens, especially protestors and activists, just can’t see that part.

On the other side, we talked about the black community and what they are doing wrong in this situation. Don’t get me wrong, he was not defending these senseless shootings, but we did talk about how the black community is locked up on a much higher basis than the white community. Black people, especially black men, are being locked up for the same crimes that everyone else does. But why is this so? My uncle discussed the dynamic that happens when black people get caught repeatedly. Something most people know is that most of the black men in jail are there for non-violent drug offenses. If a person gets caught one time, the judge considers this your first offense and the sentence, if there is one, will be light. As a person continually gets arrested for the same offense, the punishment gets harsher. The importance of knowing and recognizing this by everyone is extreme.

We have to have a discussion about both of these situations that are happening on a daily. We have to create a dialogue between police and the communities, especially the black ones, they are supposed to protect. Everyone needs to work together to make their communities better. We have to stop calling for good cops to speak out because they genuinely might not be able to. Police precincts are still filled with politics just like everything else. Everyone can benefit from information from the other, so let’s sit down with our officers at the local precincts and have an honest, open discussion.

Terrible, Yes, and Not Great

With the current rise of the Alt-Right movement, we’ve sadly been hearing the name “Hitler” a lot more than the average person would hope to hear that name. Similarly, many people have drawn starch parallels between the new Trump administration and Hitler’s Nazi regime, which has instigated heated debated. A few times during these arguments, I’ve heard something along the lines of “I mean Hitler was evil but we can’t deny that he was still a great leader!” First of all, yes we can, Secondly, this idea comes from the false narrative that is often taught in high school history which leads us to believe that Hitler single handedly convinced an entire German population to turn against Jews. A narrative that is often taught in schools as something we should be impressed by. A narrative that is not only false, but also very dangerous – particularly in relation to discussions about our current administration. With the following information, I hope to convince you that Hitler was NOT, in fact, a good leader at all.

  1. Hitler was not a great leader; he was a great manipulator

Hitler did not SINGLE HANDEDLY convince the entire German population to turn against Jews. Hitler didn’t create anti-Semitism in Germany. Germany had a long history of discriminating against Jews that dated back to before Hitler was even born. With the economic devastation that followed World War I, Hitler exploited this culture of Jewish discrimination to deceive the German people and manipulate them against a common enemy, which he then used to rise to power.  If someone who lies well is the current definition of a good leader, then that explains our current administration.

  1. Germany’s “economic miracle” under Hitler was not so miraculous

Many argue that under Hitler’s economic policies, unemployment dropped and the economy was on its way to revival. This is significantly exaggerated because women were not calculated in the unemployment calculations which drastically distorted the numbers. Additionally, under Hitler’s new policies, unemployed young men were given an alternative: either get a government job or be forced into a concentration camp. So, of course the unemployment numbers seemed low but it was an illusion created by Hitler so he could use it as a propaganda ploy to further manipulate German people against Jews.

  1. Hitler lost the war and he lost it really badly!!

If you want to say Hitler is single handedly responsible for something, it’s the death of 3% of the world’s population. Hitler provoked a war which killed over 60 million people!! And after all this?? HE STILL LOST THAT WAR! Even when he knew he had no hopes of winning, he continued to escalate the war and endangered the lives of the people that he’s supposedly so good at leading. Furthermore, instead of surrendering, he killed himself and never took responsibility for his actions, as any true leader would!

  1. He actively constructed and instructed the genocide of 6 million people… for no reason

This one shouldn’t need further explaining.

Street Harrassment

Eyes straight ahead. Keys firmly clutched in hand, pepper spray ready. Headphones in, music on mute. Keep walking. Stay brisk—don’t slow down.

The sun is setting. Franklin Street is suddenly bathed in a warm, glowing light. You allow yourself to briefly relax, a moment to take in the picturesque scene before you. A male pedestrian asks you a question.

Ignore. Continue walking. A group of women across the street catch your eye. Cross the road. Walk behind them.

Finally, you arrive at your destination—you can breathe, a sigh of momentary relief before you soon must leave again.

This script is repeated over and over and over again, no matter the time or place.

Go out in groups.

Carry a pocketknife.

Always stay alert, never let your guard down.

Check, check, check.

If someone attacks you, it’s because you missed something. A slip-up. You’re targeted with questions.

Why’d you wear that?

Can’t you take a compliment?

Why were you out so late?

