Less than 72 hours after learning that Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States, I have nothing coherent to say. What I have are fits and fragments of clarity that rise only momentarily to the surface of my grief before being swallowed again into the fog.
Maybe fragmented clarity is what we need. Maybe this is an honest way forward. I can’t participate in making sense of “what went wrong.” Not yet. Some of the people close to me are coping by diving into the details and analyzing the shit out of this national mess (quite brilliantly too, I might add). For me, when the world falls apart, I need time to stand in the middle of the destruction and wail. Standing in the gap left by what was lost, bearing the weight of all that is not there, I find… what is it? Strength? Resources? Hope?
Perhaps, truth. Hard truth, without which the repetition of ruin is inescapable. This truth is not the kind that forms first in my mind and fits neatly into words. But, if I am still enough and offered grace it seeps in through my skin and takes up residence in my bones. It changes the pace of my breath. It comes in glimpses, fragmented just like our world. As best I can, which is not very well, here are the fragments I am discovering in the fog.
Wednesday morning, in bed, reeling, refusing to open my eyes: “This is what it feels like for survivors of sexualized violence when their communities choose to stand behind perpetrators and enablers of assault.” I couldn’t get out of bed. I wasn’t thinking about the havoc the Trump administration would wreak on the nation. I was thinking about my neighbors and the people I would have to look in the face that day if I left my house:
“How could you? How could you betray me like this?”
I thought about what it felt like to watch my seminary affirm a man who assaulted me on campus and commission him to serve and lead the church. I remember sitting in the chapel, bent to the ground, drenched in tears as the rest of my community beamed at him with intolerable joy. That moment haunts me. It comes back to me in my dreams even though, after that day, I never had to see him or hear his name again. Now, a man who has revealed himself to be a person who regularly assaults women, who has been accused of assault by many, and who is currently charged with raping a child was chosen, blessed and commissioned by my neighbors to hold the most powerful office in the land. They gave him this power. They gave him power over me.
Out of bed, finally, I watched the man across the street twiddle with something in his shed. I stared, still not ready to leave my house: “How could you.”
I feel guilt for dwelling on the impact this election is having on me. Arrogant. Selfish. Blind. But, it has caught me by the throat, and it will not let me go.
New York Times: “More than half of the white women who voted in the presidential election cast their ballot for Donald J. Trump.”
My sisters, we need to talk. We need to talk about race, and we need to get real with each other fast.
Sometimes, I’m tempted to let my anger at white women who refuse to acknowledge their racial privilege get the best of me. Sarcastically dismissing them feels good. It increases my confidence that I’m not them, and of course, I need this boost because my deepest fear is that we are one in the same.
This isn’t good enough. Tuesday night, once it was clear that Trump was going to win, it occurred to me differently than it had ever before that the white women on the news celebrating the triumph of racism, sexism and xenophobia run amok are my kin. I looked at them saying hateful things and, as if my own eyes betrayed me, I saw sisters. I saw myself clearly too. My internal desire to distance myself from white women who are insensitive to racism is a deep betrayal of my sisters of color each time I give in to it, because if I am not willing to walk through the muck with my own kin – sisters of my own culture, infuriating as they are – who will?
It’s my job. White sisters, it is ours. It has always been ours.
Now that I’ve put the words on the page, the whole concept seems desperately obvious. I have the sense that I am revealing myself to be unwise, undependable, unpracticed in navigating the racial dynamics of my own life and of the world around me. But, that’s the point, isn’t it? Progressive white women fear inadequacy on the topic of race, stay quiet so as not to reveal that inadequacy, and in doing so all but guarantee that our inadequacies will remain.
When we choose to stop being afraid, we actually have the power to liberate ourselves and support the transformation our sisters of color are leading in the world. Our Stories Untold, if anything, is a testament to the power of breaking silence. It’s about time we dedicate ourselves to breaking our silence on our relationship to race, no?
Men: Y’all got some work to do too.
In the last few days, it has been queer friends who have created, nurtured and ushered me into spaces of fierce support. I watch them do this and know that the wisdom and care spilling out of them this week was born of necessity in the midst of the countless betrayals they have already survived.
Tonight, I am headed to a self-defense class. I was invited weeks ago. I didn’t know then that the world would be turning on its head.
Earlier, I thought about going for a walk in the park to clear my head and be present to the grief in my body. Then, I remembered that a week ago, when I dared to walk alone one block down my own street at dusk, some guy slowed down his car, leaned all the way out his window, looked up and down my body and screamed – bloody SCREAMED – sexual obscenities in my direction. “Hot damn, Bitch!” “Get on your knees!” “I’m gonna fuck that ass!” Etcetera. Other drivers took notice. Pedestrians stopped and glanced confusedly from him to me. Flooded with rage, my impulse was to yell back, but I caught my tongue. If he was bold enough to verbally assault me in public, what would he do if I pissed him off? That was before Trump won the election.
I didn’t go to the park.
The self-defense class I’m participating in tonight will not be the fun time with friends that I thought it would be when I signed up. From now until a rapist is no longer running our country and emboldening my neighbors to act violently in my direction, it will be what I take with me when I leave the house. Running shoes, purse, wallet, keys, phone, strategies for self-defense.
If my world has changed – and believe me, it has – what of the worlds of immigrants? Muslims? Trans teens? Black mothers?
Fragments. Stopped breaths.
More to come.