A couple of weeks ago, while I was running errands in my neighborhood, a stranger asked me if I was “illegal”. Around 10 minutes earlier another stranger asked me if I spoke English. Both were white and one of them even called me “senorita.” Then, late last week, I was standing in line to use the ATM when a white man approached me cautiously, asking if I spoke English. He was lost and said he didn’t want to be in a “bad area” longer than he needed to. He was holding a King Taco cup in his hand. I’ve seen white guys like him at the neighborhood taco spot. Stay for the tacos, leave before you have to interact with Mexicans who aren’t serving you.
This is the world Trump wants when he says he’s going to “make America great again.” It’s the America of 1950s TV shows, where people of color don’t exist in the lives of white Americans unless they’re being served or entertained by them. This appears to be a world longed for by many, as a recent poll found that 47% of white Americans look upon Trump “favorably.”
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 29 of my 30 years. As a light-skinned, biracial Latina in one of the most diverse and Mexican-centric cities in the nation, I have never been asked the type of questions I’m now fielding from white people. I’m not the only one experiencing an uptick in seemingly out-of-the-blue racist exchanges. Latina journalist Aura Bogado recently tweeted about a strange interaction at a grocery store. My father recently told me a white neighbor he’s been friendly with since moving into the neighborhood 15 years ago, casually inquired about his citizenship status. As the days go on, I hear more of these kinds of stories from Latino friends and family members.