By: K. Jade
One of the first headlines that I read in the wee hours of the morning on November 9, 2016, described Donald Trump's election as a "Repudiation of the Establishment." This headline referred to the approximately fifty percent of the American populace who chose to vote for a candidate that they felt would dismantle an American political system that had "forgotten them", and "left them behind (please envision air quotes here)." My immediate thought upon reading this headline, was that the result of this election didn't feel like a repudiation of the establishment, it felt like a repudiation of my very right to exist in this country. This election felt personal, this election felt painful. In the days since, everyone and their mother has written about the number of reasons for the election of a man with a lip-curl inducing personality. What was abundantly clear, in all caps, bolded, underlined, and has come into even greater focus in the days since, is that this was a referendum on the Other, and that hurts.
I recently saw the much hyped film The Birth of a Nation, about the life and times of Nat Turner. There is a scene towards the end of the movie in which the rebelling slaves, and their white nemeses are rushing at each other in a flurry of weapons, and violence, and emotion. Much to my surprise, I started to cry. I started to cry because this scene seemed like an apt metaphorical representation of what has recently bubbled to the surface of our great American melting pot. I have heard it said time and time again during this election cycle by people that lack an understanding of history and probably a significant number of IQ points, that "this country is more racially divided than it has ever been," a statement usually followed by a sentiment along the lines of "thanks Obama." Ours is a country founded on racial division, resulting in deep, centuries old wounds to the collective psyche of the black community; wounds which have had salt rubbed into them time and time again during this election cycle. This is not about sound bytes and the elitist liberal media brainwashing us to think that things are worse than they are. If you have been brainwashed to think that you've been brainwashed, and that this is all overblown, and people are overreacting, and that this election had nothing to do with race, or fearing the Other, have a blessed day.
So I would like to thank our President-Elect for running a campaign that reminds of us that these chasms still exist. It seems that we had become too comfortable under eight years of Obama. His election was an affirmation of our right to exist and to thrive in this country, and we appear to have underestimated those who took issue with that shift. By "our," I am not referring only to black people. Included in the intended exclusion as we know, is any group that doesn't fit into the Norman Rockwell-esque America, that is the epitome of the Great America we will soon be returning to. The day after the election, someone said to me that they couldn't understand why their LGBT friends were so upset about the election results. In a calm, non-threatening voice, I remarked that they, and many others, are probably fearful that rights they have fought so long and hard to obtain, seem to now be in jeopardy, and hoped that was a sufficient explanation, because that was all the chill I could muster at the time. I would like to take a moment to point out that this was not the most ridiculous thing that I heard that day. That award goes to a white male who told me proudly that he had voted for Trump, and then had the audacity to tell me that we are basically all slaves today, so it doesn't really matter. I ended that conversation very quickly, because at that point, I could muster no chill.
The fear associated with the election of Donald Trump has become very apparent in the days since the election. This fear, real or imagined, is not unfamiliar, but is unfamiliar to many of us in this context. I feel very deeply for an older generation who has known fear like this before, and in this context, after fighting so hard to never be back here. Before this election, we were worried about microaggressions. This election has brought macroaggressions eerily reminiscent of an era we mistakenly presumed bygone. So yes, this election has brought fear that people will lose their health care, fear that our newly elected traffic cone does not have the temperament to make it through four years without starting a third World War, and apprehension about who shall now sit on the highest court in the land. But there also seems to be a much more visceral fear, the sort inspired by the similarity between images such as those depicting the hatred directed toward black children during the desegregation of schools, and those depicting the recent vitriol displayed by some at Trump rallies. I mean, if you're endorsed by the Grand Wizard himself, the leader of an organization which sought to keep communities of color "in their place" using cruel and lethal tactics, a certain level of fear is to be expected.
So please do not presume to tell me that I am overreacting, lest I presume to tell you that Donald Trump's win was fueled by a water tank-sized vat of White tears (http://verysmartbrothas.com/white-tears-explained-for-white-people-who-dont-get-it/). That, ladies and gentleman, is an overreaction of the grandest sort. I hope I'm wrong about the next four years of Donald Trump's presidency, but what we have seen leading up to this election speaks for itself. The writing is on the wall. It says #makeamericagreatagain. It was written by people who voted against their own self-interests to preserve a way a life that they felt was threatened by the Other. Here we go.