When arriving at UNC-Chapel Hill, incoming students are told that Chapel Hill is the Southern Part of Heaven—a safe, fun, inclusive haven where you can freely learn and grow. For many students, though, this promise rings hollow.

This insidious, constantly unsafe feeling in public spaces is characterized by street harassment—sexual harassment in public spaces, including catcalling, stalking, touching without consent, etc.

Street harassment is incredibly prevalent. In a study conducted by Hollaback!, an anti-street harassment organization, and Cornell University, researchers found that 29 percent of those who shared their experiences of street harassment on Hollaback!’s website were physically touched in a public space without their consent, while 57 percent were subject to verbal harassment.

On college campuses, harassment has other implications, too. The threat of street harassment often will dissuade women from studying in a library late due to fear of walking home late at night, negatively impacting academics. According to Hollaback!, 67 percent of students experienced harassment on campus, 61 percent witnessed another student being harassed on college campus, and only 18 percent of students had not experienced or witnessed harassment on campus. Hollaback! Also found that a staggering 46 percent of students said harassment caused disappointment with college experience.

I can recall multiple times in which I simply decided to remain in my dorm to complete assignments during the evening, even though I focus significantly better in a quiet, studious library—a choice male students, specifically cis, white, heterosexual men, rarely have to consider.

Women and other marginalized folks should be able to freely exist and move around in the world without fear of potential bodily, mental, and emotional harm.

If We Ignore Institutional Racism, will it Actually Go Away?

I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of the teen from Memphis, Tennessee who stood up to her racist parents and earned herself a crisp $35,000+ right? If not, here is a quick rundown: a teen from Memphis stood up to her parents because they were against her having a black boyfriend. They denied her college tuition, so the teen took matters into her hands and started a GoFundMe page. The reaction to her tragedy was quite positive and she has proceeded to collect over $35,000 for her tuition. One might think that this story is a heart-warming tale of one girl’s fight for social justice and her rewards in the process, but it is much deeper and much more complicated.

Racism, in all of its complexities, can manifest itself in, more or less, 2 ways: institutional racism and interpersonal racism. The latter is more individualized, meaning that the individual/s involved are in control and are choosing to be racists to others, be it in a blatant manner or in the form of a microaggression. The former, however, is more systematic. It seeps into every part of our society, from our political systems to our educational systems and beyond. It is essentially built into our society. The former is derived from the latter, but the most important difference among them is that institutional racism is far less acknowledged than interpersonal racism. Institutional racism is a myth to all those who do not experience it, which unfortunately means that the majority of the U.S.’ population does not believe that institutional racism is real. So, if it’s not real, why bother acknowledging or fixing it?

Asking those kinds of questions is the problem. Racism does not just boil down to a dispute between one individual and another. It is constantly perpetuated by the society we live in and the rules we follow. Media outlets fail to address the fact that the institutions that govern us were built specifically to oppress minorities and people of color. Instead, we are given story after story like the teen from Memphis. Stories like these are great, but if we continue to ignore the fact that structural racism exists and solely bolster the idea that racism is an isolated issue, we will never be able to make real change.

The American Dream? Yeah right.

A federal appeals panel denied President Trump’s actions to re-implement his notorious travel ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim nations. While many people are trying to rush to the United States as the legality of the case remains hopeful for a minute, the long-term is still unsure as following the court rule, Trump tweeted, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

In July, writer for the New York Times, Amanda Taub wrote that a central conflict of 21st century politics is the question, “Who belongs?” This question provokes a second question, “Who doesn’t belong?” In regards to Trump’s travel ban, the heart-breaking answer to the question “Who doesn’t belong in the U.S.?” is refugees. The most vulnerable population in the world has been denied access to security, justice, and peace. Hopefully, the federal appeals panel’s ruling holds up against Trump’s promise of a court battle, but the underlying message sending to refugees is, “You are not welcome.”

Prior to the court rejection, Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program published an insightful report titled, “The Impact of President Trump’s Executive Orders on Asylum Seekers.” The most striking claim in the article states, “The United States is not a “safe country of asylum” for those fleeing persecution and violence.” The report finds that Trump’s executive orders will likely increase asylum seekers stuck in detention, limit access to counsel, denial of family reunification, and more. It is a very interesting report that sums up a large number of the major topics in migration in the U.S. and how the executive orders are negatively affecting processes.

While refugees currently are starting to be able to travel again to the United States, the future is still uncertain. Many recent refugees and immigrants to the United States are starting to question their decision to come here. The U.S. has always been an international beacon for immigration, safety and justice with Lady Liberty’s torch lighting the way. But following Trump’s executive orders, refugees have been turning to Canada as an option.

