Between the World and Women by Z. Bayardo Inspired by the book, “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” ~ Maya Angelou
The summer of 2020 has just begun and your dad and I have been trying to come up with ways to keep you entertained yet safe. Add to that, Life never fails to throw in a couple of more balls of fire to juggle up in the air. We have been living in strange, uncomfortable, and very uncertain times for four months now navigating life in the middle of a pandemic.
On January 20th, China announced it reached over one hundred cases of pneumonia caused by a new strain of coronavirus. Almost two months later, we left school for Spring Break not knowing but having uneasy feelings that things would be different when we returned. No one could have predicted what it all would really turn out to be. In a matter of days, school was completely turned upside down and inside out. Families were instructed to stop by the school to pick up devices to continue classes virtually. We didn’t return to our desks in classrooms but rather we all logged on to Google Classroom and Zoom.
Living in a pandemic and trying to understand the science behind it all as well as trying to decipher our leadership’s guidance in the midst of an outbreak or lack thereof, was enough to complicate life. Then, the flames of the Black Lives Matter movement were stoked yet again. The BLM flames have always burned vibrantly hot in our country but at this time they went ablaze yet again because Ahmaud Arbery’s lynching by shotgun video was released months after the murder with no evidence of any kind of prosecution of the guilty. Only weeks later the disturbing video revealing George Floyd’s murder under the crushing and asphyxiating knee of a police officer was released and it served as another blow, questioning if all lives truly do matter and served as another example as to why so many scream in exhaustion, “BLACK LIVES MATTER!”. It was a dousing of gas, lighting many to civil unrest. People took to the streets angry, frustrated, demanding justice and true change even in the middle of a pandemic.
While we were trying to enjoy our Spring Break under the pressure of uncertainty of COVID-19, on March 13th, Breonna Shaquille Taylor, a 25yr old EMT was gunned down in a hail of bullets while she slept in her apartment by Kentucky police officers who were executing a "no-knock" warrant. Since then the Louisville, Kentucky city council unanimously passed “Breonna's Law” in which "no-knock" warrants are outlawed and require body cameras to be turned on for every search. However, it is now almost four months later and there is still unrest over Breonna’s death and the police involved. #BreonnaTaylor and #SayHerName is all over social media still demanding justice for Breonna.
With all of the racial tension and upheaval happening in our country I changed my to-read list of books set for this summer. As an educator of black and brown children but mainly as a member of the human race, I want to better understand the role I play in race relations in my community and country so I do what I know and what I do best. I dive deep into reading and discuss. I had been reading the book, “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates for several days, getting into the history of race and violence in our country. Reading the book, a letter from a father to his only son, about the “feelings, symbolism, and realities of living as a black man in America” made me swim in the deep, uncomfortable, yet very present, waters of racism in my country. The intimate and intricate letter to his son explains the "racist violence that has been woven into American culture”.
But then, Life interrupted my reading, as it always does, for an update to the timeline of another current events story. I stopped reading to listen to the family of Vanessa Guillen, a missing 20-year-old Army soldier stationed at Fort Hood, in the middle of a press conference. Vanessa was beaten to death with a hammer. She was dismembered with a machete, and her murder was covered up for months before any action was taken. The family is refusing to accept the handling of it all. They refuse to accept it was a suicide as officials are trying to say it was. The family is demanding an investigation. They shared Guillen’s previous complaints about being sexually harassed by her sergeant but had been afraid to report it. No one was taking the sexual harassment report seriously. No one seemed to care. Her sister cried loudly in desperation demanding justice for Vanessa. Her life mattered. It was heartbreaking to see her two sisters cry in exasperation because no one was doing anything to help or to get honest answers. Both the reading of the book “Between the World and Me” and watching the grieving, broken family of Vanessa Guillen, stirred an infuriating mixture of emotions in me. I went from swimming sewage that is racism to swimming in the iniquitous and all too familiar sexist, misogynistic, violent cesspool of established attitudes and behaviors towards women that have been bred and woven into not just American culture but throughout our world.
Fear and rage surged through me forcing me to put the book down, open my laptop, and moved me to begin writing. Reading the deeply personal letter from a parent to a son warning him of the racist dangers in his world and the current events of femicide that was the end of Vanessa Guillen’s life created a blend of inspiration and influence. I was influenced by a letter to a son and inspired to write my own message to my daughters revealing to them the wickedness of the world women live in. Warning them as a way to prepare and arm them. Advising them of the dos and don’ts in which to live by. Instructing them about living in and navigating through the very complicated relationship between the World and women.
