Growing up in Dallas, Texas, I was surrounded by people who look like me, and often interacted with many who don’t. So, in 2015, when I learned I would be moving to Cheyenne, Wyoming, I couldn’t help but feel anxiety about the state’s less than 1 percent African American population. One of my first experiences at the local mall was walking into Spencer’s and seeing Confederate flags and associated paraphernalia. I was heartbroken; I took that as a sign I would never belong.
This political season has caused many in my community to seek out ways to make people like myself feel safe.
When the election results revealed Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States – and my state voted overwhelmingly for him – I was disappointed, but not surprised. Instead, I prepared myself for an increase of Confederate flags, and a decrease of comfort. Despite what the numbers reflected, however, the overwhelming majority of individuals I socialized with rejected the hate-based philosophies of our new president. If anything, this political season has caused many in my community to seek out ways to make people like me and other marginalized groups feel safe.
I wondered if there would be any place for a social justice writer in this Trump nation. But my friends refused to support my defeatist attitude. A close friend reassured me that the world needs to hear my voice now more than ever. Others whom I’d come to know over the past two years were also supportive, reassuring me that if I ever had any issues, I could come to them. It was heartening that so many people who would not be impacted directly by this new administration actually cared how I was feeling.
I was surrounded by people who made pledges to fight for my cause.
On Jan. 21, I decided to attend our local Women’s March despite having concerns that my Blackness would be expected to take a backseat to my womanhood. I was relieved, then, to see several “Black Lives Matter” signs dot the crowd. I received nods of affirmation as I held my “Ain’t I a woman” sign, making it clear that my race would not be a secondary consideration.
Nearly every speaker made mention of intersectional feminism – the overlapping of social identities like race, class, ability, and gender. There I was in a town where hardly anyone looked like me, but I was surrounded by people who made pledges to fight for my cause. Not only were there signs that affirmed my worth as a Black woman, but there also were signs that lifted up those in the LGBTQ community. The outpouring of support brought me to tears.
During the march, we were given information on how to stay involved on the restrictive policies that were headed to our state. We were advised to write our local newspapers expressing our lack of support for four upcoming Wyoming House bills: HB0116, which limits abortion access and prohibits sale or transfer of aborted cells/tissues; HB0132, which fines doctors for delayed abortion reporting; HB0182, which requires a 24-hour waiting period pre-abortion; and HB0135, an LGBT discrimination bill. In our state, abortion providers are rare and women have to drive hours to find one. HB0182 was particularly problematic because it resulted in hardships like overnight-stay costs, missed work, and child care expenses.
In Trump’s America, I have found a place where despite being a minority, I am not marginalized.
As a cis heterosexual, I’m not affected by many of those bills, but the concern my community expressed for my issues helped me to stand up for others, as well. Since relocating to our new town, I have become more politically active. I attend the local Unitarian Universalist church, where the leadership seeks to improve conditions for marginalized groups through policy. It’s a place that celebrates religious freedom, as well as freedom from religion, and actively fights injustice. Since joining, I am more aware of the importance of being involved in the political process. My vote is my voice.
Although my new church is leading the charge at making me feel welcome, there was recently a community meeting of 60 to 70 people, in which many of us who were involved in the march came together to discuss other ways to make our town more progressive. With rough times ahead under the current administration, it was very encouraging. I find comfort in knowing that in Trump’s America, I have found a place where, despite being a minority, I am not marginalized.
Maybe Trump’s rise to political power was necessary for us to join forces and fight intolerance. My experience has shown me that even with our cultural and social differences, we can still stand up for and with each other. I would like to see more people who might be feeling hopeless, who might be the only Black face in a white crowd, who might feel like the only blue-state person in a red state, willing to oppose injustice.