On Processing This Election as a Black Woman

Election Night

I posted this to Facebook after it was clear where the election was headed (@ 2:06 a.m.):

I have been trying to sleep since 10:30 and can’t.

All I can think about is how over 400 years, this country has used and abused us and made it clear over and over how much they hate us. And over 400 years we haven’t let them take our humanity or our souls. And how we have so much now that our ancestors couldn’t even begin to wish and hope for. And what it must have been like for them to see this same abuse, this same denial of their humanity denied over and over and over again.

I am living that latter experience in a very real way. But I feel good knowing that I did what they couldn’t and wanted to do, which was vote. And I feel good about the candidate I voted for.

I am sick, literally. My stomach has been upset and I couldn’t stop shaking for over an hour. I cannot sleep, and I have work tomorrow. And I can’t figure out what else to do but continue to show up and remind people that I exist and people like me exist and we deserve the same rights and care as everyone else.

All of that to say, I love you all. And I am so so grateful for the people who fought so hard and so long and were constantly pushed back against and fought anyway. I hadn’t really ever had to feel and deal with that before, but today, I understand in a way I never did before.

This country almost always takes two steps forward and one step back. But sometimes it takes two steps forward and three steps back. Tonight is definitely a three steps back kind of night, which is dreadful for our future. But we have never stopped fighting and I believe sincerely that we can fight our way forward again.


Wednesday

I was still pretty much in shock. In fact, I felt just like I did when my grandmother died. I went to work because I didn’t know what else to do. I mean, I couldn’t just sit at home. So I just kind of numbed out and went.

It helped a lot. For one thing, all we did in three of my classes was watch clips of Romeo & Juliet adaptations. Plus, working got me engaging with other people–some of whom were just as upset as I was.

I spent a lot of time thinking about some of the things I read from my friends on Twitter or FB. Friends who said that they wish they had been more vocal, that they had done more. And I thought of how I often complained about being tired of having these conversations and having to constantly reaffirm my existence. But, you know, I realized that it doesn’t matter if I’m tired because obviously people still don’t get it.

So I decided I’m going to engage with my blog more meaningfully from now on. Because, like I said in my FB post, people need to know I exist. Period. I don’t know yet how I’m going to do it so far, but I am planning to.

I also decided to be more intentional with my reading. Next year, I’m going to read more nonfiction about nasty women and bad hombres. I’m planning to start with The Fire of Freedom, which a friend has suggested more than once that I read.

A friend posted this poem on her Facebook and I’m sharing it here because it accurately reflects where I was on Wednesday:

Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!


Thursday

When I woke up, I knew that I had to do something, but I couldn’t figure out what to do exactly. I know all about getting involved, but, quite frankly, I am tired (this semester has been draining, but my job is a LOT of work even when it’s not a semester from hell). However, I realized that I do have a platform: my classroom. So I made the decision to completely revamp the Comp 2 course I’m teaching for the spring and focus on issues of social justice. I am a firm believer in combating ignorance and fear with education. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I still haven’t figured out exactly what the class will entail (I need to make it through the rest of this semester first), but I do know that I would like to incorporate blogging into the course, so I’m looking for blogs that focus on issues of social justice (e.g., Read Diverse Books and Reading and Gaming for Justice). I have a list of some major social justice sites, but I want models for my students (mostly first-year students) that show you don’t have to be backed by a major organization or website in order to engage with these issues. So, basically, blogs by lay people that are committed to some form of social justice and maybe not in the ways we always immediately think about.

If you can think of any, please comment and let me know.

By the way, I have never (N E V E R) felt more compassion for my ancestors who had to live in a world with a government and neighbors who openly hated them and used that hatred to further their political (and other) careers and social standing.


Friday

Today, I finally got into rage mode. I think it’s because I read a couple of those think pieces encouraging people to understand why rural white Americans would vote for Trump and how maybe they’re not really racist or whatever. There are some links on Aarti’s review of a book that does some of the same here.

Anyway, it got me into rage mode because OF COURSE these voters are racist. Oh, some of them may not be overtly racist, and some of them may not think they’re racist and, in fact, will argue that racism didn’t factor into their decision. You know, it was about jobs or whatever.

That is complete bull. And I mean, maybe they believe that. But it’s bull.

And here’s why:

Trump ran on a platform that said he would make America great again (for white people) at the expense of black people and other people of color, which is as American an idea as coming to a country, stealing it from the native people, and then building that country on the backs of slaves. That is racist. It is saying that white people are more important than the other people (OF COLOR) who will be hurt by his policies.

Clinton, on the other hand, ran a campaign on the promise of diversity and inclusion because when all of our lives improve, ALL OF OUR LIVES IMPROVE. Because no one group is more deserving of their lives improving than another.