I discovered early in life that there was a big difference between men and women when it came to gender equality and the treatment of the two. And since then, I have had strong feelings on the subject, to say the least. But now, with two daughters of my own that I fought hard to conceive, my feelings of anger can be debilitating if I allow it and emboldening if I empower it.
And so, this letter is for you, mis hijas. May it empower you, embolden you, and in some way help you
“The struggle has always been inner and is played out in outer terrains. Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes in society. Nothing happens in the "real" world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.” ~ Gloria Anzaldua
The 2016 elections are memorable for many reasons I can write a dissertation about but for me, it is most memorable for a positive reason. While some would probably refer to that election as the year America began its four-year-long death at the hands of the newly elected 45th President of the United States of America, I can also remember the 2016 elections as the year a woman ran for president. Not vice president but THE commander in chief.
Hilary Clinton was running for President of the United States in the 2016 elections. There were many great and worthy candidates, who were running to get the party ticket nomination and I remember exactly how I felt when it was known that a woman had won. Putting aside my feelings about what the Democratic Party did to Bernie Sanders, I remember my exact emotions of seeing a woman lead the ticket as the presidential candidate. I wanted you and your sister to understand the importance of it all even if you were too young to understand it and it was way past your bedtime. I wanted you two to truly know the significance of the moment and celebrate it. Yes, there were many who made it a point to share their thoughts and strong feelings about being careful not to focus on a candidate simply because of their sex. I understood that. I completely understand the importance of picking a candidate for their abilities, their merit, and their policies, but at that moment I simply wanted to celebrate women. I wanted to celebrate the collective group that has experienced inequalities, injustices, subjugation, violence, objectification, exploitations, and prejudices. I say that it was a moment to “simply” celebrate women, however, our history and many women who have lived and died before us can guarantee it is no easy and simple task to achieve something that grand in scale in our country. It still isn’t. Because patriarchy is the default.
When I graduated from high school, one could have used me as an example of Khalid’s song, “Young Dumb & Broke“, but I wasn’t so ignorant. I had my thoughts and ideas. I knew I was from here with roots that could carry back over there. I lacked the words and the confidence to appropriately describe myself but I was an American idealist of Mexican descent that was afraid to admit to my Mexican mother and family across the border that I identified strongly with Chicanismo. Chicano was a rebel movement. It was defiance and resistance. Nevertheless, whether my mother liked it or not, it was undeniable for me. I am de dos mundos, de aquí y de allá, todo a la misma vez...Chicana. The university courses I enrolled in, soaking every bit in, allowed me to explore my Chicana identity freely and deeply. It was in a speech and debate class that I chose to do a presentation on La Virgen de Guadalupe. I read and researched in the books “Goddess of the Americas: Writings on the Virgin of Guadalupe” by Ana Castillo and “Borderlands/La Frontera” by Gloria Anzaldua. I felt empowered in my readings. With my presentation, I wanted to share what my father had shared with me years before; the goddess Tonantzin, who La Virgen de Guadalupe really was. It was in that research that I made the connection of the duality that was the praise and disparage of women in our culture. The most celebrated, admired, glorified, and honored deity next to God and Jesus Christ in our culture is La Virgen de Guadalupe. I was thirteen years old when I first traveled with my mother to Mexico City and witness it myself. I saw the overwhelming amount of love and worship with veneration for La Virgen at La Basilica. Men and women, old and young, crawled on their hands and knees as a promesa made to "La Reina de México". In my own home, on this side of the border, I can’t count the times that I walked by a display or an altar to La Virgen in some family member’s home. And like many abuelitas, I remember mine talking to us and teaching us about La Virgen, nuestra madre santa y sagrada. All of that love and devotion for a female deity and yet the women in our families, our mothers, daughters, sisters, tias, primas, abuelas, are all seen and treated as second class citizens. A nasty yet undeniable truth of our culture. How can that be?
