Today, the day after Election Day 2016 (one of the heaviest days of my life, I experienced the most genuine human interaction with strangers since I moved here over a year ago.
As I walked through Bed-Stuy to the subway (and really all day), I noticed that everyone was looking at everyone. When I first moved to the city, I developed a habit of greeting people because acknowledging people is important to fostering community. Unfortunately, gentrification is slowly shifting that culture. After the winter, I grew cold and my willingness to open up and acknowledge people decreased out of fear. Many experiences of cat calling and being followed made me wary of who I talk to. So I grew accustomed to having few daily human interactions despite constantly being surrounded by people.
Today, everyone was glancing at folks around them, as if to determine one’s political leanings from their eye contact. I noticed that most folks of color greeted me with assuring smiles and hellos, while most white folks kept their heads down as they blasted music or kept their nose in a book. Granted, this discrepancy is usually how my encounters are but today, folks seemed to be intentionally making efforts to acknowledge each other.
I work for an organization in a co-working space and everyone was talking about the results. Hugs tend to be a rare occurrence for me here in New York but today, I received and gave multiple hugs. Folks were hugging people they barely knew. The co-working space organized therapy and meditation sessions to help folks process. People huddled together, sharing where they were at: their frustrations, their fears, their anger, their guilt. The mourning is real and it’s necessary to acknowledge. As heavy as today was, it was beautiful and difficult to witness and be a part of this communal process of grieving.
I keep reminding myself and the folks around me that Trump is not the problem. He is merely a consequence of deep-seated issues born out of our country’s history: imperialism, classism and racism (to name a few). Even though Hillary seems like a better option, having her as president wouldn’t create the change that this country desperately needs. It was a matter of either having all the ‘isms out in the open, allowing bigots to speak their hate freely without recognizing the pain induced by their words and actions, or maintaining a similar status quo to now, where some folks sit around and acknowledge that racism and sexism exists…but do nothing to change things.
I am angry…but not at Trump (although I am angry at the fact a man like him exists and will have greater influence and power in this country…). I am not even angry at the third party voters, the people who didn’t vote, or the people who voted for Trump. I’m angry that this is happening. We can dig into the root causes of that all day, which is real and necessary work… but I also have a deep desire to figure out where to channel my anger because it has the potential to wear and tear me down. And that’s what our current capitalism and imperialist system is built to do: oppress us to the point of falling apart.
Amongst my many fears, I fear the state of our global politics. I deeply believe in our interconnectedness and know that there will be repercussions as a result of having Trump as president of the states and Duterte as president of the Philippines. I am still proud that Duterte wants to cut ties with the states but such a stance would only appeal to a U.S. president who acknowledges the Philippines’ need for real independence. I also fear what may happen to Filipinxs currently in the U.S.
After work, I joined my Filipinx American and Filipinx kasamas and took to the streets. We, along with thousands of people, walked from Union Square to Trump Towers on 56th and 5th Avenue. It was cathartic to yell my lungs out, to let tears fall, to be embraced and to give hugs, to chant with complete strangers, to make people pay attention by stopping traffic and blocking intersections. Collective action can be healing.
My legs are weary. My voice is shot. I’m physically and mentally exhausted from the past few days — but tonight sparked some hope within me again.
On my subway ride home, I held one of the signs from the rally that read “Filipinxs against Trump and fascism.” A man sitting across from me tilted his head to see what words were written on the sign, which gave me the courage to hold it open the rest of my ride.
I watched two white womxn right across from me do their best to not acknowledge my existence. Meanwhile, two womxn, one white and another black, sitting beside me peered over my shoulder and asked me if I was at the rally. I listened to them describe how they processed within their classes and their theater community. Another white millennial womxn saw my sign and sparked a conversation with me. Shortly after, a black womxn approached us and we were all talking about how tonight went and what we can do moving forward. I watched men and women of color nod at the sign in approval, few white folks seemed to have the courage to look me in the eye or glance at my sign. A man approached me just as I was about to get off and said, “I heard that Trump paid everyone to vote for him. Hillary should have been elected.” I quietly added, “Right, although she’s not that much better.” I’ve never had so much interactions with complete strangers on a New York subway before.
I am not a fan of death but I also know it is an inevitable part of life. And as awful as death is, I have watched it bring communities together.
Similarly, I am not a fan of this election or its results…but in a way, the results were inevitable because too many people in this country are complacent and/or greedy. And yet, as awful as it is, I saw how it is bringing communities together. Division is real. I strongly urge you to find ways to build bridges, spark dialogue, advocate and create real change within the communities you are a part of. Today’s the first day after the election and there is much work to be done.
Take care of yourselves and your communities all. Praying lots. Holding onto all the hope I have left. Sending you all positive vibes and love as we move forward.