Aubrey Perry’s parents might live in blue-state California, but she was raised in the blue-collar town of Turlock along with a lot of immigrant labor. Her father ran his own pest extermination business and her mother taught ESL (English as a Second Language) and basic English at a local college.
Putting a face on the struggle for immigrant families didn’t stop derogatory names like “greaseball,” “wetback,” “spic” or “beaner” from being used Perry’s house, however. “That’s what we called Mexicans,” she wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Today, not only are her parents Trump supporters, he mother is a delegate for Trump in California. The Melbourne-based artist and writer found her mother’s name when she was scanning through the list looking for white supremacist William Johnson. The Trump campaign claims to have accidently tapped him due to a “database error.” Perry saw her mother’s name listed alongside the white supremacist as well as an islamophobic pastor and was horrified.
“I’d known for a while that my mum was open to the idea of Trump as her candidate,” Perry writes. “My dad has been a Trump supporter from the beginning.” Perry has lived in Australia for the last seven years and communicates with her family primarily via Facebook, but they don’t talk about politics.
Perry says that she never uses Twitter, but was disturbed by what she found when she visited her mother’s account. “Hateful memes, ugly language, and appearance-based attacks, targeted at Hillary Clinton, stacked up,” Perry wrote. “And not just hateful, but off-topic and malicious calling Hillary ‘ugly,’ ‘old’ and ‘screechy.’ An ‘unlikeable old bag. The ‘woman card’ stinks!’ my mother wrote. My mother! A college instructor! She should know better. She’s no internet troll. Is she?”
That’s when she remembered the words she grew up hearing. “After the Obama election, my mother had said to me: ‘You know, I think I only voted for Obama to prove to myself that I wasn’t racist.’ I walked away from that conversation,” Perry continues.
She says she has walked away from many political conversations, choosing to ignore them and shrug it off as nothing more than talk. But this was a whole new level and one she couldn’t ignore it any longer. “I commented on my mum’s tweet and asked her if she’d really written those words. Her response: “(American Flag emoji) You don’t share my beliefs, and you don’t have to. (smiley face emoji).”
Perry was shocked and told her mother publicly. “Your Twitter feed makes me disappointed and embarrassed of you as a person, a supposed critical thinker, and my mother. Shocked,” she writes.
It wasn’t long before Perry discovered video clips of her mother on Fox News being interviewed at a Trump rally in Burlingame, California in April. “I’m all Trump, only Trump, always Trump, forever Trump,” her mother told the cameras. Perry says those words replay over and over in her mind.
“I was overwhelmed with shame for my years of silence for not opposing her ideologies sooner,” Perry writes. “Look where it got me. Look where it got my family. Look where it got us as a nation, a country of closet racists and enablers.”
That’s when she took to Facebook, posting screen grabs, videos and stories of her family, calling them out for how disgusting she felt they were. “I wrote about the way my mother talked at home about her Mexican students, the contempt she had for them, and the derogatory terms she used to describe them,” Perry tells.
Perry’s mother blocked her on all social media and has stopped talking to her online entirely. She says that her father did the same years ago but that he continues to email her.
Recently he emailed her a threatening note: “I know you have never said anything you might not like to be made public,” he wrote, “so if you want to continue this attack mode, please remember all things have consequences.”
Perry severed ties and took to the Australian paper to write about it. “My husband and I found no other way to be honest with ourselves, to be moral, and to protect our daughter than to sever all ties with my parents as long as they promote these ideologies of hate and xenophobia.”
She closes by urging others to not do as she did and let racism and hate go ignored in families. “To ignore is to accept,” she explains. “If I don’t oppose my parents’ behaviour and objectives, if I don’t reject Trump and all that he stands for, if I don’t change my family’s vocabulary…I’m undoing the progress that generations before me have fought and died for. And that, I won’t accept.”