It Could All Have Been for Nothing

By Juan Núñez (Age 17, San Antonio, TX)

I’m not going to lie, I saw it coming. It all started with his infamous candidacy announcement speech. His comments calling my family and I rapists and criminals didn’t feel great, of course, but they were coming from America’s orange version of Dudley Durlsey. A man who started his political career by upholding the belief that people of color aren’t American. I really wasn’t surprise that he said that. What did surprise me was the support he received. The crowds that were cheering, the men and women rejoicing in no longer having to hide their hatred. I saw hope in their eyes. Hope that they could yell racial slurs in the streets. Hope that they would once again have uncontrolled power. I witnessed a wildfire being ignited and I knew whatever was coming was not good. Last Tuesday, my fears became a reality.

To say that my life has completely changed in the last 48 hours would be an understatement. 

I am a legal immigrant, but I am not a citizen. My dad gave up seeing me grow up when he sent my mother, brother and I to the United States so we could have a future that Mexico simply could not offer. More than that, we escaped very real threats in the midst of the Mexican War on Drugs. I don’t know if my brother would be alive today had we stayed. Today, he is a student at NYU.

Immediately I began working. The American Dream promised me hope and told me if I worked hard, I could overcome every hardship set before me. As I began to experience hatred and racism around me, I kept working hard for the promise of a bright future. I kept working for my father’s American Dream, for the future he wanted for me, for the future I dreamt of. Not being citizens means that when my brother enrolled at NYU, we could not apply for any type of loan, he became ineligible for most scholarships and none of us could get a job to help pay. The Mexican currency (the Peso) has been dropping so steeply to the point where everything is twice as expensive as it was when we first moved here. But my father kept working. Every cent the Peso dropped meant a new hurdle he had to overcome, and he never gave up. But we never lost hope. Everything changed this Tuesday.

I don’t know what my future will be at this point. Trump has not even been sworn in and the peso just plummeted. Eight years of mine, and my family’s hard work could’ve been for nothing. Every advanced course, every test, every all-nighter, ever bit of stress I have endured in order to become a more eligible candidate for college admissions could all have been for nothing. My dad’s years of hard work to pay for my opportunities could’ve been for nothing. All the years he gave up, the plays he never sat through, the tennis matches he never attended, the hugs he could not give me. All sacrifices without meaning. As results started to come in, he called me and asked me to start considering non U.S. colleges. I could hear the hopelessness in his voice as he apologized for giving me false hope. I told him I loved him, and I wanted to hug him more than ever. I wanted to feel safe in my father’s arms, but I could not even have that. The U.S. denied our citizenship 3 years ago. It denied me my father’s embrace when I needed it the most. It denied me opportunity. It denied me my future.

This morning, I asked my mom to drop me off at school. She cried as I left the car as she confessed to me she felt as if she couldn’t protect me anymore. I held back the pain and smiled at her, not telling her the reason I asked her to drive me was because I have already been threatened at school. I thought the only thing I had left was freedom of speech. I chose to respectfully and carefully share my thoughts on a troubled night to show Latinos in my area they are not alone. Kids have been talking about beating me up, having me deported, and teaching me a lesson. I’ve been the topic of conversation of every white supremacist in my school. I don’t feel safe at school. I don’t see the purpose in going anyway, because it could all have been for nothing. I feel hopeless.

At this point, I have no hope for the government to protect me in any way. I have no hope for my path to get any easier. I might only have six months left in a country I’ve called my home for more than half of my life. But I want to spend that time doing the only thing that inspires me at this point. Minorities must unite. The support I’ve received from brown individuals is astounding. We are standing together and we refuse to give up. La raza unida jamás será vencida. 

I just want people reading this to understand the injustice I am currently feeling. Our system is flawed and white hate is alive. We must fight it. We must stand together. We must not give up. Love trumps hate.