Valley Voices

Why I am marching on Saturday

On Saturday, the day after Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, I will join millions of women across the nation to register my concerns about the new administration.

The marches are taking place in every state in the nation, with women of all walks – races, religions, educational attainment, career and socio-economic status – joining their voices and standing together in solidarity to express dissatisfaction with Trump’s stance on a number of issues.

I am marching in Sacramento, accompanied by family, friends and colleagues. I’m traveling a distance of 175 miles in questionable weather to walk/chant/sing for seven hours and then drive four hours to get home.

I am marching because:

▪  I agree with Martin Luther King Jr. that “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

▪  There’s too much at stake and so much to lose.

▪  I am African American, an immigrant and a woman – part of three constituencies that are threatened by the Trump presidency.

▪  I want the United States of America to continue to be the greatest country on earth.

I was born in Nigeria and arrived in the United States a few days after Richard Nixon resigned his presidency. I was a college junior on the night Jimmy Carter squeaked by Gerald Ford. I watched Carter lose to Ronald Reagan.

I followed the presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, fascinated not only by the politics but the decency of those who sought and occupied the office.

While I certainly had preferences during each race, I never worried that the outcome of the election would threaten the center of my being, until now.

A few weeks before the 2016 election, two women came to my home to solicit my support of Republican candidates and Trump. I stared at them incredulously.

Did they not see that I was black? Had they not heard my accent? How could they have failed to notice I was a woman?

So I will not be silent when I march in Sacramento. I will represent my three main identities, which though they may intersect, stand to lose a lot in the coming years if Trump fails to heed our cries.

I came to the U.S. by choice, as an immigrant, first as a student and later, to live here and call this country home. I chose this country because of its promise to all people, regardless of ethnicity or creed.

With a stroke of his pen, Trump could revoke deportation protections that are currently in place. I am particularly concerned about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the 840,000 young undocumented immigrants who have been approved for the program.

His policies would rip families apart and destroy innocent lives.

As president, Trump would have sole discretion over the number of refugees – those fleeing war and other threats to their safety – allowed into the U.S. Based on his past rhetoric, he is likely to starkly reduce the number. Trump repeatedly stated that refugees from some countries were threats to national security.

What about women fleeing sexual abuse or those fleeing religious persecution or forced marriages or tyranny?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a president has the authority to block would-be immigrants if they are deemed detrimental to the interests of the United States. No president has used this law in the way proposed by Trump, who had at some point called for a temporary ban on all immigration from Muslim countries.

Then there is his position on building a wall on our southern border. Trump would arbitrarily deny or grant visas and encourage profiling people on the basis of their religion alone.

As an African American, I chose to live in the U.S. despite its ugly history on racial equality. But all I saw since my arrival in 1974 pointed to a steady progress among occasional setbacks and that we were moving forward in most ways that matter.

Until Trump.

By legitimizing the likes of Breitbart News and retweeting white nationalists, Trump has emboldened those who had hitherto masked their racist feelings toward nonwhites. He has pledged to restore “law and order” and “stop and frisk” tactics that targeted minorities while shunning groups protesting the slaughter of unarmed black men.

Trump has not, in the period since his election, made any gestures to dispel the fears of people from minority communities.

As a woman, I am very fearful that Trump – the persona and his policies – will be catastrophic. He has belittled women in such vulgar terms. He will appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. He vows to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides health services like cancer screening and contraception; he may eliminate the mandate in Obamacare for contraception coverage.

As a mother of three and grandmother to an infant boy, I feel compelled to not be silent and to be counted among other women who are marching on Saturday in solidarity and hope that the United States of America lives up to its promise.

Dympna Ugwu-Oju is a journalism instructor at Fresno City College. She can be reached at dugwuoju@yahoo.com; Twitter @dugwuoju

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