New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof concluded, “Canada’s leaders nurtured multiculturalism into a sacred part of the country’s identity. As the rest of the world bangs the doors shut, Canadians celebrate their openness – and, polls show, now take more pride in multiculturalism than in hockey.” Recent migrants from Somalia, Ghana, Djibouti, and more have started crossing the US-Canada border in these treacherous winter months. Many of them explained that after Trump was elected, they could see the writing on the wall. Migrants have been crossing the border in unmarked areas in North Dakota and Minnesota. Small towns in Canada along the border often help migrants and transport them to the Canadian Border Services Agency, but they’ve never seen so many people coming in like they are now. Migrants see hope in Canada, and thanks to Trump’s vilifying executive orders, they no longer see the appeal of the “American Dream.”

Further reading:

Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban, Dealing Trump Another Legal Loss

Losing Hope in U.S., Migrants Make Icy Crossing to Canada

 

Trump’s First Week (and a half) in Executive Orders

This past week and a half has been a complete mess in the realm of politics and social justice. I am in no way saying, however, that the U.S. was the standard of justice before, because it certainly has never been close. That aside, if you decided that your best form of self care was to take a break from the news for a while, here’s a short recap of the executive orders signed by DJT in his first week and a half as president, to help catch you up on what’s going on!

Executive Order 1:

The official title of this order is Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal. Signed on January 20th, this mouthful is Trump’s first step in his attempts to repeal the ACA, or Obamacare. While this order does not give any framework for how this is to be done, or the new healthcare system that Trump plans to implement, it does start the process by which he wishes to allow healthcare providers to compete for their customers in an open market.

Executive Order 2:

The order Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals For High Priority Infrastructure Projects was signed on January 24th. This order expedites the reviewal process for any infrastructure process deemed “high priority” to 30 days, within which timeframe the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Equality must give a decision about the implementation of the project. If a project is indeed decided to classify as high priority, deadlines must also be constructed for the completion of the infrastructural project. Some of the projects listed as fitting this description of beneficial infrastructure were airports, bridges, highways, and least surprising of all, pipelines.

Executive Order 3:

This order, called Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the U.S., was released on January 25th. Here Trump states that “aliens”, including those who overstay their visas, pose a problem to the safety of American citizens, especially those who engage in criminal activity. In this act, he directs that 10,000 more immigration officers be hired, and gives state and local law enforcement agencies the power to act as immigration officers where they see fit. In addition, a weekly report will be issued, chronicling all the crimes of illegal immigrants.

Executive Order 4:

On January 25th as well, the Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements order was signed, stating that law enforcement agencies along the Mexico/U.S. border should take whatever lawful actions necessary to secure the border. Included among the actions deemed necessary is the construction of a wall along the border, with the planning and implementation of such to begin immediately, as is the procuring of funds for this project. This order also directs the hiring of an additional 5,000 Border Patrol officers, and reiterates the permission that state and local agencies have to act as immigration officers.

Executive Order 5:

Two days later, another order was issued, this one called Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. In the opening paragraphs of this order, it says that the United States must not allow entry to people who “engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own), or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.” In addition, this order states that visas and other benefits to “countries of national concern” will be invalid for at least 90 days. These countries are Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Iran, and Somalia. Green card holders, while not mentioned in this order, have also been affected. In addition, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is to be suspended for 120 days while it is reviewed, and upon reinstatement, priority will be given to those seeking asylum for religious persecution. Syrian refugees are called “detrimental” to the interests of the United States, and are not permitted to enter the country indefinitely. Over 5,000 refugees per year will be considered a financial burden, and thus greater than that will not be allowed.

Executive Order 6:

This order, called the Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees, was issued on January 28th. In summary, this order limits the lobbying abilities of any employee of the executive office for 5 years after the end of their employment. It also limits the communications that former employees are allowed to have with current employees in their department.

Executive Order 7:

The executive order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs was signed on January 30th. It begins by stating that for every regulation implemented, two must be rescinded, and thus making the net costs of new regulations zero. Any additional costs that must be incurred are subject to additional approval, which could slow the implementation process.

While this may seem like a lot to take in, this doesn’t even begin to cover the other executive actions that Mr. Trump has issued so far, which include eleven memorandums and one proclamation. The memoranda are basically executive orders that don’t require the heavy documentation of an executive order, yet still carry the weight of the law. Proclamations are not binding as law, but merely strong suggestions. If you’d like to look further into these, the White House’s official website has all the executive actions and their exact texts. 

