Some days I feel very lucky to be a Spider, given the difficult road I continue to navigate as a first-generation college student.
But on other days, I’m caught off guard by the hatred and bigotry in this world, this country and apparently this campus. I no longer feel very lucky or even human.
On these days, I do not intentionally wake up feeling targeted or hated.
That is until an article, overheard conversation or poster freezes me. Abruptly, I’m no Spider, I am an “other.” The causes have nuances, but my reaction is routine: brain on overdrive and an instant need to distance myself, mentally and physically, from the sudden reality of my insignificance.
This reaction happened to me walking through Spiderfest weeks ago as I headed to work. The merry sounds of chatter, music and Spider solidarity washed over me as I strolled through the tables, but the illusion of safety shattered as I witnessed something I was not prepared to see.
The College Republicans brought a table to Spiderfest complete with “Trump/Pence” posters and paraphernalia. I don’t know why I was so surprised, so caught off guard. Despite effort at every level of the university to promote an inclusive, diverse and accepting environment, it is well-known that some on this campus readily silence the voice of their peers, exposing themselves with op-ed pieces about Donald Trump or safe spaces.
The ultimate irony of the ideology is they feel it is their speech that is being attacked, their rights being pushed to the wayside for the sake of "feelings." Much of Trump rhetoric indulges this view of free speech, positing that people say and do as they feel, no matter whom it targets and to hell with the externalized consequences.
Here’s the problem: his rhetoric, the rhetoric of his supporters, the rhetoric of the above pieces and Hillary Clinton’s hispandering silence not only the voice of citizens, but erase entire narratives and ensures speech from the "other" never materializes. White supremacy, intimately entwined with Trumpism, fundamentally maintains the status quo of which speech is free and for whom.
I challenge you to reconceive the notion of "free speech." Consider the field surrounding its invocation. With cursory examination, history speaks for itself: free speech is a myth, concocted by and for the powerful while they simultaneously annihilated, enslaved and colonized a majority of the world’s population for centuries.
How dare we debate degrees of freedom of speech in a land methodically fashioned to never be free for all but only free for some? The "other" may change, but power remains shockingly static. Trump’s version of free speech basically demands the right to vocally strip individuals of their humanity. His minions prove this, assaulting silent protestors at his rallies with jeering support from the King Clown himself.
Trumpism promotes forcefully removing someone from an airplane for speaking Arabic, gets bullets fired at Mosques, citizens assaulted in grocery stores or on sidewalks. It bombed a church in Birmingham, got Dylann Roof a Big Mac after he murdered nine people and gave Philando Castille four bullets and a fatherless daughter after he complied with a police officer.
While pro-Trump Spiders may not get physical, please understand that silent support of the entity that encourages such behavior is in itself a violent act, impugning on vitality.
For the protected, whose rhetoric and ideology Trumpism does not explicitly target, Trump can be isolated as a presidential candidate, albeit a very poor and obviously dangerous one. His nonsensical spouting about terrorism, outsourcing and immigrants are weakly constructed, lacking any intelligent or factual basis, rife with discrepancies and simplistic language meant to mask the fact that he actually has no idea what he is talking about.
To the ‘other’, including myself, he is not just a presidential candidate but an embodiment of everything that keeps us powerless and vulnerable. Trumpism mandates that we actively participate in our oppression, absorbing the externalized consequences. Those protected observe and superficially worry, yet silently condone while we walk this country and campus with nebulous trepidation.
At any moment, someone may come along and pick an "other" out of today’s diverse United States. At any moment, at Martin’s grocery shopping, walking around the city or to class, someone may assert, “Hey. You don’t belong here. I want you gone from this place and this country. This is MY America.”
It might be loudly, openly, with a vocal or physical violation: a shove or hateful word, inviting others to join in on the erasure of this now-spotlighted human.
Or it might be quiet, invisible and unsuspecting, with a slight smirk and thumbs up gesture next to Trump’s name as a symbol of support.
Contact senior Cassandra Ceballos at firstname.lastname@example.org.