"I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own." ~ Audre Lorde
My culture and my country are not the only guilty party in the abhorrent treatment of women. According to the article, “The Global Treatment of Women: Lessons From the Women in the World Summit” by Lauren Ackerman, she states that although there have been some advancements there are still some horrible situations and environments that women live in every day such as “in Somalia, 95% of girls experience genital mutilation. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1,000 women are raped each day. Every day, 10 Brazilian women lose their lives to domestic violence.” According to this UNWomen infographic on the human rights of women, it states that 143 out of 195 countries guarantee equality between men and women in their constitutions as of 2014, yet discrimination against women persists in many areas directly and indirectly through laws and policies, gender-based stereotypes, and social norms and practices.”
If it weren’t for women we would not be here. Literally. A woman birthed us, gave life to us, in her womb enveloped by her uterus and some with breast milk, a woman fed us to life. In many sacred texts women are revered as a symbol for life. If women hold that power to bring forth life shouldn’t she hold more power in our families, our communities, our world? Shouldn’t they be treated with more respect than just a discardable piece of property or a voiceless other half?
In the middle of a family cookout the men will hide their delinquencies from Abuelita, the matriarch of the family, out of respect for her but at the same time turn around and tell their wife to shut the fuck up if they’ve spoken out of line. Men will cheat on their wives, the mother of their children, and expect loyalty from them no matter what because women should stand by their men just like Tammy Wynette said she did. And the wives are the weak ones, the ones that betrayed, for leaving.
There have been one too many songs written and sung in protest for the mistreatment of women. But one song, in particular, comes to mind by the Mexican artist, Gloria Trevi, titled, “Ellas Soy Yo”, translated to, They Are ME. It shows the stark contrast between men and women in our world. It explains all the many and varied ways women are mistreated, persecuted, and abused, all over a beautiful, melodic piece played at the piano.
The song goes, “Deeply in love, she gave herself to him and that’s why they call her a slut, and yet, he’s the one who used her for what he wanted and left. It was her fault they touched her because of that short skirt she wore and that one idiotic comment will never fail to appear, ‘She probably wanted to be raped.’ He’s turning 50 and is considered an interesting man. She’s now 30 and some will view her as old and obsolete. This fucking society in favor of morality can cover us with stones but where are they when another woman is swallowed by sands. Some put a price on innocence and they demand decency yet there is no lack of cowards who impose themselves on women with blows without even reason. In the middle of a world engulfed by overpopulation some love to play god. Having a boy is the most desired while having a girl is considered a punishment”
Suddenly, the song stops and Gloria screams in her microphone with the tone and force of a balled-up fist in the air and exclaims, “May the earth shake in terror when a woman finally lifts her head up.” and she asks what I and many women before have asked in confusion and fury, “How did you forget? You fed from her womb and her blood. Like wings of an angel, she would take you in her arms to take care of you. And instead, you chain her to pain. And with a blow, you erase all her worth.” Those aren’t the silly love songs Paul McCartney sang about filling the world with but it is a reflection of life for women in our world.
In January 2015, 22-year-old Chanel Miller accompanied her sister to a fraternity party at Stanford University. By the end of the night, Chanel was found lying on the ground behind a dumpster with another Stanford student, 19-year-old Brock Turner, on top of her. Miller was unconscious, with alcohol in her system. Two Stanford graduate students were walking by at that very moment that she was being assaulted and Brock Turner was caught. When he tried to run away, the two students held Turner down on the ground as they waited for the police to arrive.
Turner was arrested and indicted on five felony sexual assault charges, two counts of rape, two counts of penetration, and one count of assault with intent to rape, to which he had the audacity to plead not guilty, of course, Even though there were two witnesses. How emboldened he must have been to have the shamelessness, the brazenness to declare himself not guilty in a court of law. Though it was shocking to some it isn’t hard to imagine a man with that much evidence against him still submitting a not guilty plea. He wasn’t the first to try to get away with such crimes so why wouldn't he think he could too?
Chanel Miller was referred to as “Emily Doe” for the sake of her anonymity. We heard more about Brock Turner’s sports accomplishments excelling on the swim team winning state titles in several swim events than about the victim. Instead, the victim was grilled on the drinks she had, the fact that she was alone, if she had a boyfriend or not, and the validity of her assault was challenged even though there were witnesses that caught Brock in the act.
A year later, in 2016, he was convicted of three of the five charges and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment. Yes, a witnessed and caught-in-the-act sexual assailant received a lenient, outrageous, and disrespectful sentence of merely six months. Why? Because Brock Turner had a clean record which according to the judge made him a candidate for minimum sentencing. Brock’s attorney urged for a light sentence arguing that Brock “is a fundamentally good young man from a good family with a record of real accomplishments who made bad choices.” Again, with that kind of support and endorsement why wouldn’t he think he could get away with it?