This article was edited for clarity at 5:26 p.m. on 2/8/17.

Existence is Resistance

This article was originally written following the presidential election of 2016. It has been re-published here due to its present relevance. 

 

The Results

Three women sit cross-legged on the floor of a 6×10 dorm room in Ehringhaus Residence Hall on UNC-Chapel Hill’s south campus. They eagerly watch a laptop screen, eyes glued to the interactive electoral map on CNN. As the numbers begin to roll in, their excitement quickly turns to dread. It slowly becomes clear the outcome they envisioned for Nov. 8, 2016 will not be realized.

Once the final results are called, time stops.

Donald J. Trump will be the 45th president of the United States of America. Reality sinks in.

The friends embrace one another as shocked sobs roll through their bodies. Shouts of victory reverberate from the adjacent room, confirming their fears.

How fitting, sophomore Laura Duque thought. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump supporters literally divided by a concrete wall.

“In the one room, there was us, the Latinas, and in the next room there were Trump supporters,” she said. “Us crying in the one room, and the Trump supporters cheering in the next room.”

Duque, her sister and her friend sat together for hours. Slowly watching as the votes came in, state by state.

“It felt like when you’re at the top of a rollercoaster just counting the seconds before the big drop,” first-year Caroline Duque, Duque’s sister, said.

Duque, a *Latinx activist at UNC-CH as co-chair of Students United for Immigration Equality (SUIE), a Campus Y committee, isn’t alone.

Since President-Elect Donald Trump won, defeating former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College by 74 votes, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, many Americans have taken to social media, the streets and college campuses to express shock, outrage and terror over the president-elect’s victory.

Walking Out

The next day, Duque didn’t hesitate. As an activist, she said she felt compelled to do something. When the Campus Y, UNC-CH’s center for social justice, organized a campus wide walkout that Wednesday to provide students with a space to tell their stories and express their emotions following the election, Duque chose to participate.

“Safe space.”

These two words echo across the quad at 2:00 p.m. A promise for those who speak. A microphone stand sits in front of South Building.

If today were an ordinary Wednesday, most of this crowd would be in class. But, for many students, today is far from ordinary.

“After the election, I expected the whole world to stop,” Duque said.

But, despite feelings of anxiety and fear, she kept going and immediately took action.

Hundreds of students, faculty and community members of all races, ethnicities and gender identities, fill the space. Some hug one another, link arms. Others cry and wipe away tears.

A long line of a diverse group of students snakes around South Building to the front of the Campus Y.

“Regan and I woke up on Nov. 9 and felt like the campus should have a chance to voice their upset, fears and worries—a kind of catharsis,” Lauren Eaves, co-president for the Campus Y, said.

Duque stands in line, readying herself to talk in front of the vast crowd before her. Her body shakes as she meticulously recites lines in her mind. She hates public speaking.

“In that moment, I didn’t even look at the crowd,” she said. “Everything went blank, and I just wanted everyone to hear me. When else was I going to have this opportunity?”

After listening to two students share their stories, she slowly, hesitantly approaches the microphone. Tears stream down her face as her friend rubs her back. She speaks of her father.

“All he could say last night was ‘te amo’,” she says through broken sobs.

“I love you” in Spanish.

“I was terrified and really emotional,” she said. “But there was something within me that said you have to go out there. The little activist in me was like ‘you have to go’.”

“When Laura spoke, I felt so proud of her for sharing her personal story with so many people,” Campus Y co-president Regan Buchanan said. “And I felt deeply angered and saddened that she had to experience so much fear because of our nation’s failures.”

Afraid

Duque is one of countless Latinx students at UNC-CH who fear that a Trump administration will inflict violence on their communities. Trump has advocated for a wall between the U.S.’s and Mexico’s border, as well as mass deportation of immigrants and elimination of sanctuary cities and campuses that aim to protect undocumented folks from being deported.

“It’s no longer just about political affiliations,” Duque said. “This is a person who tolerates and advocates for hate.”

A few weeks ago, Duque visited her home in Durham, North Carolina. After dinner one night, she went outside. Looking ahead, she immediately froze.

“I’m just there, taking out the trash, and I see them,” she said.

Two white neighbors, a woman and a man wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, casually jog by, laughing.

“That is scary,” she said. “I automatically felt unsafe.”

She wonders how Trump will “Make America Great Again.” More like, “Make America Hate Again.”

