Hey y'all! Historic day. I'm celebrating the relief that comes with overthrowing a racist dictator-type man-child from an office he had no business occupying in the first place. I'm celebrating the hard work and organizing efforts of grassroots organizations that kept us from driving right off a fascist cliff. I'm celebrating the tireless work of Black womxn and indigenous folks and folks of color and progressive folks who constantly answer the call to save democracy despite the fact that their calls for justice go so often unanswered. I'm celebrating the long overdue achievement of sending the first Black person, the first Indian-American person, the first womxn to the VP office. I'm celebrating the heartening idea that more folks are recognizing their own power in creating communities, a country, and a future that looks like all of us and works for all of us. I'm celebrating that idea that, come January 20, my raging anxiety might lessen just the tiniest bit simply by nature of not having to think about or hear or read the vile words of a hateful, racist, ignorant, greedy fool.
But I'm also not getting it twisted. Ousting Trump from the White House is like trimming a little crusty leaf off a Sequoia tree with serious root rot. Electoral politics is but one tiny branch of that tree. Half of us managed to eek out enough votes to get this particular ignorant, self-enriching, fear-mongering, white supremacist out, yet greed and white supremacy (bolstered by hate, willful ignorance, and an array of oppressive and destructive -isms) continue to run the show in almost every US institution I can think of, from healthcare to housing, from education to immigration, from faith to feminism, from police to prisons, from politics to the nonprofit world. This poison, selfish stew is upheld, protected, and perpetuated everywhere you look, including the right, including the left, including the undecided and apathetic, including the mirror.
Take for example, media outlets and correspondents, who all bent and stretched and hemmed and hawed for 72+ hours to exhaustively opine on the incoming vote counts - yet no meaningful conversation or even curious discussion took place regarding the white vote and what it might indicate or illustrate in terms of systemic racism in this country, especially given the enormous amount of police brutality and demand for racial social justice we witnessed this summer. There was every reason to talk about outright and/or internalized white supremacy for every one of those 72+ hours, but god forbid we disturb the viewers (ie, ratings and sponsors) for even a nanosecond. Someone, please give the giant elephant in the room a microphone and a fancy interactive electoral college map!
Continuing in 2020 to treat “white” as "default" in a land with no white natives, in a land whose post-colonial economic system was developed through white exploitation of Black and Brown labor, in a land whose post-colonial political and educational and housing and healthcare systems purposefully denied or excluded or obstructed non-white participation shows just how tightly the culture of white supremancy grips our bodies and brains. It will hold on forever if we let it.
Trace any historic path from that time to this time. You will find plenty of gallant notions and powerful figures and flowery speeches and even actual instances of freedom and equality along the way. But I would argue that, if concepts like freedom and equality are the lungs of US society as we now know it, working together to breathe life into our democracy and to sustain the idea of a “more perfect union,” then white supremacy is the heart, steadfastly pumping greed and hate and fear and ignorance into the whole damn organism. And no matter how much “freedom” oxygen we cut it with, devastatingly toxic blood will continue running through the veins of this society until we reckon with that.
That toxicity IS systemic racism, is colonial mindset, is misogyny and patriarchy and rape culture, is queer/transphobia, is consumer culture and internalized capitalism, is xenophobia, is ableism, is religious discrimination, is white privelige, is MAGA mentality, is a Muslim travel ban, is family separation at the border, is anti-bodily autonomy, is anti-gay marriage, is lack of access to adequate housing and healthcare, is climate change denial, is widespread disease and death, is Donald Trump, is whatever comes after Donald Trump. That toxicity makes the idea of freedom and equality entirely possible for some and entirely impossible for others. Bringing awareness to it is not a singular attack against a singular person (though Trump makes a great target) and it’s not a problem that can be fixed with any one election (though today feels like a good place to start if you haven’t already).
No more blood transfusions. No more reform. No more tiny bandages on gaping, gushing wounds. We need the entire heart transplant, and STAT.
My suggestion? Vote, AND. Stay engaged and in service to your local community in whatever way aligns with your values, passions, strengths, and capacities all year long, not just every time a ballot shows up in your mailbox. Breathe in the fresh air of the potential for freedom and equality. But also take note of that toxic heartbeat of white supremacy. How strong does it (or the internalized desire for proximity to it) pulse within you? How strong does it pulse in your family or friend circle or neighborhood or workplace? Stop and ask yourself, multiple times a day, no matter where you are: would all people feel free and equal in this space? If the answer is no, ask what you might be willing to give of your time or energy or money or capacity. Because if the answer is no, that means there’s still much more work to do, and that work ain’t gonna do itself. It certainly won’t all be done in four years by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, wearing Mitch McConnel muzzles and likely up to their ears in whatever special interests and limitations all politicians at that level find themselves entangled in.
White folks, I have a ton of specific suggestions for you (contact me and we’ll chat about fun stuff like detaching from guilt, shame, defensiveness, and other junk). But if you take away one crumb of homework from my election week Ted talk, it’s this: Vote, AND find queer Black womxn artists and/or grassroots activists in your community, then trust their leadership and support their work however you can forever and ever.