Before I can proceed with any other thoughts for this piece, I would like to start with the most obvious:
Donald Trump can go to hell. I wish no good for him, his administration, or any of those who would seek to be a part of the harm he will surely unleash on the USA, let alone what he will do abroad.
This seems like an easy enough sentiment to get behind.
No frills or eloquent elaborations on why the election of white nationalist members to his administration poses a threat to myself or my friends.
No polemical accounts of why the calling for registration of Muslims in the US violates any moral grounds one can hope to stand on as a decent human being.
No wordy statements on why he deserves any and all protests that will come his way from all those who feel aggrieved.
Just three words: Fuck Donald Trump.
However, in light of the obviousness of this feeling which I know so many women, people of color, disabled folk, and Muslims share so strongly, I feel there is a need to step back for a moment.
Not because of how right this feeling is but rather in what ways this feeling is coming to be treated as valid. In other words, in what ways are we, as collective groups of people outraged by this travesty of an election, wronged by what has come to pass?
In asking this question, I realize that it may very well be too soon to critique what many may see as a much needed call for unity. Many people are grieving, many are worried they will be separated from their families, and many are just outright frightened of the violence which is assuredly on its way. I cannot blame anyone for these worries as I share all of them and perhaps even a few more than I listed. To unify against the incoming regime of horror is, at best, a means of self-preservation and a rightful call to arms for those who want to see the goodness of the world prevail over such blatant hatred.
And yet…I feel I must speak. I feel I must speak because what I have seen in even just the past week worries me as to what our collective responses to violence will be. And this worry is not for our capacity to fight back against the horrors that await, but what we are willing to let slide in the face of this terror. And because of this leniency, I feel compelled to speak on a few things.
First and foremost, it is appalling to me that what we have seen in terms of media coverage as of late is doing the work of normalizing Trump’s election. In the process of doing so, there is an explicit message being conveyed that perhaps Trump is what we are stuck with and we should simply learn to “make it work.”
To do so ignores the very tangible ways in which, even from the standpoint of electoral processes, people have been suppressed from participating in politics in meaningful ways. From Florida early voting day cuts to Texas voter ID laws to Ohio literacy tests and more, very real efforts have been made to keep people out of the political process.
Such appeals for acceptance ask a certain level of violence be maintained for all those directly implicated within the rhetoric employed throughout the Trump campaign. How can anyone ask disabled folk, immigrants, women (of color), LGBTQ folks, Muslims, and more to accept Trump as a valid elected official simply because he won (through skewed, racist, oppressive measures)? It would seem only the cruelest of people (or at least the most indifferent) can ask such patience of marginalized people. Or maybe those who seem convinced that Trump’s promise of “Make America Great Again” can’t mean what it actually does: Make America (materially) Great Again (for only white people).
Secondly, it annoys me, the lengths to which the current analysis of election results is treating working class status as synonymous with poor (or at least poorer) white folk. Above all else, it tells me that once again the pain of white people is treated as infinitely more worthy of attention than the pain which Black, Indigenous, and other working class people of color have been facing since the creation of this country.
It doesn’t matter that when White families wake up to Trump’s America, they will not be worried if they will be told to go back to where they came from despite their children being born in this country.
It doesn’t matter that, given all the unpleasantness the Trump campaign and now election have unleashed, these horrors did not occur in a vacuum. In fact, it may even be said the foolishness of those who doubted Trump’s capacity to win is rooted in how much we fail to acknowledge how much white power and supremacy means to white people.
It doesn’t even matter that to speak of white working class problems is also to speak of the problems of working class Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. Regardless of how much is being suffered by any pool of white working class people that group will not lose their whiteness, and they will not face white supremacy in its brutality.
White pain is valid and always will be, but will such humanity be granted to those without access to whiteness?
I remain unconvinced.
And so, in light of the dangers which the new normal is bringing forth, I turn back to the question which started this piece off: how do we feel wronged by all this?
This may seem an odd thing to ask but, in light of how sinister the new administration is shaping up to be, it seems necessary to ask what the alternatives would have been.
So many (white) women have indicated how much of a loss they feel at Clinton having not been elected.
So many who were dead set on Bernie Sanders as their candidate believe he would have crushed Trump, had the processes which could have nominated him not been manipulated by the Democratic National Commission.
Many who still believe in the electoral process are making appeals to those would give their votes in the electoral college to see reason and stand against Trump because he is not what America stands for.
Beyond even just this year, many are looking to fight in the next Congressional races for those they believe can represent the interests of a nation that is much more than the white, male, Christian elite, which Trump claims to stand by.