Growing Up

Duque’s family immigrated to the United States from Cali, Colombia when she was 10-years-old. She’s lived from coast to coast—in Georgia, California and, now, North Carolina.

“I cried a lot the week before we left Cali because I knew everything would change,” Duque said. “I’d never been outside the country. It was a huge culture shock.”

Elementary school is hard enough without having to learn through a language barrier and taunting from students for being different.

“To this day, even the smell of elementary school floors makes me cringe,” Duque said. “I automatically think about the kids who called me weird or dumb for not knowing how to speak English.”

Her story is one of relative privilege—a narrative not often told when pundits and politicians discuss this prevalent political issue. Her parents moved her and her younger sisters to the U.S. to pursue master’s degrees about a decade ago.

Duque’s family came from an upper middle class background, allowing them to have resources needed to apply get an appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, a costly process. Then, an appointment is selected and one has to let the embassy know why they wish to immigrate. Thankfully, her parents were both educated, wanted to pursue higher education and therefore were able to obtain their visas.

“I didn’t really understand my own privilege and what that meant,” Duque said. “The fact that I was able to come here under the circumstances that I did is quite a privilege because not a lot of people get to do that.”

This perspective has challenged her to recognize how others’ walks of life differ from her own.

“It’s not fair that just because my parents came from privileged background, they had the chance to come here safely, but other people don’t,” Duque said.

An Intricate System

Immigration is complex, she says. No single story can encompass 11.4 million currently undocumented immigrants living in a country.

“Growing up here, I’ve met a lot of people whose families had come here without documents because they were fleeing violence or drug cartels,” Duque said. “There were no job opportunities for them—the poverty level was really high in their countries. I knew that I had to talk about this because not a lot of people know about the immigration system and how it works.”

Although Duque has a green card and is a permanent resident, an obtained status that involved a long, arduous process, which spanned a total of three years, she is not yet a full citizen. In five years, she will be eligible to take the United States citizenship test. And that comes with a cost.

“Because I’m not a citizen, I can’t vote,” Duque says. “I had no influence or control over this election that will have a complete influence over my, my family’s and my friends’ lives.”

According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, 13.3 million permanent residents live in the U.S. Duque is one of these Americans.

Being a permanent resident allows Duque and her family to live, attend school and work in the United States without immediate repercussions. However, this status does not guarantee complete safety.

“If you commit certain crimes or security violations, or even fail to advise USCIS of your changes of address, you can be placed in removal proceedings and deported from the United States,” according to AllLaw.com.

A lack of security and feelings of discrimination motivated Duque to become involved with organizing efforts on campus her first year.

“I didn’t choose activism, it just kind of happened,” Duque said. “I’ve always felt discriminated against. Whenever my parents and I would go out, because they speak broken English, I’d feel embarrassed because I would have to translate for them and people would always look at us like we weren’t normal. They were treated like crap.”

“I felt like the xenophobia was in the air,” she said. “I had to do something about this.”

Moving Forward

Following Trump’s win, activists like Duque are forced to grapple with many questions. How do groups create change under this administration? With a hostile political climate and hate crimes against people of color on the rise, what happens next?

These worries are at the forefront of Duque’s mind. As an immigrant and activist Latina woman, though, Duque remains determined and steadfast to protect her community.

After the election, SUIE immediately went into planning mode.

“First, we’re going to recognize that Trump is not our president and will never be our president,” Duque said.

“The side that won basically told us that we are less than human, and we’re not going to stand for it,” Duque said. “We’re definitely going to take a defensive approach.”

“She always wants to do more and more with SUIE, and I admire that about her,” Diana Marquez, Duque’s SUIE co-chair, said.

The day after Trump’s inauguration, the organization is planning an event in the Pit called “Pie Trump.”

Students will be encouraged to throw a pie at a cutout of Trump’s face. During the event, SUIE will collect donations for a scholarship fund for undocumented students.

“I also want to display immigrants’ stories all over campus,” Duque said. “We have an idea to put shoes all over the Pit to tell immigrant stories.”

“I want people to understand what it’s like to live in an immigrant’s shoes,” Marquez said.

SUIE will also hold a panel of immigration lawyers for the community and students to voice concerns and ask questions.

The plan is to provide folks with resources and preparation just in case for the worst, Duque said.

“This is a really scary time for a lot of immigrants in this country,” Duque said.

Hate and Hope

The vast building looms in front of her. Its history, tradition and power causes her to catch her breath.

The White House.

