High school students — and sometimes their parents — can’t vote, but they’re deeply affected by the presidential election.
By Francie Diep
(Photo: Francie Diep)
Litzy, a 16-year-old student at Santa Barbara High School, walked out of class today. It didn’t matter that she was in the middle of a quiz; some things are more important.
“I’m standing up for my mom. She couldn’t vote and if she were to get kicked out, I think, ‘What if we’re separated?’” she says. “I have siblings. They’re all younger than me and I don’t think they would be able to go through that.”
As she talked, Litzy teared up and began to sniffle. Her classmate, Julissa, also 16, hugged her. All around us are perhaps 200 local students, residents of Santa Barbara, a touristy beach town on California’s central coast. The kids are here for a rally in the grassy, open gardens of the Santa Barbara Courthouse. The rally’s organizers — also high school students — stood on steps leading into the civic building, yelling through megaphones about their dismay that Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States.
One organizer says it was unfair that an experienced woman lost to a man with no experience in government. Another announces, her voice cracking, that she is not going to gay conversion therapy. The comment hearkened to the criticism that Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, don’t support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. In 2000, Pence backed giving public resources to “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
“It’s a way to express ourselves,” Litzy says. “We can’t vote, so this is a way.”
Litzy’s mom is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who cleans at the Santa Barbara Harbor, a popular tourist spot. In speeches, Trump has repeatedly accused undocumented immigrants of being bad for the American economy, and vowed to deport them. Though Trump softened his language closer to Election Day, his website still promises that “anyone who enters the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation.”
Litzy, her 10-year-old sister, and her 12- and seven-year-old brothers are all American citizens. Many of her classmates are in the same boat, with parents who are undocumented.
There was one small comfort this afternoon for Litzy: The rally was very well attended. It felt like the whole school was there. Well, figuratively speaking. “It’s a pretty big school,” Julissa admits. Just two people walked out of Julissa’s math class today at noon, as organizers had called for, but about six students left when Litzy did.
To wrap up the event, organizers first boo a blond boy who came wearing a Trump T-shirt. He doesn’t belong here, a girl named Sage suggests. “This is a safe place,” she says through her megaphone. “We are here with love for the people who will be marginalized by Trump.” Rally-goers walk toward the boy, chanting, “Fuck Donald Trump.” The crowd forms a circle around the boy. There is no violence, though; Sage calls for a moment of silence, then a breathing exercise that seemed inspired by local yoga studios.
“Inhale love and exhale hate. Inhale the fact that you are not alone and exhale knowing that any fear will be gone because you have people here with you today that are going to support you through the next four years,” Sage says. “Thank you for coming, everyone. We need to safely get back to class.”