In the 1970s, my mom, who was around the same age as I am today, and her four younger siblings literally ran for their lives to escape genocide and war perpetuated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. After initially being forced to work in labor camps, they were lucky enough to escape, survive the treacherous journey across the border into Thailand and make it to a refugee camp. After a few years of being stuck at a crossroads, my mom and family were finally granted refugee status and came to the United States, settling in New York City– the only place that they would ever call home.
However, it would be dishonest for me to say that I have always felt at home in the United States. As a woman of color, I am no stranger to hate that is embodied in systematic oppression at worst, or countless microaggressions at best. This election cycle in particular has been traumatizing given the openly hateful rhetoric directed at people of color, refugees, immigrants, and women. Still, I try to remember our common humanity and my mom’s story which tells me that we are better than this.
After all, it was the kindness of strangers that completely changed the trajectory of my mom’s life and mine. As the daughter of a refugee, I know that in another country– or even another state– there is a girl who looks like me and has the same capabilities I have, but simply because of her citizenship status, socioeconomic background, race, gender or sexuality, her quality of life is drastically different from mine, and often times not for the better.
And so, on Election Day, not only am I choosing the next President of the United States and other decision-makers, but I am also choosing the direction that our country will head in. I plan to vote for a more inclusive America, and I hope you will get out and vote, too.
You can find your polling place and review your voter registration at canivote.org.
Winnie Ye joined the 30 for 30 Campaign as a Communications Intern this fall, working to amplify the Campaign’s work across platforms. She started in the reproductive freedom movement as a campus organizer in 2013 and went on to intern at Planned Parenthood Global, and the National Institute for Reproductive Health. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in public policy at Stony Brook University.