by Amanda Torres Price
The day after the election, I watched my baby grab the headboard of my bed, pull her body up to her feet, let go of one chubby hand and flash me a triumphant gummy smile, a relatively new skill for her.
It's illogical of course, but I marveled at her blissful obliviousness. It was also one of the few things that gave me comfort and relief. Her dad and I have a few more years before we’d have to explain that unqualified, narcissistic, dangerous Donald Trump had just been elected president, and the now far-right House and Senate were hard at work dismantling rights for everyone who wasn’t a rich white man. My daughter didn’t know what a president was, let alone a demagogue. She was just interested in the joys of standing.
We didn’t have to figure out a way to address Trump’s talk of Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, didn't have to explain to her that she (Mexican and white on my side, black and Puerto Rican on her dad's) would probably face even more anger and prejudice now that the racists and misogynists were empowered, that we, as a mixed family, probably would as well. We didn’t have to explain the worst part of all—that many of her fellow Americans had voted for him, either signaling that they didn’t find his hateful rhetoric to be a deal-breaker, or worse, that they agreed with it.
That morning, after a few stolen hours of sleep, I watched my baby and my husband sleep—they are both such pretty sleepers, long eyelashes resting against a curve of cheek, pink lips slightly parted. I was comforted that we had bought a house in a diverse neighborhood rather than some of the white areas we’d looked in nearby. Our chances of being safe here seemed greater. As a white-looking Latina who grew up in a white suburb of Boston, I’ve dealt with my fair share of micro-aggressions, but I also have enough privilege to have felt pretty safe for most of my life. Sure, I got sexually harassed as a woman, but I wasn’t used to feeling afraid because of my ethnic background, or for who I chose to love, including during all those years of dating women as well as men. Now, the feeling hit me hard, and I was humbled, sorry for my previous obliviousness, scared in a way an election had never made me personally feel. Now I had a child, white male anger had been unleashed, and it had never felt more personal.
Election day, all three of us door-knocked for Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia, just as I’d been doing most weekends throughout the fall with the progressive labor organization I work for. It was unseasonably warm for November: sunny and blue-skied, the kind of perfect fall day that sings of possibility and hope. That evening, when a crisp bite had entered the air, nearly everyone in the mostly black and Latino neighborhoods we were assigned to answered their door, and just about everyone who did said they had voted for her. A group of little kids playing on a front porch chanted “We’re with her” and “Hillary for president!” when we walked by.
It wasn’t until the lights of Newark on the drive back home, when I let my husband turn off the coverage of increasingly worrisome states going red, that the sick pit in my stomach plumed up to my throat and through my denial. Pennsylvania would go red that night, despite all those voters we’d met in Philly.
Right after my daughter was born, my mom sent me a baby book, and bugged me to record every single new thing she did. There’s a section in her baby book called “The World I was born into,” with a line around who the major world leaders are and the current events.
She was born in spring 2016, and I proudly wrote “Barack Obama, first black president.” I got excited, thinking that pretty soon, I’d be able to write “Helped elect the first woman president!” I thought maybe I’d put one of the selfies I took of us canvassing together, her gazing out from my chest, her expression warrior-serious, me smiling ridiculously in the background. I had mixed feelings about Hillary, but the idea of my baby girl participating in this historic moment felt special regardless. I pictured telling her about it when she got older—how the huge crowd descended upon her in droves when we arrived for door-knocking, how she loved playing with the texture of the seats on the school buses that drove us out to turf, how she sucked on the Hillary campaign lit and shrieked like you had just stolen her prized possesion when someone took it away. I suppose I will still tell her about her first political experience once she gets older anyway, but it doesn’t feel quite as special with this new, unthinkable, outcome.
In the meantime, I have a few years before my daughter starts asking me questions about the president. She will be nearly five at the end of his first term. I hope I can find a way to keep her happy and secure, yet speak the truth about racism and sexism and oppression. I hope I can introduce her to positive role models who are engaged in fighting against injustice.
I hope that will be enough, and I also know that it won’t be.
Amanda Torres Price is a lefty communications professional and writer living in the suburbs of New York City with her husband and 10-month-old baby girl. She enjoys cooking, watching bad TV, obnoxiously quoting podcasts, and trying to find time to read as many novels as possible. Before motherhood, she ran and did yoga avidly. Now, she occasionally manages to have a dance party with her family.