To those concerned about Free Speech

You write/share the articles that tell me I want to be coddled because everything offends me. You tell me that I am part of a generation of students/activists who “can’t handle it”, who are obsessed with trigger warnings, who want to avoid discomfort or “difficult” conversations at all costs. You tell me that my safe spaces are now weapons against you. You tell me that I’m attacking your freedom of speech, threatening the intellectual spaces of good old America. You tell me we are raising a generation of students who won’t be able to cope out in the “real world”.

You are wrong. And you insult your own intelligence. This is for you.

Since birth, I have experienced the real world. Since birth, I know how dark, evil, and cruel the real world is and can be. I have seen violence first hand, seen it break the bodies of those I love, kill the bodies of those who look like me. I have seen the sharp teeth of alcohol, the despair that poverty invokes, what it feels like to flick the light and not have it turn on, not knowing when would see it again. I know how exhausting it is, how confusing it is, how debilitating it is, to be called spic, wetback, Mexican nigger, day in and day out, hearing it for the 23 years I have lived, even now. I know what it is to be racially profiled by police, by everyday people who see the color of my skin and can only see “an illegal alien, criminal, dropout, drug addict” and so on, despite not knowing me. I know death, have lost friends to the violence of a gun, seen others succumb to depression with no help in sight, seen families broken apart by deportation, feared for my kin who do not have documents. I have existed in the world as best I could while dodging bullets.

I knew well before college what the world was. I have been hurt by it. And I have survived it.

Before I ever stepped foot unto a college campus, before I even believed that could be a possibility, I knew what the real world was. Do not tell me I am not ready for it, because I experience it everyday, every second my heart beats, as does my Sister, mi Madre, mi Padre, mi Abuela, mi familia, my Partner, my kin….

But I ask myself, why do you believe I am not ready, that students of color, students who are women, students from impoverished backgrounds, students who are gay, trans, and/or queer, are not ready for the real world? Why do you think that we can’t handle tough conversations, when our lives have been defined by them? Is your reference point one where your child(hood) has been one of relative comfort, where you were not judged for the color of your skin, assaulted because of your gender, attacked because you existed at the margins?

Instead, it seems to me, it is you who wants to be coddled, who needs protection, who isn’t ready for the world, the world as I experience it.

You want some free speech? Here it is.

Every time I tell you my body has been violated, either physically or psychologically, you do not want to hear it. When I confront you on the despair I feel when you rock blackface or a costume that fetishizes or caricatures my culture or the cultures of those you have colonized, and then try to educate you about how it is part of a systemic issue, you run away. When I try to place at your feet our sins as Americans, the genocide of millions of indigenous people and nations, the enslavement of Black people, the systemic and epistemic violence they endured for hundreds of years, that they continue to endure, the rape of women, men, and children, by you and your ancestors, how your ancestors owned human beings and tortured them and how your wealth is a direct result of that slavery, you dismiss me. When I try to educate you about the lynchings, about the abuse, about the neglect, about the erasure of histories, you ask for evidence and deny its authenticity when I present it. When I try to engage with you and teach you the history of our nation, my history, my pain, you are unable to hold it. You cannot cope with your guilt, with your privilege, with your complicit reality where by your very breath and heartbeat you are crushing the lives of people of color and continue to commit genocide against the indigenous people of this nation, to which I too am complicit as I am not indigenous.

Already you put up your defenses as you read this, already you feel attacked, already you feel ashamed, ostracized, afraid that someone will call you racist, classist, sexist. What is it? Do you need me to be kind? Should I use softer words? Should I censor myself to make sure you are conformable enough to have a conversation about genocide, slavery, rape, poverty, pain, suffering, violence? Why are you leaving, walking away, shutting your door in my face, or expelling me from the bloodied ground you stand on?

It is because you can’t take it. It is because you need to be coddled. It is because you can’t swallow the fucking fact that everything that revolves around you, around us, depends on the oppression of millions of bodies. It is because when I suddenly use my free speech, your lack of words isn’t because I am holding your mouth shut, but because there are no words to justify the sins you and your ancestors have committed. It is because when you do finally speak, your words are sharp swords that continue to bury the truth deeper and deeper into your amnesia.

I want to have these conversations. It is you who doesn’t. I know its painful, I’ve known that pain since my parents looked at me for the first time with all the love they could give, a love that could not shield me from the world, a world you think I’m not ready for. I am ready. I’ve been ready. I didn’t have a choice. And I do want to speak about the issues you think I can’t handle, but see, we’ve been having these conversations for hundreds of years, only we’ve had them on your terms. Now it is time for it to be had on mine.

I have made a choice. I made the choice to not tolerate your voice and let it go unabated. I made the choice to challenge you. And yes I will shout, my voice will thunder, my tears will dry and my eyes scorch, my fist will rise, and I will make you uncomfortable with the unapologetic love I have for myself and my kin. I will call you out, call you racist, sexist, classist.  I will demand reparations, I will demand justice, and I will demand your voice be held accountable when your words dehumanize me, when they perpetuate the long tradition of white supremacy supplanting my body, shattering my bones, and burying me in unmarked graves.

I have made the choice to demand to be treated like a human, to demand that you see me as a complex human being, with my everything. I enter the world everyday now demanding equity, demanding a world where the air I breathe is not toxic, where I can walk as you walk, without bullets, without my heart breaking, without words that continue to kill me. I have made the choice to protect myself, to consider my mental well being a priority, to defend the temple that is my soul, whatever that may mean, and to be happy and find spaces where that happiness can flourish.

I have made the choice to fight colonialism, white supremacy, and patriarchy.

I won’t coddle you. I won’t make you comfortable. I won’t let you deflect this conversation by making it about you, about your speech, about your feelings. Because this isn’t about you. Because this isn’t me trying to take away your speech. Because this is about seeing yourself.

I have made the choice to demand justice. And I will never stop in that pursuit.

Sincerely,

All of me

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