So yeah. Believe Trump voters when they tell you they’re not racist if you want to, but they voted for the candidate who has said he’s committed to upholding the very racist and exclusionary legacy of this country, so.


That’s where I am right now. We’ll see what the weekend brings.

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14 comments

  1. Jenny

    Hi Akilah – I apologize if any of the articles I posted about understanding why people voted to Trump were hurtful to read. I absolutely agree that anyone who voted for him was voting for the interests of white men and against the lives of non-white people, non-Christian people, and women. I will be more careful about my research and public comments. I am inspired by your motivation to act so quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Akilah

      No, they weren’t. I just realized those articles aren’t written for ME. And I do think some of the points in the articles are valid (like the loss of economic security, etc). But, in general, no one in those articles is discussing that that’s all well and good, but even that call for empathy isn’t reciprocal.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ally Bean

    …because obviously people still don’t get it.

    I’m glad that you took the time to write what and how you were feeling after this circus of an election. What you have to say is insightful and disturbing, but it needs to be said, over and over again. You exist.

    I agree that education in the classroom is one of the best way to combat racism. I also believe that, for me, calling people out on their BS is going to be more important in the coming years. It’s not my style to do so, but I will do what needs to be done.

    Like

  3. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I’m at the point where I want to scream every time someone talks about “trying to understand” Trump voters. Cause I have kin who voted for Trump, and I’ve been trying to understand them for years, and for years I have known they have noooooo interest in understanding me. And if they don’t want to understand me — their straight cis white niece who they presumably love — I don’t know what makes anybody think that voters like them want to understand people who aren’t like them and who they don’t love. Marginalized groups have been explaining themselves to those in power for centuries, and the cold truth is that white folks don’t have to listen and don’t want to listen, and Trump is the end result of that. So yeah. Everyone can miss me with those damn articles. I understand Trump voters just fine already.

    Like

  4. Morgan | Backlist Babe

    Akilah, thank you so much for sharing all of this raw emotion from the (very disappointing) election. A lot of this resonated with me, and I’m just not sure I could have ever put everything into words the way you did. Especially this: “I realized that it doesn’t matter if I’m tired because obviously people still don’t get it.” Because it’s incredibly true. UGH. All of this is just so hard to process right now, but I’m glad you’ve found a way to combat the ignorance in your own personal platform of the classroom. I hope that goes over well. If I discover any blogs that fit the bill of what you’re looking for, I’ll definitely let you know!

    Like

  5. vendija723

    One of my collyhas been trying to talk me into giving up my planning period next semester so we can pilot a social justice course at our rural, 55% Latinx, 45% white middle school. I’m already burning the candle at both ends, but how can i say no to a chance at a concrete way to make a difference?

    Like

  6. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku

    Akilah– thank you for sharing your story, your feelings, and your experiences. This isn’t easy for everyone, and it’s important that the world hears and understands our concerns. We need voices like your to speak up– particularly because not everyone feels safe to. I’m trying to promote actionable ways to make social justice change through my blog. I hope that we can start to see a better future soon, and without violence and hate.

    Like

  7. Read Diverse Books

    I wasn’t able to process my thoughts and feelings into a blog post format, and probably won’t at this point. So thank you for writing this up. You’ve capture many of my own feelings in these posts. Last Friday I was definitely in rage mode..

    Like

  8. Katy K.

    Thank you so much for posting, Akilah! From my perspective, I’ve seen so many children terrified about Trump – my daughter terrified that her brown-skinned Daddy will be taken away, a friend’s son scared that his friends will be taken. So many adults I think rationalized away the racism that just isn’t getting by the kids. So many thoughts, leaving me counting up the small ways a parent and librarian and G.S. leader can make a difference.

    Like

  9. Pingback: Post-Election Redux: A Round-Up of Online Reading | the dirigible plum
  10. crbrunelle

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I walked in to school the day after the election and couldn’t even speak before tears were running down my face again. I feel like I’ve been working through grief. Looking into my students eyes every day since, I know I have even more reason to do what I do in my school library. I haven’t put my thoughts into words on my blog and don’t know if I will, but thank you for this.

    Like

  11. andrescarrascoblog

    I agree with you completely and it’s beyond me how people can elect such a hot head as our president. Women have come so far since the beginning of this country and it seems like this election is taking a giant step back. But like I said, there’s been a huge improvement for women’s rights since the beginning and I don’t think this is the end. There is more to come, this is just a bump in the road. I will continue to have the respect for women that my parents taught me to have, despite what any president of mine says. I think it’s a very good idea to use your workplace to better the world. Students are so vulnerable to different beliefs and I love that you’re taking action to try to help this injustice by teaching students what is right. Awesome post!

    Like

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