On Friday, Donald Trump officially took office in the White House. It was a surreal moment, because despite all the advances we’ve made, the fact that a man like Trump can be president in 2017 is a huge leap backwards. After he won the election, I had hopes that despite running on a ticket that played to people’s fears, he would maybe make changes that were for the good of the majority rather than the few. However, if his cabinet picks are any indication, there is a long road ahead of us. After marching with thousands in downtown Los Angeles this morning, though, I can say that a lot of Americans are fired up and ready to rise to challenge. I have to stress that for my husband and I, along with most everyone who is taking a stand, this is not an issue of one party versus another — rather, a stand for our fellow human beings.
When I think about everything we are now fighting for and the people behind these issues, I can’t help but feel emotional. This presidency and the wheels that have already been set in motion as the result of a campaign based on hate, affect not only me and my family, but I personally know a large number of people who are worried about what this means for their health care, sense of safety, education for their kids, right to marry — the list goes on.
By lending our voices to this fight, we are not “complaining,” “throwing tantrums” or “being disrespectful.” If we silently sit by and watch as the rights of our neighbors are slowly stripped away, where do you draw the line? When is it then finally the right time to take a stand? That’s what is so great about this country. We have the freedom to peacefully protest. To call our local representatives and voice our feelings. If people like Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, and Susan B. Anthony didn’t take a stand, where would we be today?
It’s funny how we can share the quotes and remember the good these people did, but when it comes to taking up the torch in our everyday lives, we hold back. Why? As an immigrant whose own family came to America in search of a better life, my love for this country is great. It does not mean, though, that I will sit on the sidelines when faced with injustice.
- I marched with my family today because my husband and I want our children to know that they should never feel compelled to accept the status quo. Just because someone in a position of power says this is how it’s going to be, does not mean you blindly accept it if it comes at the cost of your freedom or the freedom of others.
- I marched because I want my friends and family — everyone, really — who are experiencing real feelings of fear to know that they are not alone in this fight.
- I marched for my daughter, and any future daughters because our bodies are our own. The plan to defund Planned Parenthood, not to mention budget cuts to sexual assault and domestic violence programs are frightening. Believe it or not, Planned Parenthood provides more than abortion services, it’s where women (and men!) go for affordable reproductive health care, if not completely covered. It’s where teenagers who are too scared to talk to their parents about birth control and contraceptives, go to get the protection they need to make sure they’re practicing safe sex. It’s where people go to get tested freely for any sexually transmitted diseases. Sex aside, many Planned Parenthood centers also provide general health care.
- I marched for myself, because as someone who has felt the fear and embarrassment of being seen as an “other,” President Trump has played on this notion and given people a perceived justification to act out on their fears and hate. It’s not right. After 9/11 happened, I was a freshman in high school at the time, I didn’t want people to remember that my last name was Mohammed. I was sure to always be extra nice when going through airport security because I didn’t want the TSA officer looking at my license to single me out for the randomly selected pat down. I also stopped writing out my full name on school assignments — rather, I wrote Ravelle M. because I didn’t want the other students noticing the word “Mohammed” as we passed forward our work to the teacher. My math teacher took notice and called me up to his desk after class one day and asked why I had stopped writing out my last name. I’ll never forget his words after I told him why. “Don’t ever be ashamed to proudly own who you are. I want to see the word Mohammed on all of your papers going forward.” I never wrote the abbreviated “M.” again after that day.
I find this quote by Martin Niemöller to be still fitting today:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
When thinking about whether or not to stand up against injustice, I hope to teach my children by example that the time is always now.