Not once in my life have I ever believed that America was mine.
It’s pretty difficult to take ownership of a country that was founded on and continues to thrive off of white supremacy and oppression-—two aspects that I don’t benefit from. And in spite of two degrees in African-American Studies, everything I’ve seen and experienced as a Black woman in America and my misgivings about Hillary Clinton, I still had confidence that this country, with all its fissures and contradictions, would kind of redeem itself through this election.
That, and we were way too evolved to elect an accused rapist, xenophobe, racist, habitual liar, narcissist, misogynist, climate change denier and a bully with very tiny Twitter fingers to be the leader of the Free World.
Clearly, I was mistaken.
Maybe part of that naiveté was a result of being intoxicated with the privileges of living in a Blue state or with pollster Nate Silver’s optimism, but whatever the case, I sure as hell sobered up when the returns came in last Tuesday night.
Newsflash: America is who she’s always been. Whiteness and sexism trump everything—literally—and eight years under President Obama wasn’t going to crumble a 300-plus-year foundation of hate and white rage.
And, as I’ve tried come to grips with the election results, my emotions have oscillated from denial to defiance to overwhelming grief (I cried so hard the day after the election that I vomited). And this heartbreak isn’t just about how a Donald Trump presidency will directly impact my life, but the lives of all of my people and other marginalized communities that are as terrified, if not more, of what the future holds.
Because we all know there’s a lot that can go wrong: A serious increase of state and police violence in already over-policed Black and brown communities; stricter access to abortion and other reproductive health measures; the threat of millions of Americans losing their health care; mass deportations that will leave families devastated; the utter loss of LGBTQ protections and an anti-Muslim sentiment that’s only getting louder by the day. And that’s just for starters.
While I have no issue admitting that our situation in this country has always been dire, it cannot be denied that the President-elect and the dangerous platforms he campaigned on will do nothing more but exacerbate our oppression and inequality. And the more I confront that truth, the more defeated I feel.
But I also know that it’s not healthy—physically or spiritually—to constantly revel in this pain. I have to fight back and create ways to survive, because I refuse to allow that man or his basket of deplorables be the reason why I lose my sense of self. So thanks to some serious soul-searching (and a little red wine), I’ve concocted a plan of how I will endure the next four years:
- Hold the people I love most even closer than ever before and never miss an opportunity to express gratitude for having them in my life.
- Live more in the moment and suck the marrow out of every experience and opportunity that I encounter.
- Use my talents, my voice and my writing as a means to speak out about oppression and injustice every chance I can. That is my activism.
- Donate what I can to social justice, reproductive health and LGBTQ organizations. Also, commit to volunteering to local organizations that need my help.
- Continue to nurture a deeper relationship with God and to humble myself to accept his (or her) love into my life.
- Own my pain and frustration and shake off the need to perform the “Strong Black women” archetype out of fear that of what others will think. It’s OK for be vulnerable. It’s OK to cry. That’s not weakness; that’s called being human.
- Fulfill my dreams of being a filmmaker and use my art as a means to make Black women as visible as possible, despite Trump’s antics to render us invisible.
- Work harder to prioritize my wellness, which means working out more, eating healthier, not skipping doctor’s appointments and finding healthier ways to cope with stress.
- Constantly seek out and capture what brings me joy. Whether it’s going to a museum, taking a yoga class, visiting my parents more often or dancing it out in my living room, I’ll be damned if Trump and them will dim my bright light.
- Never be afraid to seek the assistance of a therapist in order to help me work through the obstacles that stand in the way of optimal mental health.
- Hold white allies responsible for doing the work to fight racism in this country, because my Paw-Paw didn’t vote for Trump, but theirs probably did.
- Accept that I will not have all the answers—if any. Sometimes, this might be some day-to-day shit. And that’s OK, too.
- And never EVER internalize the acts of hate and terror that are being inflicted upon us by Trump and his supporters. That’s their shame, not ours.
Granted, none of this will be easy and in no way do I believe my bulleted list is the end-all-be-all of living an existence unscathed by the President-elect. We have a tough road ahead of us (which, to a certain degree, would still exist for folks under a Clinton presidency), but we can never lose sight that resistance—whether it’s taking to the streets or just living a full life—is the essence of progress and liberation.
And in the end, what I’m sure of is that I love US … we love US. And hopefully that fierce, collective love will get us through these dark times and one day make America all of ours.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of HelloBeautiful.