Yes, I am a proud supporter of the Bernie Sanders campaign and I am not afraid to defend it. In fact, I have chosen to be so much of a supporter that I’ve donated a few times in small amounts to his campaign and have since received a moderately sized “BERNIE 2016” sticker. After several weeks of reluctance and uncertainty, I decided to utilize the sticker and place it in the rear windshield of my truck. What has come to follow since the placement of the decal on my vehicle came as a bit of a surprise.
In the last several weeks I have received a handful of harsh glances, dirty stares, and been victim to rather uncomfortable instances of road rage. This particular vehicle has been in my family’s possession for a couple of years, with zero encounters such as these recent ones. At first, I brushed the interactions off and thought nothing about it. After the most recent involvements of road rage, where a “large, lifted, old-dirty truck” came speeding up alongside me only to roll his window down to greet me with a mean stare as he exhaled a cloud of e-smoke, I could not help but start to consider the alternative. Maybe I am being politically profiled when in my truck — to the degree that I am being judged and often a victim of reckless driving habits from others on the road.
Thinking about these encounters that I have been involved in since I placed the Bernie Sanders sticker in my truck’s rear windshield has gotten me to consider something that I haven’t been able to in this degree. I’m now a target for judgment, and ultimately road-rage, based solely on the sticker that I placed on my rear windshield is something that I chose to bring upon myself. I chose to support Bernie with my money. I chose to place the sticker on my vehicle. I choose to drive it, rather than my other car, when going about town. All of these things I have chosen, and if I ever feel that it becomes to be too dangerous to me or my family’s safety I can remove the sticker at any moment. At any time I can remove the “BERNIE 2016” sticker and go about my business forgetting about what it had caused me and not have to worry about it happening again.
But what if I were Muslim?
But what if I were black?
What if I was an undocumented farm worker from Mexico trying to achieve citizenship while working hard to support my family here in the California Central Valley?
What if I were poor?
What if I were disabled?
What if I were physically different in a way that caused the majority of those around me to judge me and think less of me?
If I were any of those people (and, frankly, the list could go on for several dozen more examples) I would have no choice other than embracing who I was and live each and every day within my skin regardless of the judgment or persecution that comes with it. The black protestors sucker punched at a Trump rally can’t suddenly become white. A family that attends the mosque by Fresno State could not suddenly become Christian to avoid the unfortunate “guilty-by-association” blowback received after the San Bernardino incident last December. There is no opportunity to remove the stereotype, no objection to truth, no ability to remove a label that causes others to look differently toward me. The danger that comes with your appearance or circumstance cannot be avoided or removed.
I could very easily remove the Bernie sticker from my vehicle, but I won’t. I admire those individuals that are able to, despite outward persecution, go on living their life as who they are. A sticker on my truck proclaiming a political platform will never equate in the slightest bit being born in any situation as those mentioned above, but the least I can do is keep it there to give me a simple reminder of what it feels like to be of a negatively generalized group of which is persecuted. If the groups of people that we spend so much time persecuting because they are different can continue living life within their skin, then so can I. I can continue to stand up for what I believe. So can I continue to show what person I really am. So can I.