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  • By Aldwin Fajardo-Ponder

No president of mine

Sacramento, California — I supported and voted for Hillary Clinton. She will not be the 45th president of the United States but I am genuinely proud I stood with her. In fact, I believe that voting for her is one of my most significant contributions to the advancement of many critical issues we face today — from global warming to peace and equality.

Just like Hillary, I want girls to have the same freedom as boys in pursuing their dreams. I want them to enjoy equal opportunities in making sure those dreams get fulfilled. And when they grow up, I want them to get paid as much as boys do for the same, exact work that they do. I want them to have the same access to success as boys do without having to work twice as hard. Not for anything else but because they’re worth it. As Hillary told little girls who watched her concession speech on Nov. 9: “[N]ever doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

Like Hillary, I want people of color to have equal access to achieving their American Dream. As a person of color born and raised in the Philippines, this is more of a selfish wish. As are millions of other immigrants, however, my place and citizenship of birth don’t make me less of an American. In fact, I believe it should carry more weight because my being an American is an informed decision. It’s a choice I made as a thinking adult. To borrow a quote, I was not born in this country; the country was born within me.

Like Hillary, I believe that the pursuit of happiness should be color-blind. The playing field to success should be level to everyone — white or not. No one should be denied the chance to personal and professional growth because their names sound like Tanisha, Jose, Francisca, Huang, Fernandez, Cho, Nguyen or Fajardo. I once applied for a newspaper job three times and was only considered for an interview after submitting the same resume without “Fajardo” in my name. I was offered the job in a practically all-white newsroom but only because my American-sounding gay-married name opened the door for me.

Like Hillary, my hope is for everyone to be seen according to what they can give regardless of their skin color, the language they speak, the god they worship, or who they love.

Like her, I wish to see a United States that embraces the diversity of its peoples; an America that doesn’t judge its citizens on the basis of their ethnic origins, religious beliefs or the gender of the person they cuddle with. It is the kind of Uncle Sam I had in mind when I chose to be his nephew. It’s the kind of America I thought it’s turning out to be in the past few years when marriage equality became the law of the land; when I was allowed coverage under my husband’s health insurance plan; when a transgender friend was allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to her gender identity; when federal contractors were banned from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation; and when a woman finally had a serious shot at becoming president.

For a while there, it seemed as though the path to seeing the America of my dreams come to life has been paved — undeviating and hurdle-free. But when the first sign of a looming upset — of historic proportions — broke out, I felt lost. There was no pain, just fear. It’s as if my place of refuge had vanished. It feels as if I am no longer safe; not even in my own home. Not only did my hero fall down, she was defeated by someone that had, for many months, mouthed about crushing my civil liberties to pieces.

Donald Trump’s win is not just about him becoming the most powerful man in the free world. To me, his victory means the death of everything I had hoped for. Every vote he received was a vote against what I am and against what I can be. Every vote for him felt like a vote against me and my kind of Americans — non-white, not straight, not Christian, and girls with big dreams. Trump’s win wasn’t just Hillary’s loss. It is personal to many of us because we were the subject of the hatred he spewed during the campaign. It is the same rhetoric of bigotry and misogyny that engulfed thousands of his supporters — many of whom have already set the hate in motion, sending minorities in fear for their safety.

(Aldwin Fajardo-Ponder is the executive director of Write to Empower, a not-for-profit advocacy journalism organization. He is a veteran journalist, who worked on Saipan and Guam and is now based in Sacramento, California.)

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