For the past two days, I haven’t been able to articulate my feelings about the Presidential Election results. I’ve tuned out the noise from the media and the inflammatory comments and posts on social media. I haven’t even spoken to my parents about it.
I can honestly say that the anger and fear some people felt made me actually laugh out loud. Literally…in the privacy of my apartment, I cackled like I was re-watching the scene in The Help when Miss Hilly eats Minny’s chocolate pie. Lord, the shock on people’s faces when the pain and suffering that others feel shows up on their doorstep…
I didn’t laugh in a hateful way, but through all the outcries, one thing was crystal clear to me. The results of this election, although surprising and annoying, they don’t even come close to the centuries of anguish that Native Americans and slave descendants have suffered in this country.
The anger that people felt, I had already felt the first time I was called a n*gger at 9 years old. The fear that people were feeling, I have always felt as a girl and now a woman walking down any street. The frustration that people expressed, I have had to purge every few years because of constantly being surrounded by people who don’t understand that the effects of bias and institutional racism are inextricably linked to DNA of the descendants of slaves.
I was seriously confused by all the passionate noise in my social media feeds. I didn’t understand why the results of a democratic election made people react this way. Most of these people were not immigrants to this country. At best, they were third and fourth generation immigrants. Most of these people also weren’t members of a minority group. If they were a member of any minority demographic it could be hidden. And the white women in my networks? Let’s face it, many white women have historically leveraged their whiteness when they want protection and then then they have leveraged their femininity when they want more rights. Until the birth of the LGBTQ movement, the position of white women in the white patriarchal America, has rarely been used to help minorities achieve the full extent of human rights.
So, after I stopped laughing, I asked myself, where were these outcries where when so many brown and black people were being killed by the police? I know they stood with the people of Paris, but where were they when majority black countries were traumatized by terrorist attacks? Why did these people react so viciously at the most democratic part of American existence?
I mean seriously. Do they know what it’s like to live in another country? Have they ever left America? Not for a vacation on a resort. Like really left America to live for a period of time. I have.
In 2007, I left America hoping to live abroad for a few years and then find the perfect foreign country to settle down in. It took less than three months to appreciate the complicated existence that is being an American. After 8 months I decided to return home and did so with a full appreciation of the fact that my story as a brown-skinned female descendant of slaves could not be written in any country other than American. The access to education, healthcare, parents with stable jobs, safe housing, and exposure to numerous things would never happen anywhere else. The sheer fact that I get that the CHANCE to have life, liberty and any pursuit of happiness only exists in America.
So, the results of this election led me to realize that this is merely the first time I’m personally feeling the pain of my ancestors. I was born in Houston, TX. A descendant of a long line of slaves and a few Native Americans who lived in Texas and Louisiana. I know my ancestors were infuriated when Texas slaves learned that they were emancipated two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect (Learn about Juneteenth)!!! I know my ancestors felt continued degradation and confusion when their freedom was redressed as Jim Crow laws. I’m sure of the frustration my ancestors stifled when their hard-fought Civil Rights movement success was met with gerrymandering, redlining, and gentrification. I know for a fact that my father was pissed when he returned from fighting for this country in the Vietnam War. He didn’t only get to complete his college education for free in return for his service. He also got life-long medical complications from Agent Orange exposure, which also viciously robbed him of a child who was still-born because of his exposure. My Daddy was also forced to see the multiple medical complications in the lives of the two children that lived to beat the odds of having children post exposure to Agent Orange.
So, these election results are nothing new. They are proof that the struggle must continue. They are evidence of the complicated trap-door existence that comes with being a non-white man in America. But I’m proud to be part of this struggle. My ancestors gave the ultimate sacrifice so that I could be in a country where this struggle is even possible.
So, yes, I am still proud to be an American. Just like the country song I learned I learned in elementary school (in Texas, lol), God Bless the USA. I modify the lyrics and the symbolism to make them work for me. The second stanza of the song is:
I’d thank my lucky stars
To be living here today
Cause the flag still stands for freedom
And they can’t take that away
I don’t thank my luck stars. I know that GOD has put me here for a purpose and my ancestors have made my purpose possible. I thank them. Freedom, in my mind, is really “freedom” because it doesn’t exist in its truest form for all citizens. And the “they” of the last line has always stood for anyone trying to block the freedom that can only exist in the country that was built on the backs of my ancestors.
Today is no different. Anyone who is trying to prevent me from me exercising my God-given right to live freely, happily, and with respect should prepare for the legal, historical, intellectual, and moral fight of their lives.
As Dr. Angelou wrote in Still I Rise, “I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” My ancestors earned my citizenship. My ancestors forced this country to see our humanity. My citizenship wasn’t given to me. It wasn’t a handout. By derivation at least, I’ve earned the right to have a seat at the table. I will not allow anyone’s ignorance and narrow-mindedness to look past my greatness. No economic policy, pro-life stance, or perspective on domestic security trumps my right to safety, equality, and respect. I won’t let anyone take back my rights. You can’t even have it if you take it from my Dirty Harry cold dead hands because there is someone else in line willing to fight the same fight.
You can’t kill the dream of equity and justice for all. The spirit of Native Americans was bolstered by the hard work of the Slaves. That hard word is now being championed by the growing “minority” and awakened members of the majority that now know the truth: The system is skewed. And it’s skewed to favor the actual minority of white men in America, which is approximately 31% of America’s population, according to a study conducted by the Women’s Donor’s Network in 2014.
So, I take these election results as encouragement. I hope you’ve gotten out all of your knee-jerk reactions in the past two days. If you have, below is a list of things that I’m reminding myself to remember and do over the coming years. Maybe it will help you too.
1. Take a deep breath. People have survived much worse. Your ancestors, whether Native Americans, slaves or immigrants, have overcome much more than a mystically marginalized uneducated group of people. Redirecting this country next few years is light work for you.
2. Maintain your momentum. If you voted for #HRC, don’t let that be the last time you vote until the 2020 Presidential Election. Keep going. Real change to your safety, access to health care and justice is created in local positions. If you didn’t vote in this election, stop being an apathetic a**hole and start voting aka doing something to at least try to make a change.
3. Organize, organize, organize. Stop talking about fear and get to work. Don’t yield to the knee-jerk reaction of wanting to laugh at minority non-people of color because they now feel the fear that is historically paired with being black in America. This history of America makes one thing very clear, change requires the organized, peaceful, continuous action of united people.
Leave a Comment