Last time I was back at home, I sat at dinner with my parents, my aunt, and my uncle. Five minutes into dinner, as the table shared one of those depressing plastic baskets of grease-soaked chicken wings, I was asked if I’d rather see Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump win the presidency, I said that I wished we had other options, but given the two, Clinton was no doubt the better choice.
For the 15 minutes until our food came, my father and uncle ranted in response to my answer. They talked about immigrants taking jobs, refugees threatening their safety, minorities complaining too much and not working hard enough; they talked about “cunts like Hillary” and “feminist bitches”; they talked about my generation lacking any moral values.
And all I did was listen. I sat there, bit my tongue, lowered my eyes, and accepted it as usual. Coming from an unusually conservative, Catholic family in a liberal East Coast state, I learned to adapt with silence at an early age.
Rather than openly objecting to something I found disgusting, I would say nothing at all. When asked my opinion, I would try to present it as inoffensively as possible, if I told the truth at all. This was how I kept peace.
In part, I did this because I lived with my parents and had to rely on them emotionally and financially. I remembered thinking that some day, in however many years down the road, I would shove my opinions down my family’s throat like they did to me.
Now that I live 1,100 miles away from my hometown and have a good job, now that I’ve built a fulfilling life completely separate from my roots, I don’t want to do that.
I have no desire to force my beliefs on anybody. All I need is to think freely and express my opinions like everyone else. This isn’t unreasonable in any way.
All I want to do is stick up for myself. When asked my opinion, I’ll state it unapologetically and defend it vigorously. When I hear something blatantly racist or sexist or homophobic, I’ll say something.
In Trump’s America, staying silent is inexcusable. Biting my tongue only condones hatred, and I can’t do that. I’m done playing nice to keep the peace. I hope you are too.