The Days After: Project Ava Post-Election Reflection

Faced with an impending Trump presidency, Project Ava came together as a space for grief and love in the days to follow November 8, 2016. As we feared, mourned, protested, and reflected, we met with the realities of how to live with oppressed and stigmatized identities in this America. Even though the paths we’ve taken to confront our grief and process our realities diverge, the collective message is that we commit to move forward as our stories are now more important than ever.

Here is a collection from our Project Ava community in address of the days that followed and the times ahead.

Divided States of America 

Driving to work this morning in complete silence as I couldn’t fathom how life could go on today in this America. The mood in our living room was somber last night as we saw everything going red. The House. The Senate. The key states for Presidency and the Supreme Court in the near future.

I haven’t cried, but I’ve been crying. And I haven’t vomited, but only because I am empty inside.

Every single marginalized identity was under siege in this Presidential election and that threat has now manifested into direct action. I do not know who I should be fighting for: women, POC, Black America, immigrants, undocumented folks, the low income, LGBTQ folks, Native Americans, the disabled, survivors, and so many other folks who have been oppressed that I’m ignorant to. How and who should I fight for today, America.

The fear for this election result was beyond the actions taken but the empowerment of a toxic mentality that has kept oppressed communities mentally plagued for our very existence. I am already fearing for my own life and those of my loved ones and cared for. That is the reality of what was at stake. Our worlds and lives were shredded. I will never make light of what we have lost.

Khizr Khan asked if his son would have a place in Trump’s America and last night, America answered with a resounding “no”. None of us do.

11/9/16 abridged from an original post by Kimberly Ta on medium.

Election Reflection

Today the election results really hit me hard;  I finally had 10 seconds to myself to contemplate things fully and to reflect, and that hurt.

Yesterday afternoon in my poverty and anti-poverty class, one of my favorite professors who is also my adviser tried to discuss the election with us and he just broke down. He said, among many things, “I am really angry right now. I just don’t even know what I say to my son. I want to be a better ally and I don’t know where to start,” and just started crying. He asked us to share our own worries and thoughts which was even more emotional because it contextualizes the fears so many of us cannot even comprehend. So, I decided to speak up about how I really feel, too.

I feel like watching Donald Trump get elected is like watching a rich version of my seriously abusive stepfather become president. It’s like watching my worst nightmare get to be the most powerful person in the country. The things he is accused of doing to women (his wife/wives, among others) and to girls (CHILDREN), are horrendous. The stupidity and entitlement that come out of his mouth are unsettling and worrying. The racism and ignorance combined with his ego and certainty in his correctness are heartbreaking and sickening. It is all of these things, things that I grew up watching and experiencing from the hands and mouth of a man I could not hate more, that make me so terrified of Donald Trump. He is the type of man that I set out to defeat and eliminate when I started college – the literal motivation I have for everything I am and everything I hope to be and do – and he is president. He is justifying the actions of men like him everywhere and this national justification is already causing violent impacts. And I feel helpless.

I am still scared and I am still sorry and I am still lost. But, I do know that I can do one thing that I did not have the ability to do as a child, and that is the ability to speak, and loudly. I want to use that ability tonight to say this to all of my friends and colleagues and mentors feeling the same way that I am for all manner of reasons: I value you, your fears and struggles are valid, I will stand up for you, I will fight for you, and we will get through this together.

11/10/16 abridged from an original post by Melanie Nadon on Child Of The Kindly Wests.

On November 8th, 2016, like many in the nation, if not the world, I grieved. I grieved for a country whose people doesn’t believe in the rights of women, of LGTBQ+ folk, of immigrants, of non-Christians. I grieved for an election of an inexperienced president who spews hateful rhetoric. I grieved for my existence as an Asian American woman in a country that doesn’t believe in my existence as something important or necessary.

And in the midst of my grieving, I reached out to my parents for some semblance of relief. Instead, I received condescending, dismissive remarks on my emotions and investment in politics.

“You’re only this upset because it’s your first election,” my mother said.

“You’re too liberal because you’re in college,” my dad said.

“You’re too emotionally invested in things that don’t even matter,” my mother commented.

“Is this because you’re in Asian American Studies?” my dad asked.

“It’s because you’re a college-educated millennial woman,” they both concluded.

Needless to say, I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream out of the frustration that my parents didn’t see the bigger picture of the development of the nation. I wanted to scream about the fear stricken into the hearts of my Muslim, LGBTQ+, undocumented, black, and female friends. I wanted to explain to them why I’m not scared about Trump as president, but rather the actions his supporters could take. I wanted to outline the ways in that this is not the same as my favorite sports team losing. This is not because I am a feminist or a liberal or a Democrat. This is because I am a human being with empathy for other human beings that are not myself.

But how do I explain these things to my immigrant parents who live in California? How do I articulate the fear I have for the lives of my marginalized friends? How to I explain these things to people who worked their everything off to come to America, who sacrificed so much for a better life for me and my sister, and who believe they have the same privileges as white people because they’ve achieved the American middle-class financial stability? How do I reconcile the overarching racist, sexist, and classist beliefs they hold from emmigrating out of a communist country in the midst of a revolution?

I see it every time they make a comment on the “exceptionalism” of my black friends in college. I see it in their surprise when I mention my gay friends’ relationships. I see it in their wariness when I mention my Muslim friends’ names. And it’s a never-ending battle to try to convince and argue and debate with them about these issues, while upholding the social obligations I have to filial piety and respect towards elders.

As an upper middle-class able-bodied Asian American born and raised in California attending an elite university, I recognize my privilege. And while I know I have much to be grateful for, especially in all that my parents have done for me, I find it difficult to navigate between my own beliefs and theirs. And while other students had the ability to take time off on Wednesday to process their grief, I pushed myself through that day, because my parents did not sacrifice everything for me to grieve an abstract idea of a president. And it’s a complexity I still struggle with everyday.

