I awoke with a sense of relief on the first Saturday morning this month, days after Election Day. The flurry of activity on my cellphone went largely ignored as I stumbled out and went to the kitchen to prepare coffee. As news about electoral results streamed in through the morning, I felt that some weight had been taken off my shoulders. Yet I could not quite precisely name what was still resonating in my mind, and I think this is what made me reluctant to join in full celebration.
It is difficult to put your guard down when you have been fighting and holding space for people for so long.
The week before the election, I remember having several thoughts and scenarios flood my mind. I thought about all the students I work with — their hopes, aspirations and anxieties around late October and early November. Similarly, I also felt the collective anxiousness experienced by many of my peers in the social work profession who are directly impacted and, who by merit of their own professional roles, have to be present for many people who have been directly afflicted by the slew of policies and problems enacted over the last four years.
It is, in fact, this larger question that resonated for me most. What happens next when attention shifts away from the projected personification of discriminatory policies and his followers, as we know conditions do not exist in a vacuum?
They had been around long before 2016 and will persist after an orange-hued carnival barker exits his position. My concern is that performative resistance will cease once it is no longer in vogue. That is a luxury that many community members do not have.
I remember writing a speech that I was invited to make at an Inauguration Day protest in 2017. In these early days, the administration made it abundantly clear that they were coming to destabilize environmental protections, debilitate organized labor, continue mass-incarcerating folks, further encroach on women’s rights and further relegate many immigrant community members to the social and economic margins.
This year as I reflected on my speech, I recalled how many of us were in a state of emergency and had not had a moment to rest. The symbolic victory was thus important for many, in recognition of the need to celebrate incremental progress.
It is a moment to regroup, collect ourselves and chart our future. The election is over and many of the elements that facilitated xenophobia and quasi-fascism are still very much alive.
In the words of the late Tyree Scott, “There is no separate peace.” We are not free if our friends, families and neighbors continue to bear the weight of systemic negligence and harm.
Read more in the Nov 25 - Dec 1, 2020 issue.