“Are you really going to another protest?” asked my 10-year-old Latina daughter Sunday afternoon.
As a professor, mother and artist, I am deeply concerned about where our nation is headed. Education, immigration and the arts are each part of my livelihood. Beyond my immediate concerns, I am worried for all people in the U.S. who are not white, upper-class, straight, Christian, formally educated, able-bodied, English-speaking males.
At the University of Texas at Austin, I teach developing arts teachers. Among my students, who aspire to teach children themselves, I seek to nurture a sense of responsibility to help elevate the voices of marginalized people — children.
On Jan 21, I participated in the Women’s March here in Austin. However, the news over the past week — the ban on many Muslims entering the U.S., among other issues — left me in a great state of concern and with a desperate need to act.
Fortunately, I soon learned of a second protest in my city scheduled for this past Sunday. Austin was not alone, with many protests in communities throughout the U.S. this past weekend.
My daughter chose not to attend either weekend’s events with me. While she crafted slogans and designed signs, she very clearly stated that she did not want to be in danger or on the television in protest. My daughter’s school (which has a large Latino/Latina population) had candid conversations the day after the election where students and staff articulated concerns about family members and themselves being deported. Her fear is real, and I understand that I must respect that and support her desire not to attend.
This past weekend’s protests focused mainly on the executive order from President Trump to temporarily ban citizens of seven countries from entering the U.S., while the protests of the prior weekend more broadly represented issues from women’s rights to education to immigration, to name a few.
In all cases, marchers and protesters responded to a similar challenge: As Trump is making critical decisions that affect people all over the world, he appears to be doing so in a reckless, self-serving and oppressive manner.
With my own daughter, I seek to nurture a sense of agency and confidence. I hope to help young people recognize not only the power of their voices, but also ways of cultivating communities to support one another. I hope to model a sense of community action and incite responsibility to self and others.
Certainly, Trump, as the newly elected president of the U.S., is perhaps the most powerful person in the world. Some say that alone is deserving of respect, that he needs time to show what he is capable of.
I am, frankly, very concerned about what he is capable of. I am also comforted by the many who are speaking out and I am hopeful about what we may be capable of, as a collective.
Last weekend, I was comforted by the solidarity represented at the State Capitol in Austin. This weekend, I was comforted by the solidarity at the protest at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport.
Coming together is important. The gathering became an opportunity for testimonial. I was struck by one protester’s strategy to make sure all voices were heard: when one person’s voice was not loud enough to share with the hundreds of people outside the airport, he suggested that we all repeat what the lone voice was saying.
I was sad that my daughter was not there to experience the solidarity and communal support offered to each speaker. Before I left for each event, I talked with my daughter about her choice to stay home. “I am not trying to convince you to go. I just want to make sure you understand what we are doing. I want you to know that you can choose to stand up for what you believe in, when you are ready to do so.”
I am sad that I cannot guarantee her safety in this country as a young Latina, nor that of her classmates. I can, however, assure them that there are many of us working toward equity and fighting for a positive future for everyone currently in the U.S. — and for those who choose to come here.
Roxanne Schroeder-Arce is assistant professor and teaches theatre education in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas at Austin, and is an affiliate in the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, the Department of Mexican American & Latina/o Studies and the Center for Women and Gender Studies. She is a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.