I woke up this week to what some would call a “bad dream.” Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
There were a lot of supposed surprises this time around, but the biggest one would be the shock from mainly whites who thought America was “better than this.”
As an African American, I should and have to celebrate progress, if only for my sanity. We’ve come far from iron shackles, segregated schools and restrooms, the inability to vote, lynchings and killings for sport. There’s a lot to be thankful for. Groups whom have been disenfranchised for centuries or decades were finally given a seat at the table, or at least a toe into the room. For a split second, things were looking okay. Or so we thought.
We’re not as far along as we’d like to think, and while I’m all for the wins under our belts, I have to keep a realist perspective as protection. Quite frankly, the jig, no matter how short-lived it was, is up (again).
The morning after, the first call I made was to my mama, whose hands were fit to be tied over the election results. At a fresh 65 years old, she’s experienced Jim Crow firsthand and has seen bumps, cruise control and forks in the road on the way to progress for black folks. Is she feeling some of those same feelings she felt as a teenager growing up in Memphis, the death place of Dr. King? She’s also, like many, grappling with what’s ahead under this new POTUS-elect. She’s wondering how an inexperienced candidate who built his platform on violence and hate against every minority could win the country’s highest position. I’ll tell you how.
America is a master at the game of pretend. Progress and change can only last so long before it’s stalled or in this case, halted here. Change pushes us out of our comfort zones, and when we aren’t ready, resistance and retaliation happen. What we’re seeing is a direct response to a country that was getting too big for its britches.
What we think is progressive and right is still very new to such a young country like ours. For context, women were given the right to vote 94 years ago. To add insult to injury, “women” is usually code for white women, not black or brown women. African Americans were given the right vote only 51 years ago. That’s ONE lifetime. LGBTQ+ were just given the right to marry ONE year ago. The courts are still trying to enforce laws on women's bodies and reproductive rights.
America, you've been pretending that you’re something you’re not. That you’re so progressive that you elected a black president for not one, but two terms. You've been telling us that women matter and are strong, smart and competent enough to hold elevated political seats, even one such as President of the United States when you think otherwise. You've been been preaching that every one of us should be treated equally, regardless of race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. Stop pretending that you really do have our best interests at heart, not just people who look like your founding fathers.
You spent a few years masking your hate and prejudice, leading us to believe that change was really possible. You were fair and flexible, able to to be inclusive of everyone who inhabits you. We were coerced to trust the American Dream based on YOUR beloved Declaration, which states that all men have a chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You didn't tell us men didn’t include minorities or women, especially black women, so we had to figure it out for ourselves. Last night though, at the election polls, you showed us who you really are, and who you’ve always been.
You are that neighbor who speaks kindly to us and waves as we leave our homes, but you know you’d never let our children play together. You are the monarch who allows us to live fairly comfortably to your standards, but rests easy because you know you really have the ultimate power. You are the coworker-friend who happily chats with you daily, but is your worst enemy behind closed doors. You throw stones and hide hands, and sometimes you knock us out with a right hook.
I guess you got tired of hiding your true self after a stifling eight years, and ripped the mask off unapologetically. Although I’m a little bruised by it, I’m not surprised. Thanks for reminding me where I stand.