“You MUST write something,” I keep being told. But how do you write an obituary so soon after death? Something died last night. Did hope die? Did the hope and beautiful feeling of promise that President Obama planted when we all watched breathlessly as he made his acceptance speech and then watched throughout his presidency die?
Or was it the death of that last piece of innocence? Was it smothered by the dirty hands of pay-back and racism? I’m not quite sure exactly what died, which increases my fear, but I know without a doubt that something died last night. There is a collective somberness in the Black community.
And I desperately want to say something profound. But, all I’ve got is me: Black and female; simultaneously angry, disgusted and sad. And I am not gracious enough, evolved enough, nor mature enough to come up with words delivering a message of calm. I have no Bible scriptures or Martin Luther King, Jr. sayings to invoke peace, patience, understanding or a belief in faith. I just want to feel it for a moment — the full weight of the message that America sent me, sent us, last night. I want us to allow ourselves to be sad, to not immediately shift into “perseverance-mode” as we’ve been trained to do since slavery: not being allowed to mourn our treatment as less than American, less than human when we were ripped from our family members, our homes and our loved ones.
Today the historical Black coping methods are in play: 1.) I knew it all along and you should have known it too; 2.) Ain’t no time to worry and fret, let’s get back to it; and 3.) Oh well, it’s in God’s hands and he will provide. All of those responses buy into the premise that we aren’t fully American; that we aren’t fully human; that we aren’t entitled to experience the pain and emotion the election delivered. But we are Americans. This is our country as much as it is anybody else’s and we are entitled to mourn its failings. America, and our fellow Americans, failed us last night. And we deserve to feel sad.
We can also feel anger and fear. America, you have done woke us the fuck up. I was already coffee-woke, but I’m on some espresso-red bull kind of wakeness now. I now fully understand that 51% of White people are either racist or apathetic to racism. That’s 51% of the teachers that I entrust my sons to everyday; 51% of doctors charged with their care; 51% of the cops assigned to ensure our safety; and 51% of the judges charged with delivering justice. 51%. I am disappointed that my mom was right from the very start. She said that even the best White person will want you to have, but will not want you to have more than they do. Obama was a nice idea, but not a good reality. Last night was the get-back.
So, America, we Black folks know you better now. You done raised your skirt and shown yo’ ass. You’ve been exposed. That’s what died…trust. We Black folks knew your flaws, America, but we loved you anyway. We knew that we had serious issues in our relationship due to your mistreatment of us in the past, but we were ready to forgive, not forget like you encouraged us to, but forgive. When we elected the first Black President of the United States, it made us feel as if we were making progress in healing our troubled relationship. We were slowly building our trust. And then you went and showed yo’ ass and we are reminded that you are who you’ve always been: designed and interested primarily in the success and prosperity of White males. So, we don’t trust you anymore.
But, I do trust me, us, Black folks. Our resiliency and strength has gotten us through far worse: the Middle Passage, slavery, Jim Crow, institutionalized racism. Our backs are broad, our spirits are unbreakable. We will rise. We shall overcome. We have never allowed America to define who we are. No, America, we’ve never looked in your warped, cracked mirror and seen our reflection. We’ve always looked in the eyes of each other and our ancestors to see who we are. We know who we are. We’ve always stood in our strength and the knowledge of our own magnificence. Yes, we, Black folks, are down today. We will mourn your broken promises; and our relationship’s departed trust. We will pray that you, America, find your way, that your hatefulness doesn’t cause permanent damage because ultimately we are intimately and permanently bound.
Concurrently, we Black folks – now more awake and aware — will be working on us (because you’ve taught us that is all we really have. Your loyalty is fleeting at best). We are going to work on loving ourselves more, supporting each other and our businesses more; being kinder to each other; accepting the differences we find in our unique brothers and sisters as we always have– when we were told we didn’t matter, that we were unwanted and unworthy. When every step forward seemed to take us two steps back, we’ve looked to each other and seen our strength reflected in each other’s eyes and known that we would keep stepping and keep marching. That’s who we are. Today is day 1 of the reclamation of ourselves and our community, of creating a more loving, more united and stronger US.