On election night, as with any election, a candidate won and a candidate lost. But something else, something more unseemly happened. White people actually made good on their promise to take back their country. A man who is deplorable in almost every way was elected to the highest office in the country riding the wave of resentment created by a white populus who feels their majority steadily shrinking. Hillary Clinton, far from perfect and beyond worthy of critique, was at least qualified for the position. She had run this race before, had the credentials, and was poised to ascend to the Oval Office. The polls showed it, the media predicted it, and history had set the precedent. In the end, none of this mattered because we underestimated the fierce determination of white supremacy — in this case what Van Jones called "whitelash."
Historically, whenever black people have made anything that resembles significant progress, it has inevitably been followed by white terror in some form. The end of slavery saw the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings and convict leasing. The end of convict leasing was met with stringent Jim Crow laws that segregated black from white while making sure the former was never equal to the latter. The end of the old system of Jim Crow brought what Michelle Alexander calls the New Jim Crow: the over-policing, over-arresting, and mass incarceration of black communities. Although we are still working through this latest iteration of white terror, the election of a black president provided hope to many. A strong argument can be made that this hope was misplaced, but the prospects of black folks about the future of this nation undoubtedly improved. We have also seen the rise of a profound social movement that has brought attention to police violence as well as other systemic issues impacting the black community.
Black Lives Matter preceded by the election of a black president has shaken the core of white supremacy and everything in history tells us that white folks were going to have some strong response to it. And on November 8th, the anxieties of white supremacy reared its ugly head once again when it elected a racist, misogynistic, ableist, homophobic miscreant to protect everything it holds dear. I can only speak for myself, but I know I’m not alone when I say I’m not quite sure how we (read: black folks and other marginalized groups) will sustain this blow. I don’t doubt that we will. We always have. But I’m not sure how. I don’t have any hope to sell or free samples of optimism to offer. I have no soaring rhetoric or encouraging words to fill this dark void of a moment with.
It’s okay to not be able to bow up immediately after being knocked down. I would argue against resiliency being an admirable trait when it’s the only option we’ve ever had. There is something terribly perverse about perpetually asking marginalized folks to have hope in a system that consistently proves it doesn’t care about them or their loved ones. I need ashes and sackcloth more than any hollow words of encouragement. There are no words in the known lexicon that can change my mind about the condemnation of America’s soul.
Now, I want to be clear. Process this moment however you may need to — whether it be through sitting with immeasurable grief or occupying yourself with things that bring you joy. But I for one am tired of performing optimism about this morally bankrupt country. Anyone else who feels this way should know that their feelings are not only valid, but given the history and future of this country, incredibly logical.
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