Fundamentally, At My Core, I Am Scared

By KA Jackson-Ramos (Age 20, Rockford, IL)

I am a single mother trying to raise a beautiful little girl.  I am a college student paying my own way, working hours at jobs that people don’t want and using food stamps and state supplied medical coverage because I do not make enough for my daughter and I to survive.  I am a woman of color from a family made up of Mexicans, Blacks, and Whites.  I am a non-Christian pansexual that loves regardless of equipment because your soul is beautiful.  

I am scared. Fundamentally, at my core, I am scared.  

When I was younger, my biological great-aunt on my father’s side told me “Be glad you are so pale.  You may need it one day.”  She was a wizened old black woman who had seen so much over the years.  Auntie was our matriarch, and when she said something, you knew to listen.  Every time I visited my biological father, Auntie would take me aside.  Those days were filled with lessons.  How to respond to people of authority so they would hopefully in turn let you keep your life.  How to fit into the background and to keep your head high enough to hold onto your dignity, but not too high that someone would decide to put you in your place.  But one lesson stood out the most.  This woman never finished school, but knew the ways of the world.  When I was around thirteen, she took me aside for what would be the last time.  She told me “Your skin is pale.  You are beautiful.  Accept your skin and its history, but be prepared for the day it comes with chains.”  That night she taught me how to make a cream to lighten my skin.  Lemon, honey, coarse salt, and mint.  She told me, “One day, you may need this.  You are light enough for it to work.  When that day comes, blend in, but be strong.”

I never thought that day would come until I was holding my daughter in my arms, watching the votes come in and the Electoral College giving Trump the lead.  I had taken my daughter to the polls with me as I voted, beaming because the future was so bright.  I had cast my vote for a woman to be president, something so many women had never had the opportunity to do.  My daughter would have a bright future.  We were making history.  Until we weren’t.  And as the numbers came rolling in, I watched as that bright future dimmed to nothing but mere embers.

Her father messaged me from Mongolia where he was studying abroad.  We discussed the emergency plans that we had almost jokingly made when we had heard Trump was running for president so many months ago.  We had always said we’d move to Canada as a family, start anew there, but we both knew that would never happen.  At best, he would take her and go while I stayed here to help my mixed-race and disabled family members.  We both knew though, no matter what, that if Trump won, my daughter would be safer with her father.  She has a lily-while paleness that could rival paper, just like her father.  She inherited my curls, in a golden halo.  Her eyes a piercing blue, just like her his.  They make sense together.  With her father, she does not draw attention and the stares as she does with me.  And in a world where having melanin in your skin can get you killed, attention is not safe.

The more votes rolled in and the greater the unease grew.  My adoptive father, a man whose parents immigrated here from Mexico, messaged me around midnight when he got home from his night shift factory job.  We discussed Hillary and how we never liked her, but we had the hope that she would pull through.  But we knew she wouldn’t.  I asked him what he thought this meant for us and he told me “If Trump tosses me over the wall, just come to Mexico and start over.”  My father is a hard-working man.  He served his country in the US Army for over a decade, and yet, this country he fought so hard to protect and defend, elected a man who wanted him and his family gone.  

In a sick and twisted way, I am lucky.  I can hide my sexuality.  I can fake being a follower of the Christian religion.  I can give my daughter to others who can protect her better than I can.  I can lighten my skin and make my hair a lighter auburn to blend into this white community.  But I should not have to.  I should not need to hide because so many people let their hatred and xenophobia control our beautiful country.  I should not need to give up so much because so many millennials voted third party or not at all out of protest.  We lost.  This saffron-colored man will have the power to strip from me and so many others the basic rights of every human being.  

I need to decide whether to fight tooth and nail against this at risk to my daughter and her safety, or to hide and blend in to protect her until this nightmare is over.  This was never a choice I should have had to make.  But no matter what, I will still hold on to hope.  This world is still beautiful.  We can work towards that brighter future, no matter if we choose to fight or flee.  I have faith in us.  In the strength of our unity.  But I am still scared shitless.