I’ve been living in the US for eight years. During this time, I had a post doctoral appointment at MIT, I got married to a Canadian, I worked for a biotech company, I had two beautiful little girls and I became a stay at home mom.
During my eight years in the US, living in the East Coast, I met people from all around the world, I became friends with men and women with completely different cultures, language and religious beliefs.
During these eight years, people have asked me many times where I was from. They have asked if Carnival in Brazil lasted the whole year and whether people walked around the streets half naked. Yeah, I am not kidding. Stereotyping is very common, especially when you meet people that are misinformed, uneducated, or both. I had to explain many times that I didn’t speak Spanish but Portuguese and that there is more to Brazil than Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. People were always very surprised to learn that I didn’t particularly like carnival or soccer. “How come you don’t like it! You are Brazilian!”
Anyways, despite of all the stereotyping, I always loved to live in America. I found incredible friends, mentors and opportunities that helped to shape me on what I am today. I felt safe to walk on the streets at night (most of the time) and never experienced any hatred, racism or discrimination – granted I always lived in a very diverse area among educated and kind people.
In the last month, I was surprised to be asked something that no one had asked me before. Both times I was alone in a cab with a male driver at night. The question was randomly asked with an almost anxious tone: “Are you Christian”?
The first time, the driver was a bit anxious, it was right after the election results and he was trying to have a conversation about it. I didn’t want to weigh in, so I was basically just listening to what he was saying: “Listen, I don’t support him, but I think the wall is not a bad thing”. “So, I don’t agree with what he said about women, but we need to make this country safer.” I was just nodding my head, a bit scared because I was alone and you never know what is really in people’s mind. Then, just before he stopped the car for me to leave, he threw the question whether I was Christian. I only said “yes” and he finished with “oh good”.
I got off of the car and went to meet my ‘mom friends’. I told them what had just happened and how scared I felt to have that conversation with that man. I don’t think he had any bad intentions, I think he was overwhelmed and somehow he needed to justify why he agreed with some statements the president elect had said. I was still confused why he had asked me if I was Christian.
Two weeks later, I took another cab back home after a career advice meeting. The cab driver didn’t talk much, he seemed overall nice and polite. When he turned on my street I told him to please stop in front of the house with the Christmas lights. As he slowed down the car to stop, he looked through the mirror right into my eyes and asked: “Are you Christian?” I was a bit surprised, and immediately remembered about the other cab driver a couple weeks ago. This time, a little bit more apprehensive, I said yes. He responds: “Oh, me too!”
Here I was, for the first time scared to be in America. Although I still haven’t suffered direct discrimination for being from another country, I realized that things are not the same anymore.
Today, a lot of my friends are sad and angry. Yes, I am Christian, but I have friends that I love and that are very important to me that aren’t. I have friends wondering if their parents can come back to visit them. I have friends that wonder if they can go visit their families and come back to the country to finish their studies. I have friends that had suffered discrimination because of their religion and now fear that the worse is yet to come. Today, I don’t recognize the America I love.
I also want this country to safe, it is my home, it is the country that I am raising my daughters which are the most important thing in my life. However, I wish that feeling safe didn’t mean making other people feel unsafe. I fear that the actions today will bring more violence than peace. I fear that the current actions will condemn innocent people. I fear for the non christian mothers and their children.
If all I can do right now is raise my voice and pray that good will prevail, I here do so. What Jesus really wanted from us was to love and we can’t love if we are judging, we can’t love if we are hating. Please, choose to LOVE.
“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34)