In 2019, Chanel relinquished her anonymity and published a memoir titled, “Know My Name.” I read the book when it came out thinking I would finally know more about the victim. The book allows her to share her story. Using here words and her voice. She recounts the morning after, while in the hospital when they informed her she was raped. She shares the humiliating experience of having to relive it all again in a public forum at the trial.
This story was heartbreaking from beginning to end but the trail alone was maddening. I remember reading and fearing for my daughters in the future, away at college, at every turn of the page. I made a mental note of rules to share with them. Rules I felt a strong sense of urgency to share with my daughters as soon as possible even though they were both still in middle school and nowhere near on their way to college. That quick list, mental thought has now grown to become a long list of rules for my daughters to live by. Some of these rules I’ve borrowed from my own mother and from wise mothers that have come into my life, while some I’ve found while reading about raising daughters in today’s world. They are:
Your body, your rules! Period.
Never, ever walk through an alley alone!
Always go to the restroom with a partner or a group of friends when at a party or a club.
Do not ever accept an unsolicited drink.
Learn to read the room for your safety; especially when men are in the room with you. Though something as innocent as a friend’s party or your own workplace should be a safe place, it may not be. Women have to be hypervigilant of their surroundings and of the people in them to be safe.
Learn to say NO loudly, decisively, and with conviction.
You are the only person who should dictate how far you will go.
Know that you can come to your father and me immediately and openly if your NO was ignored and you were pushed further than you wanted to go.
You don’t NEED a man - but it’s okay to want the right one. Your father is a perfect example of an equal partner in life and the standard from which your partner should be measured by.
It’s okay to cry when you’re hurt. It’s also okay to smash things; but then, wash your face, clean your mess and get up off the floor when you’re done. You don’t belong down there! But also because, as much as I hate to admit this, you’re not allowed to show those emotions and have those types of breakdowns in this world. You’re not allowed to cry and crash. You will be called crazy, emotional, irrational, and a bitch on the rag. So, come home, get it all out, but when you leave never let them see you break.
Be less sugar, more spice, and only as nice as you’re able to without compromising yourself. So basically, fuck that poem, “girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice.” Sometimes you’ll need to be a little tougher and rougher around the edges but, again, as much as I hate to admit it, always do it in a composed manner so as to not be accused of, or be looked at, as being an irrational, emotional bitch on the rag.
If in doubt, remember whose daughter you are and straighten your crown. That will help you when you need to be more spice than sugar. Your momma, your momma’s momma, and the women before her have all fallen and fought hard and here we are now. You will too.
Again, as much as I hate to admit it, you will have to work twice as hard as your male contemporaries just to stay even with them. Thankfully this will not be a problem because you are your mother’s daughter. CHINGONA, from sunrise to sundown!
Zero tolerance for the boyfriend or husband who is physically, mentally, or emotionally abusive. PERIOD.
Cultivate and celebrate your femininity, don’t manipulate others with it, and don’t allow others to accuse your celebration in feminism as a tool of manipulation because they can’t control their own animalistic desires. This is what that dress code about girl’s shorts and skirts being a distraction to others (i.e. boys) is all about.
When asked your name, state it with confidence. You’ll probably even have to spell it. But always insist it is said completely and without abbreviation or substitution. Your father and I chose your name carefully, be proud of it!
Your body is sacred. Don’t abuse it and don’t let anyone else use it.
Even if it seems as though something goes without saying, if it is important to you, be brave and bold enough to say it anyway.
Know your worth. If you need help with this you can always come to your father and me for input. We have known your worth since before you were born.
Some you never would have imagined being on your side will be allies, i.e. men. Some you’d expect to be supportive should be kept at arm’s length, i.e. women.
You might not be loved and favored by everyone and that’s ok. No eres moneda de oro para caerle bien a todos. You aren’t a gold coin that is loved by all. However, insist you are given respect and give respect to everyone as well.
“I love that duality of Wonder Woman: that she both wants peace and means peace, but when push comes to shove and someone needs to be put down like a dog, that's what she would be willing to do.” ~ Patty Jenkins
Eres una reina y guerrera a la misma vez. Vienes de sangre real. Eres hija de tu madre. Eres chingona en toda capacidad imaginable.