Duque was there for a World AIDS Day event as part of her campus organizing work with Advocates for Youth, a sexual health nonprofit.

After walking through airport-like security, her two friends are given green passes with silver chains to wear around their necks, displaying their names and photos. Duque’s pass is pink. Her stomach drops.

“Oh wow,” she thought. “Everyone know my status now. Everyone knows that I’m not a citizen.”

A secret service officer peppers her with questions and commands.

“Okay,” he said. “You can all go in except for you.”

He points at Duque.

“You need to be personally escorted into the White House,” he tells her.

Her friends try to defend her. “Why can’t she go with us?” they ask.

“This is between her and the White House,” he said.

His cold demeanor washes over Duque.

“He stared at us like we were nothing,” she said. “It was like ‘what are you doing here?’”

Trump’s America, Duque thought.

Eventually, Duque is able to call a point of contact at Advocates for Youth. It was worth the wait. She heard countless stories from activists that inspired her.

“We’ve done a lot during this administration,” she said. “If we were able to do that, that shows me that even though there’s still a lot of work to do, there’s a lot of people who are willing to do it. That gives me hope.”

Hope may seem futile during this time. But Duque says she’ll continue to fight in this movement and embrace her identities.

“Even existence is resistance,” she said.

 
*Latinx is commonly used in this community in order to represent gender inclusivity.

Campus Y Co- Presidents Forum Recap

On Wednesday evening, the candidates running for Campus Y Co-Presidents participated in a forum. The candidates were asked questions, both separately and collectively, about their platform, understanding of social justice, and where they want to take the Campus Y.

Asha Patel and Nick McKenzie are both sophomores who have been involved with the Y since their first year. McKenzie currently holds leadership positions in Nourish-UNC, Hope Gardens, and Carolina Empowerment Fund. Asha currently serves as a co-chair for Hunger Lunch, a venture within Nourish-UNC.

“I think it’s important for a leader to be able to connect to every single person that they interact with and other people working with you,” Patel said.

Running against Patel and McKenzie are Alexander Peeples and Courtney Staton. Peeples is a junior and currently serves as the Co-Director of Development on the Campus Y exec board. Staton is a sophomore and is currently a co-chair of Criminal Justice Awareness and Action.

“Social justice is showing up everyday and not continuing the oppression of other people,” Peeples said.

The forum began with each duo given two minutes to introduce themselves. Then they were asked a variety of questions and given either a minute per person to answer or minute as a duo to answer. For the most part, candidates did well within these time limits.

When asked what would they focus on if they could only accomplish two big goals as co-presidents, Patel and McKenzie said their focus would be on outreach and engagement with as many communities on UNC’s campus as possible. They also wanted to focus on getting more people to be involved with issues in Chapel Hill and municipal elections.

“It’s really powerful that we make sure there’s a larger education component of the Y especially in terms of local elections. We know that it’s going to be a huge issue coming up nationally…,” McKenzie said.

Peeples and Staton believe that the Campus Y has a crucial role in terms of campus activism and said their goal is to continue that role and expand it. They want to make sure the Campus Y provides resources to everyone for greater social good and never tries to take over voices.

“The Campus Y is supposed to be the place where activists across issues can come together and realize how they’re all interconnected and we want the Campus Y to continue to serve as that,” Staton said.

While all candidates had similar views on some things like the Y’s commitment to social justice or the transparency needed between the executive board and committees, other issues caused some tension.

During the audience question and answer session, McKenzie was asked about how he referred to people of color as “colored people” during a previous answer. He also was questioned how he planned to balance his personal political beliefs with the Campus Y given that public records indicate that he voted in the Republican primaries. Specifically, an audience member referenced past and recent legislature the Republican Party has passed that has been damaging to a number of social justice causes.

Both McKenzie and Peeples were asked by the audience how they were planning to self-reflect on their privileges as white males. Neither Patel or Staton were asked about their identities and how it would influence their leadership.

Voting for the Campus Y Co-Presidents will take place on Tuesday February 7th from 9 am to 5 pm. Voting is restricted to registered members of the Campus Y only. If you have any questions about whether or not you are a registered member, email CampusY.unc@gmail.com

You can learn more about Asha and Nick’s platform here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_tJ-HA1DNHXQ1lHSkdLOXV4Q0k/view

You can learn more about Alexander and Courtney’s platform here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B322ptORbby1U0VsbzNya3N2V2c/view

Views shared on the blog are not necessarily those of the Campus Y as a whole, but those of the bloggers.