Experiences: Election moves a business student to have a voice and work for change
By Nicolle Williams
Like a lot of young adults my age, all my political knowledge derived from what my parents told me. It wasn’t until the 2016 election when I became completely engrossed in the presidential campaign and all its nuances. Frankly, this sudden interest in politics didn’t emerge just out of sheer interest in the subject, but because I saw my people, my family, and my heritage misinterpreted and demonized by a potential presidential candidate. I saw Donald Trump generalize all Latinos as criminals and rapists, I saw Donald Trump further alienate Latino immigrants with the promises of a border wall, and the most saddening aspect of Trump’s campaign is that I saw other Americans support him because of those statements and promises.
The Trump administration’s agenda for immigrants didn’t just end with fearmongering, they decided to come after Dreamers. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA is an Obama-era immigration policy that allows illegal or undocumented immigrants who came as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and be eligible for a work permit. Many Dreamers were raised in the United States and it is all they know, but many citizens don’t consider them Americans. The Trump administration is in that category and recently rescinded DACA and put nearly 800,000 Dreamers in jeopardy, my cousin included. My cousin, Santiago, just began his first semester as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California-Berkeley after completing an internship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His extremely bright future was put in jeopardy because of the recent uncertainty surrounding DACA, but that hasn’t changed his views on what it means to be an American. In a brief conversation, this is what my cousin had to say:
“I don't think that this current political climate should be used as a litmus test of America's true colors. I think we've seen a lot the good in this time too, it's just unfortunate the people in power seem to be either part of the group who choose to do nothing or part of the outright hateful group. I remember when we first moved to the U.S., it was American people who were the most helpful during tough times and I will never forget that. To me that is what it means to be American.”
In recent years, there has been a rise in discrimination against Latinos and people of color, but I refuse to accept that America is going backward in its history. I want to be a part of the movement to help fix the current divisiveness crippling this country. I want to be on the front lines of change. I am determined to be a guiding force for a deserving candidate who can ignite a movement to purge the foundation of law and justice from its institutional bias. After I graduate from Rutgers Business School, I plan to go to law school to study education law, enabling me to have hands-on influence in improving the public education system because education is the great equalizer and every American deserves the opportunity to learn and grow.
The past year has been a real turning point for my own personal involvement in politics. In the summer of 2017, I attended a congressional reception in Washington D.C. to support no housing cuts for the upcoming budget from the new administration. Affordable housing is extremely vital, especially for low-income communities and typically those communities are Black and Latino. Since proper housing affects all citizens, I was able to meet amazing people from all walks of life and that exposure strengthened my understanding for public policy and furthered my passion for public service.
Being an American means fighting for what you believe in. This was my exact sentiment when I went to New York City last summer to rally for Dreamers not only because I have family under DACA, but because they are Americans. By allowing Dreamers to officially become citizens or by offering an easier path to legality, America’s exceptionalism will shine again in a world where intolerance and nationalism is on the rise.
A part of me is happy the election turned out the way it did because I am just one of many young Americans that have had their eyes opened and are motivated to better this country in any way they know how. The best way I can help is by getting an education and ensuring that my voice is heard through my writing. I am determined to help this country grow and learn from its past mistakes because I love this country.
Nicolle Williams is a Rutgers Business School-Newark sophomore studying marketing and political science.
Photo credit: Anabel Damacela
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