You are a queen and a warrior at the same time. You come from royal blood. You are your mother’s daughter. You are a badass in every way imaginable.
For years, men married women and made them in charge of the house but had no problem making sure they knew they had limited to no powers of real authority. Without hesitation, men denied women a voice by denying them their right to vote and disallowing their voices to be heard in important decisions in their homes and their communities. Consequently, brave, fed-up women fought for women’s right to vote. Women’s struggles have existed for years but strong, daring, outspoken women have also existed and worked laboriously to overcome those struggles as well.
Many don’t believe in the strength women hold so they will underestimate you. Many choose to ignore the capability and potential a woman has and so they will try to deny you and your importance. Through policies and practice, they will try to impose their power over you. These mistakes are theirs but also these mistakes are what require you to work harder. I hate that instead of changes you are the one that has to learn to live with it. I hate that you are the one that needs to accommodate instead of evolution transpiring. Though I share it begrudgingly, this is guidance to help you survive. However, know that, just as there have been for years before you and I were ever born, there are many women today that don’t just take the status quo as is and are working to right those wrongs and to achieve change.
Know that as long as I am alive I am stubborn; living, and breathing the struggle that women before rose up and stood firm to challenge. Part of my existence is to love you and the other is to protect and fight for you. To fight to ensure that you and your sister have no limitations on your dreams and aspirations, no more glass ceilings to shatter, and no more unfair biased obstacles to overcome.
The dual roles that women have involuntarily played in the minds of men have run the gamut of wrong and unjust. They love us but they wrong us. They want us but they deny us. They need us but reject us at the same time in too many ways. It is a taxing contradiction that has at times proven to be deadly. However, we have the power to choose a different set of dual identities. Whether the men of the world have read or agreed to the memo. We do intend to be that Wonder Woman that desires and proposes harmony in the home, in our community, and in the world.
However, make no mistake, we won’t just sit and wait for that peace and coexistence. History is evidence of that. Let it be very clear, we can be a friend or a foe; it will do no one any good to be the latter of the two. Know without confusion, if they stand in our way or try to silence our voice again, or try to tie our hands and our feet to immobility, we will lift our heads in defiance to rise yet again with a surge of retribution stemming from the blood and endorphins that many of us have known and have harnessed in the middle of childbirth to bring forth new life and use that to our advantage. Again, history is evidence of that.
Know that you come from a long line of mighty, intrepid, brazen, brilliant, undeniable women that didn’t wait to be invited to have a seat at the table. They grabbed a scrap of something and beat it until it transformed into a seat and made room at the table for themselves; invited, wanted, or not.
Emma Tenayuca Dolores Huerta Gloria Anzaldua Juana Garcia, tu bisabuela paterna Gloria Mora, tu bisabuela materna Miroslava, tu abuela Y, yo, tu madre… ...have all wrestled the demons with our words, our minds, and our hands, to be where you are now. Now keep going. Remember, you are your antepasados wildest sueños! You are your ancestors' wildest dreams! You will soon learn that “Dreams and reality are opposites. Action synthesizes them.” ~ Assata Shakur. You must keep going and doing the work. Trust me, I know all too well, sometimes it will feel insurmountable and impossible and pointless. Sometimes the demons of our world might feel too powerful to overcome. Sometimes Hope might feel nonexistent and too far to grasp. Sometimes the need to give up will feel so much sweeter and look way more tempting to resist. But resist you will. Because… You are a queen and a warrior at the same time. You come from royal blood. You are your mother’s daughter. You are a badass in every way imaginable.
“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” ~ Gloria Steinman
Pro-women isn’t anti-men. Period.
Through all of the uphill fights, you should know that I have always had love readily present in my life. I had and continue to have an intricate web of beings that have always been on my side, leading me, pushing me, holding me, and cheering me on. And, yes, you need to know that some of those people, some of those allies, are men. Your father has always shown me love and encouragement and has always been an unabashed champion of mine.
When a battle is this great we need all the help we can get. We need male allies and you need to be able to recognize who they are and work with them. They can be a powerful partnership to help dismantle the sexist systems you’re up against. They can be a catalyst for change in their group.
When I was 20wks pregnant with your sister, Mia, our first pregnancy, what was supposed to be our appointment to find out the sex of the baby we were told some very unexpected news that devastated us.
