img_2828Road to DC: Durham, NC (Part 1) — In Durham we met with four men—Atrayus, Charles, Humberto and David—who in a wide-ranging, three-hour conversation gave us insights into worlds we have little exposure to. The conversation was so rich we’re breaking it into segments. First up is Humberto: A Latino who became a U.S. citizen in 2013.

On America today:

I think that there’s a lot of uncertainty. And I think different folks feel it for different reasons. Some people are concerned about jobs, others are concerned about justice…and healthcare is certainly a concern for everyone, really. There’s just a lot of tension.

I was living in Washington DC and the day the election happened, everyone was shook. You talk to the waiters at the restaurant…they don’t know what’s going to happen. Some of them are undocumented. Some, like my sister, are on this DACA program [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals].  And no one knows what’s going to happen. It’s one thing to be concerned about your job, and it’s another thing not to know if you’ll actually be here come August.

Then the last couple months, I think we’ve been really divided over our image of what an American is. I mean, if you ask me what an American looks like, I feel like it could be anybody, really.

But some of us aren’t viewed as Americans. And I think that in itself is a pretty interesting thing. It’s like, what does an American look like? I’d be really curious if you can ask that question of other people…get into their brain, you know? Would it look like you? Would it look like me? Would it look like someone else?

So it’s interesting that we are in this very tense moment right now. We don’t know what’s going on.

On the right to vote:

This election was kind of a big deal for me, because it was my very first time voting as a citizen. I became a citizen in 2013. And not a lot of people really understand what that actually means…when you can vote, that’s something that you gladly wait in line for.

So what I found particularly disheartening was a lot of people saying ‘I’m just not going to vote’. For someone like me who’s waited a long time to do that, to throw away that privilege, or that right, however you want to define it, is just heartbreaking.

And then you look at the [election] outcome, and you see proportionately how many people voted, and you break that down by district, and certain areas, like Michigan and Wisconsin…even break it down by counties, and then go even deeper and break it down by the census block. I mean it’s striking; it’s just striking how we came to this outcome because a lot of people said ‘I’m not going to vote.’

And that really hurt! Because I would have waited all day to vote, I would have stood in line. But to say that “I’m so mad that I’m just not going to vote period’? It’s just…I don’t know what else to say.

On attitude towards the future:

I remain optimistic. I really do. Are we going to have some turbulent times? Yeah. Absolutely. I think this is going to test our democracy, I think this will test a lot of people.

But you know, people vote for different reasons. It depends on their priorities. So I’m very interested to see what happens as people start feeling the effects of this election within themselves.

Healthcare is one example. I’m really curious to see how you de-implement something that’s a benefit. It’s very easy to give something, but it’s very hard to take it away.  Especially in rural states like KY, where they’ve had very successful programs with the Affordable Care Act. A lot of people now have insurance, a lot of people have pre-existing conditions…how are you going to take that away?

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