The horror we have lived in the last 12 hours is the modern resurgence of #OldTimeHate.
Less than one hour after Hillary Clinton conceded the election to a man with zero political experience but a lot of divisive rhetoric, I ask myself what this means to me, a Black woman who is from one of Donald Trump’s blasted “inner cities”—mine is Philadelphia and our votes couldn’t swing Pennsylvania blue; a Black woman with Black boys, girls and teenagers in my life, who I do not know how to comfort about these next four years and their consequences. What does this mean to me, I am trying to sort out, a Black woman who is like so many other Black women?
I need to go back to 2008 to attempt to answer that. There is a photo from that year where I am standing next to one of my closest friends and we are smiling wide for the camera, a selfie before they were called that. Whenever people see this picture, they comment on how we are glowing. It seems impossible that we were—it was taken at 6 a.m.; we have not a drop of makeup on and have each slept less than six hours. It is not a glow—it is hope on our faces. The photo was taken the November morning we stood in line to cast a vote for Barack Obama.
This hope was not about Obama, Michelle and the girls. The love affair with them had only just begun. This hope was symbolized by what it would mean, what shifts must have happened in America to move this family into the White House. I like to imagine it as a big stone wheel that was finally starting to turn, pushed by people who wanted to move past some of the white supremacy and deep racism that is at the foundation of our country.
If it is a wheel, it rolled back into its starting position last night. Trump’s supporters voted for a man who ran on hate. He offered not one detailed policy, but one-liners about building walls, deporting Muslims, ending religious freedom, policing Black neighborhoods, grabbing pussies and derailing progress and hope.
In this field where I like to imagine this heavy wheel of stone, he gathered the bigots to show those of us who thought things had changed that it was back to business as usual. They voted to remind us that it did not matter that there had just been a Black man in the White House for eight years.
Last night on CNN, a distraught Van Jones called it a “white-lash.” He is right, but Trump’s win was also a lash against women and our bodies (throughout the campaign he did everything from mocking menstruation to calling his candidate a “nasty woman” for showing strength and intelligence). Therapists have said this election was particularly traumatic for women, not just for the misogyny on display, but because of how sexual harassment and assault were excused away as “locker talk.”
And so how does this affect me as a Black woman? There are theories and analysts who can better answer that question. The theory that I turn to is Kimberlé Crenshaw’s on intersectionality. The scholar on Black feminist legal theory and Civil Rights law has explained it as a way “to make feminism, anti-racist activism, and anti-discrimination law do what I thought they should — highlight the multiple avenues through which racial and gender oppression were experienced so that the problems would be easier to discuss and understand,” she said, adding it is “a way of thinking about identity and its relationship to power.”
As a Black woman, Trump and his legacy will affect me in various ways, on multiple levels of oppression. There are reproductive health rights that I will surely lose; the policing of Black neighborhoods under some type of federally-mandated stop-and-frisk policy that will affect lives of those I know and love and Black lives I do not know, but still love; repealed Obamacare; education policies that will damage public schools; and more, too many to type or to even consider so soon after election night.
But pain does not live at intersections. It spreads and invades. So typing this, I have a headache that started when Trump won his first state. My jaw is sore because I ground my teeth so hard in the one hour that I slept that it still hurts. My stomach is unsettled, my back aches, I feel physical and psychic pain throughout my body.
I am also in pain because Clinton did not just lose last night, hate won. And pain, like Trump and his supporters, does not discriminate. So today we are a nation hurting. Black, White, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Mexican, men, women, gay, straight, transgender, this pain spreads through all of us as we wonder how to save our nation. As a Black woman, I don’t know anymore than the next person what to do next. It seems that we have run out of magic.
These words by James Baldwin are helping me today. Maybe make them your mantra as we figure out our fight:
“We are living in a world where everything is interdependent. It is not white this world, or black. The future of this world depends on everyone in this room. And the future depends on to what extent and by what means do we liberate ourselves from a vocabulary that cannot bear the weight of reality.”
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