I was so excited to see if we would be having a baby girl or a baby boy that I was looking at the screen thinking I could discover the gender myself. After a long time of silence, I remember looking at the sonographer’s face and seeing concern. I remember naively thinking, “Oh! Maybe she sees twins in there! How exciting!”
After 6yrs of agonizing through infertility, we were finally pregnant and finally into our third trimester only to get the news that our daughter had a severe birth defect. She had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, CDH, in which her diaphragm had a huge hole. The hole allowed her intestines to float up into her chest cavity not allowing for proper lung growth. Several doctors only gave us a 10% chance of survival and recommended termination of the pregnancy. Your father and I went home to process all of the information and our options. We were destroyed and confused, to say the least. I couldn’t think clearly and couldn’t understand why this was happening. After all of those years of infertility hadn’t we already lived our life’s big struggle?
We had to make a decision. All of our doctors and specialists needed to know how to proceed before the pregnancy progressed further. I will forever be grateful to have had your father by my side to live through that time with him. He literally held me up when I couldn’t during that time. He comforted me when I had no more in me to calm myself. He did all of this even though his own heart was broken as well. Without question and without fail he put me and my needs before his the entire time and never once allowed me to feel alone.
To say that the decision was an extremely difficult one to make is an understatement. As my partner in life, your father understood the decision had to be mine. It was my body that would be going through the procedure to terminate the pregnancy and it was my body that would be carrying the baby to term only to lose her. He shared his feelings but made it clear the decision was mine to make. He left the choice completely up to me and I knew he would support whatever decision I made. I struggled with making the right choice. My brain was ravaged with confusion. I was terrified. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go.
Ultimately, I chose to continue with the pregnancy. You could say for purely selfish reasons. You could say out of fear. All I knew for certain was that I wanted that baby. I could feel her moving inside and all I could think of was that more than anything, beyond all wants, I wanted that baby. I made my choice to carry her to term holding my breath with Hope the entire pregnancy.
Mia Marvelle was born via natural birth and let out a single solitary, vigorous little yelp announcing her arrival and giving her one and finally “hello” to us. They quickly intubated her knowing she would need breathing support. After stabilizing her they did some X-rays and sure enough, they showed she only had one fully developed lung and a small nub for another. She would need more than simple intubation. She would need to undergo surgery to connect her to an alternate lung/heart machine called an ECMO. The machine drained her blood from her little body to travel through to the ECMO acting as her lungs, giving her own lungs a chance to grow and develop. This was a process we had been educated on well in advance of her birth as it was a common practice for CDH babies but, again, they informed us of how severe her CDH was and how little lung she had. Every day she was in the NICU I questioned my decision. It broke my heart to see her little body attached to so many machines and to see her face swell so much in a matter of hours from being on the machine. The marvelous high-tech medical machine was supposed to help her but at the same time also caused so much damage to her little body. I questioned my decision wondering if my being selfish did nothing but bring her pain. I questioned myself as a mother. It was and will forever be the darkest, most painful time of my life. And through it all, your father stood by my side trying the best he could to expel all of my doubts. Lifting me when I couldn’t walk. Holding my hand when I couldn’t see the light through all the darkness. He was the reason I endured that time. He isn’t a perfect man as all men are flawed in some way. Don’t confuse my adoration for your father as one of perfection and don’t waste your time looking for that perfect partner because perfection doesn’t exist. However, he has proven that there are men in this world that are not just good but great. There are men in this world that are loyal and that can be your balance. There are men in this world that recognize the wisdom you possess and have no problem learning from you. Like your father, there are men in this world that know when to step aside so that you can lead and when you need them to be a foundation of support while the world around is crashing.
I won’t tell you the “future is female” because you leave out the allies like your father and many other men out there and fail to acknowledge their good work to the progress of equality. But rather, I want you to know that the future is YOURS, mi’jita. Unfortunately, you just need to work doubly hard for it while busting down myths and misconceptions.
If my life ended today I would leave content. Happy and fulfilled for having known you, loved you, and learned from you. I am honored to be your mother. I am so proud of your intellect, your kindness, your courage, and your dreams. Live life with the necessary precautions a woman must take to survive but remember to live and live fully. Your father and I will try to prepare you as best we can for the bumps in the road and the sucker punches around the corner that are inevitable for women in this world but know that we will cheer you on the entire way through. Know that you are equipped to take on that which you don’t choose but Life will bring anyway. But, above all, know you are able to choose the life you want and make it as you want it to be. You just have to believe in your own mighty, intrepid, brazen, brilliant, and undeniable self.
