This fall, attorney Brenda Lopez will become the first ever Latina in the Georgia state legislature. Brenda won her Democratic primary in House District 99, a district in Gwinnett predominantly diverse on a platform that stressed community conversations, community development, public education and transportation needs.
Brenda won not only because her campaign was led by an incredible group of grass-roots volunteers that not only knocked on doors, but also talked to people, discussed their fears, educated them and encouraged them to have their voices heard. Brenda won because her message was one that resonated will all people; because what most people want is to be heard, to be included, to be part of the community, to be part of something bigger and better.
Brenda’s story is the ultimate American story. A story of overcoming obstacles and hard work. A story that is reflective of the current reality of the district, the county, the state and the country.
And this is the question we are faced with today: What is our story? Who are we?
Are we a nation that acknowledges and welcomes diversity as one of its greatest strengths? Are we a nation that stands for families, all families? Are we the kind of people that see the good, the potential and the possibilities in the in our neighbor? or are we a nation that encourages isolation, fear, despair and distrust of people that do not look like us?
Many individuals, too many, have become emboldened by the hateful rhetoric of this election year. Immigrants, muslims, transgender people have been and continue to be attacked in every single possible way.
And this is the biggest issue with Trump campaign. We no longer discuss facts, we talk about feelings.
“Rhetoric is deception” as “A Closer Look” host Rose Scott stated a couple of weeks ago; and it is true. The hateful rhetoric will have millions of people feel like “we”, the “other” have stolen or are to blame for whatever they considered “great” and is no longer available or is no longer part of their reality. And that feeling will linger and stay long after November.
This divisive idea and conviction that it is OK to generalize and stereotype the “other” is unfortunately now part of mainstream culture.
Last week, an individual told me totally unprompted: “Just so you know, here we believe that all lives matter”. What made this person say that? I will never understand, the only thing I did was to speak about an event celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month but I guess perhaps a Latina and advocate for her community is threatening enough that she felt she needed to assert her value.
Where does anger lead us?
While I do understand that accepting the changing face of America takes time for those that did not want to open their eyes before… The truth is that America never had one face. Immigrants have been here from different countries and cultures since Immigrants came to “discover” these lands, since immigrant pioneers started creating their own communities. Change is tell us we are alive and we are growing and evolving.
Our generation is a generation that does not see things black or white. Our friends are from all walks of life, all colors and all cultures. Our families look all different but at the end, we all want the same things: Safety, education, healthcare, respect.
Brenda is of course a signal of THIS generation. Our generation. A generation that sees the growing strength of Georgia’s minority populations. Specifically Latinos registered to vote have tripled in numbers since 2004 and we are only growing. More men and women, especially women, are engaged and committed to cast a vote. In 2012, 6 million Latina women cast a ballot, compared to just 5.2 million Latino men.
Our generation is one that saw with eyes wide open the moment when Henry Cejudo won an olympic gold medal for the US and wrapped himself in the American flag. Cejudo, the son of undocumented immigrants so poor that sometimes had to move at night from an apartment to a friends home because they lacked rent money is the story of America at its best.
Representation isn’t just about optics and images. It’s about personal stories, and Cejudo’s story is one that represents all of us, a story full of promises and opportunities. Just like Brenda Lopez’s story.
And WE, you, me, them, are writing America’s story.