Yes, I see the points that they made about Trump supporters. Yes, after a day of emotional reaction, I now understand the reasons to how Trump won. It is not about disagreeing with my parents’ opinion or my inability to see the other side. It has nothing to do with my liberalism and their conservatism. Instead, it is about a moment when my parents could not separate their grieving daughter from her political beliefs. It is more about the moment when my parents dismissed my feelings and explained logic to me rather than attempt to comfort my grief. It is about the ways they reduced my reaction down to my femininity and my age and my intellect.

And in reaction, it is about my own confusion as to whether or not my beliefs are true, are legitimate, or are correct. I am suddenly within a complex mesh of upholding my beliefs while still remaining respectful to my parents as older people. How does one navigate that space? Is it even possible, and is it even worth it?  

11/10/16 by Alicia Zheng.

Self-Identity: “Diverse”

“Our understanding is that you have self-identified as diverse.”

That was the exact sentence phrased in an email I received from my law school the day following the election. It was actually an email encouraging me to register for the 1L Diversity Expo to take place two days later, made up of a majority of large law firms with maybe two public interest and government employers. One day after that email, the University finally sent out a response which was seven paragraphs long but said essentially nothing, aside from a bare-minimum commitment that they wouldn’t accept harassment, racism, or discrimination while also stating our “community” draws strength from differences of opinion and perspective. I fail to see how a difference of “opinion” regarding the humanity of marginalized people would give any community strength. I remain here, exhausted that my “diverse” identity is constantly tokenized while I’m also told to accept people who hate us in the name of “open-mindedness”.

I am privileged to be here in so many ways, but still I am fearful of what this future holds for myself, family, friends, and millions across the country and beyond our borders. These past few days I have felt numb and heartbroken that the white supremacy that our nation was founded upon has reared its head so that the president-elect’s supporters now feel empowered to inflict violence upon anyone they see as “other.” I am just as fearful of the long-term effects in policy and the law which will even further systemic oppression over the next four or more years.

I’ve heard that people in the line of work I want to do must be eternal optimists. That’s not me. I don’t believe that the character of our America is ultimately rooted in diversity and inclusion like so many say, because history has shown us since the founding of the nation up until now, that it simply isn’t our reality. While I don’t look towards America’s “inevitable trajectory” of progress, I do look to the continuing fight for liberation which seeks to always imagine the better possibilities and futures we deserve.

11/12/16 abridged from an original post by Theanne Liu on medium.

What Would It Feel Like?


11/13/16 poem by Vivien Bui.

I Hope You Can.

Dear President-Elect, Mr. Donald J. Trump,

A popular campaign slogan was used during the last Presidential election titled “Yes We Can”. This slogan transformed into a vision and lead the national for the last eight consecutive years to progress in changing American society’s view of its diversity of people and the power of the their voices in creating such change to propel our nation forward.

I would like to propose that you, President-Elect, Mr. Donald J. Trump, listen to this Vietnamese American woman’s vision for you presidential term, if you do accept the position of being the next leader of the United States of America.

My vision is titled, “I Hope You Can” and it consists of a simple action to achieve this vision. All that required is that you stand in complete silence to yourself, perhaps outside of one your copious and luxurious hotel balconies and solemnly stare into the distance, imaging the people you will soon serve during your term as President of the United States of America. Standing on perhaps the Trump Tower balcony, on the 45th floor and reflect within yourself if you are able to achieve the following for our nation:

I hope you can confirm you are an intelligent and brilliant man who has crafted and mastered the art of public speaking and persuasion.

From your political debates and campaigning, I hope you can  finally see the bear ripe fruit that has grown from your public speeches and presidential rallies. It is ripe with hatred and dripping with the blood of those who intend to harm another human being.

I hope you can imagine that your own talented daughters blessed with pulchritude, kin and blood, if not born as a Trump or even as a Trump, can be subjected to potentially contributing to the frightening statistics of women who are sexually assaulted annually.

Your wife and daughters are not exempted.

From the atrocious speech you let seep through your lips about the LGBT community and those who live in anxiety and fear of their identities. Your oppression contributes to hindrance of them living to aspire to become functional citizens of this nation, hindering them of reaching their potential of achieving the American Dream, which yourself has maximized said American Dream with your greasy wealth.

I hope you can remember that in U.S. history, minorities and ethnic groups were given refuge in this country and welcomed to seek autonomy in a country that honors freedoms. Those migrants groups who sought refuge in this country for many years, were working and still currently working to repay their gratitude in the blue and white collar workforce.

From your vision and speech of recalculating our current oversized U.S. population, removing and condensing those migrant and ethnic groups with threats of deportation will result perhaps in a mass unintended exodus.

I hope you can understand that you have inculcated your supporters with an Aryan-centric mentality and affirmed the only color who can survive your reintroduction of Aryan natural selection is the color of white.

From your counterpart Pence’s Conversion theory, he plans to shake the “gay” out of people. You might as well shake the Vietnamese out of me and over 1 million other of my ethnicity residing in this nation.

I hope you can fathom the mass confusion, searing pain, and surrendering belief of this nation if you proceed into your presidency with neglect of the welfare of this nation.

Your position as former business mogul is over. Your responsibility is the executive leader of this nation, this America that has progressed to a powerful nation. It is your turn continue the legacy of this nation as the land of the free and designated for “We The People”.

I hope you can.  

11/14/16 letter by Olyvia Chac-Nguyen. 

In the days after, we at Project Ava commit to fight, to protest, to share stories, to love and to move forward. This will be a living breathing space for our community and with each regressive step from this administration, will battle with progressive dialogue.

Ava Love.

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