“Though we tremble before uncertain futures, may we meet illness, death, and adversity with strength. May we dance in the face of our fears.” ~ Gloria Anzaldúa
"I do want to create art beyond rage. Rage is a place to begin, but no end. I’m not as wise as my work, but I know if I take the writing deep enough, something larger and greater than myself will flash forth and illuminate me, heal me. I do want to devour my demons—despair, grief, shame, fear—and use them to nourish my art. Otherwise, they’ll devour me." ~ Sandra Cisneros
I know there are some that may not believe me when I say that I love my country. In contrast, I know there are some that will argue there is nothing to love about it.
I turn to my right and the fascists will ask, “How can you say you love this country with all of your irritations and all of the issues you constantly point out and complain about?”
While on my left another will cynically ask in disgust, “What’s to love about this ‘great’ nation with all of its problems and constant unrest?”
I am an American that is also a proud Chicana. Born of Mexican parents, raised on American soil, in the sparkling city by the sea. Fed a constant stream of Siempre en Domingocon Raul Velasco and MTV with Martha Quinn and Mark Goodman. I am an American through and through with a Chicana twist and some Mexican flavor, whether some believe it, like it, or care to acknowledge it. Living in duality is something I, like many, have done since the day we were born. So being able to criticize AND love my country is just another form of duality to add to my existence.
This country is filled with beautiful, hardworking, kind, caring, compassionate people that are my friends and family, and some I don’t even know personally. It is filled with good people born here, that immigrated here and emigrated here and it’s because of all of them that make up this country that I love it. I live here. I’ve made a home here and I am trying my damndest to make it a better place for my kids. I am not blind to the goodness that this country has afforded me. I cannot be ignorant to the advancements this country has helped me and my family. Yes, it is true, I am my ancestor's wildest dreams. And, yes, my ancestors fought like hell for me to be here; on this land, with these gifts, prosperous and more. I cannot deny and must acknowledge the opportunities I have been able to take advantage of.
So, if there is such love why raise a fist in the air in antipathy and protest?
It’s BECAUSE I love my country that I can acknowledge there is an abundance of problems and issues we need to make right. It’s BECAUSE I love my country that I can look at it and acknowledge its flaws in hopes to fix them, change them, grow from them, heal them to come to something new and so much more improved. I wouldn’t be fighting so damn hard to find, face, and fix those issues if I didn’t love my country. It’s BECAUSE I love my country that I refuse to let it be run by the few that care more for the green lining of their pockets than for its people.
It’s BECAUSE I love my country that I refuse to let the few in power that are a strain on it and its democracy, and their deplorable followers that have been emboldened to crawl out from their dwellings of hate, be a representation of it.
I wholeheartedly acknowledge I come from and live in a very privileged bubble that allows me to feel and know that love. I realize right now in the era of #45 (for some it has been much longer than just now) it is hard to celebrate it, acknowledge its good and may feel more disconnected and shackled.
With years of oppression and unjust systems and policies in place with little to no progress while too many die without reason, how can one memorialize that which binds them and kills them? I understand it wholly.
I not only see you but empathize with you and your pain, your rage, and unrest. Yes, there is no doubt, it is a nation with flaws, scars, and deep-rooted issues that need healing, improving, and radical, nerve-shocking to the core changing. Know that there are many of us who are fighting today’s revolution with you and for you. Resisting along with you. Resisting for liberation. Resisting for equity. Resisting for identity. Resisting for our Earth. Resisting for access. Resisting for dreams. Resisting for freedom from violence. Resisting for justice. This 4th of July isn’t one for carefree celebrations for so many reasons. A pandemic, Civil unrest in the streets. Families separated with their kids in cages. There is a lot to work on. However, through the work, I do still celebrate it.
Like any other day, I celebrate and love my country today, on its national holiday, like the radical act of defiance and rebellion that was the nation’s independence — by fighting to improve her every day.
"I write because it results in a pleasure that I cannot translate. I am not pretentious. I write for me. To feel my soul talk and sing and sometimes cry." ~ Clarice Lispector, a Brazilian novelist and short story writer. I can't say it any simpler or any better than this. So I won't.