In short, many now are making a collective effort to unite against the coming horrors which a Trump administration brings, appealing to all with a good conscience under the banner of unity.
Unity, in short, is a call to return things to goodness, to make things work for all of the many ethnic, religious, gender, and sexual minorities in the USA because that is what this country is really about.
And yet…it isn’t.
Perhaps the reason I am disappointed but not surprised in Trump’s win is that this is exactly what America is like, from conservative folks to the most die-hard of liberals.
From a political standpoint, maybe the reason I’m not surprised is that there is, to an extent, a background of violence which many feel is acceptable for the USA to exist before people will be worried.
It didn’t matter to many people that Clinton’s election would still pose a threat to Latin American nations given her past foreign policy experience. It only mattered that a white woman president who seemed rightly qualified to lead the country lost to a loudmouth bigot.
It didn’t matter that, whether Trump or Clinton, Israel would still feel comfortable with the aid it receives, which now will lead to expanded settlements. It only mattered that domestic affairs be in order, the rest of the world be damned.
It didn’t matter that, whether Trump or Clinton or even Sanders was elected, many trans women (of color) will walk the streets afraid because of how many of us have died this year alone. It only mattered that Trump has chosen a vice president who feels converting queer folk at the risk of suicide is acceptable, despite many not caring about trans or queer death before.
It didn’t matter that regardless of who was to be elected president of the USA they would still be governing stolen land. They would still be ignoring the Indigenous presence which has long held out against colonialism since this country’s foundation. They would likely still continue the Dakota Access Pipeline and other ventures which have literally been poisoning the land we live on.
My point in saying all this is not to be cynical or to say those calling for unity are naïve.
Protecting oneself, one’s friends, and the need for difference in the world is necessary. A world without different identities, perspectives, and backgrounds is not one I would like to live in. Losing friends and other people simply because some groups are afraid of difference and resort to white nationalism is unacceptable. I will applaud anyone who fights this regime through any means necessary, political or otherwise.
No, what I am asking is perhaps a bit more uncomfortable to dwell on. And this may be only because it reflects how much violence we are willing to accept within our everyday lives.
Nevertheless, I feel I must ask the following:
In the face of white nationalism and open bigotry, does a call for unity, as it currently stands, mean anything more than frustration with the regime of violence we have now been given? Does unity in fact stand in for mere frustration that the white nationalism we now face is not the normative, multicultural empire we wanted instead? If America was already great to begin with, what signs of violence do we call forth as our evidence for this greatness?
These are sobering questions to ask and perhaps a bit unfair to many who think it callous to compare anything within what Sanders or Clinton promised during their campaigns to the vile bigotry which a Trump administration promises.
But I must confess that regardless of who won the election, I would still have woken up afraid the next morning.
I would have been afraid to walk the street for fear of any clothing I would want to wear as a woman inviting violence because of my trans-ness.
I would still wonder how many more Brown and Black trans women would need to die before other LGBTQ folk would care about us more.
I would still wonder why so many people are in prison or why disappearing people into cages is a valid solution to social problems.
I would still be afraid of cops arresting my friends and ICE appearing to deport people who I love so much, despite knowing them very little.
I would still fear for my niece and nephew’s lives because I know how “great” this country was before Trump and how “great” it will be afterwards.
Again, I must emphasize that unity is not a bad idea. We will all need to fight long and hard against the coming horrors, with or without Trump in the White House. And I can’t express how much it means to me that so many people want to help and are finally seeing that things aren’t right in the USA.
But I want to imagine more. I want us all to imagine more.
I want to see Brown communities contend with anti-blackness and actually accept those members they have long denied as part of their family.
I want to see trans-ness be valid whether I am beautiful or not, whether I am desirable and pass or not.
I want to see survivors have resources and people that support them, not pretend as though Trump was the first one to teach them shame.
I want to see disabled friends be believed, receive healthcare, and have the option to navigate how they feel about their disabilities, not be treated as broken by default or as having to like being disabled.
I want to see what decolonization looks like in practice and what engaging with Indigenous communities honestly is, not have superficial meetings with them and turn my back once the cameras are off.
I want to see a world without prisons, a world without borders of violence, and a world where communities of color do not have to fight for humanity.
I want to world build, not just have unity because the new regime of violence is not the one we wanted.
The oppressed of the world (at the very least in the USA) deserve a better alternative to white nationalism than a rainbow coalition of death, to borrow a phrase from poet Matt Sedillo.
We deserve to build a better world, not just bemoan the loss of a comfortably violent one.
Unity is good, but building a better world is necessary. Otherwise, we face the same violence as we did before and the same people will be hurt then as they are now.