Thoughts from a House Divided

I’m the child of immigrants who fled war-torn Vietnam in the 1970s in the hopes of greater inclusion and opportunity. My parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents have survived the unimaginable in their journey to the United States. And many of my Asian-American peers are in the same position as I am in today.

Politically speaking, I’m from a fairly conservative household. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve noticed a growing divide between the beliefs of my generation and those of our parents.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the 2016 Presidential Election, where some members of my extended family were enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump. Not to say that I’m in charge of Hillary Clinton’s fanclub, but it’s going to take me a while to understand that.

I’ve often wondered how the dynamics of the Trump campaign would have worked during the period of the Vietnam War. During the mass exodus of Vietnamese refugees to the United States, would we have been the scapegoats to the country’s socioeconomic problems? Would we have been collectively deemed a threat to the foundation of America and banned from entering the country? I would think that in that light, my Trump-supporting family members would reconsider their support.

The stories of my parents’ generation aren’t all too different from those of today’s refugees. While each immigrant’s narrative is unique, at their core, they are driven by a hope that lingers and preservers.

I’m still trying to understand why some of my family support a President-elect who is unabashedly against minorities and immigrants — in short, the embodiment of who we are and where we came from. The dissonance is unnerving.

Through the eyes of the Trump administration, we are and will continue to be outsiders despite our citizenship. I shouldn’t have to say this, but ‘immigrant’ should not be a derogatory label. But because of our origins, the government does not actively prioritize our interests, and we’re not even one of the minorities Trump has targeted and antagonized during his campaign.

In the wake of a new era of American history, I most fear the proliferation of ignorance and intolerance throughout the country. The day after the election, my younger sister already overheard student conversations at her middle school extolling Trump and dismissing his treatment of women, people of color, and other marginalized groups. This is not an America that embodies the values we esteem, an America built on a cornerstone of compassion and integrity.

I am fortunate to have been born and raised in southern California, where my Asian-American identity is simply another facet of who I am instead of my defining feature. I am nothing but proud of the progress California made at the ballots on Tuesday. However, as I prepare to apply to graduate school, I’m faced with the prospect of pursuing my education out of state. This is likely to influence where I can find a job and, therefore, where I will be spending a large part of my life.

The variability of my future is something I’ve tried to greet with excitement and I’ve been fairly successful so far. In the aftermath of this election, however, it’s dawned on me that I could attend an institution in the Midwest or South in the midst of the Trump administration. Clearly, xenophobic, misogynistic and racist rhetoric is more pervasive in those regions than I believed.

There’s no immediate solution to combat these ideologies, and the consequences of the Trump administration will be long lasting. But I do know that no matter what happens, there are people who speak out and use their voices to fight the good fight. We must join them because silence and apathy, now more than over, are options that favor the oppressors.

Brittany Pham is a third-year biological sciences major. She can be reached at brittaqp@uci.edu.