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Sweet Dreams, Deferred


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My daughter was not smiling this morning.

For the first time, when I went into her room to give her morning kisses, there was no cooing, no unbridled joy. Did she pick up on her parents’ numbness? Did she know this would be remembered as the day white people confirmed they don’t care about us? Could she feel our rage and disillusionment? I let her have her feelings; she let me have mine. And so the day began.

Today, I will read no news. I know the reason we find ourselves here will never get a fair shake from a corporate media that spent more than a year bolstering the platform of the white nationalist candidate. They will make it about him, not them – the nearly 51 million white citizens (58% of all white voters) who voted against all things black, brown, foreign, feminine, Muslim; the media that gave him a pass and affirmed a double standard where he needed no experience, no knowledge of anything in order to run the most powerful nation in the world. They will make it about us – saying “minorities” and “ethnic” voters didn’t turn out and lost the election for the Democrats. They will blame us for our own suffering and keep invisible the real seat of power in this country. They will echo his sentiments of “unity” and chide those who rise up and name that this is not our president.

Indeed, Donald Trump is not my president. He is the figurehead of a government founded to protect white property-owning men. At a time when white people are all too aware of demographic shifts that threaten their majority status over the rest of us, they put the white man back where he belongs to protect their power. No matter their education, income, or geography (all factors pundits and pollsters told us make white people different from one another), the majority of white people voted for their own best interest: unquestioned white power. They voted to protect their whiteness—the one thing that protects them above all else. They voted because they feared the rest of us were getting just a little too uppity, thinking our lives mattered and we belonged in the White House. They voted to make sure we know our place under their boot. They run this mutha fucka, and it will be run for them, by them. Or did you forget?

You may have forgotten. For a few years, many of us thought we were on a progressive track. We thought progress was possible, and we could see a flicker of light amidst a bleak reality. I’m not talking about post-racial America or an end to racism, white supremacy, and patriarchy or anything. C’mon. We’re more woke than that. But maybe fewer police and prisons, and more mental and physical health care. Maybe undocumented people could come out of the shadows and really be free here. Maybe queer people, women of color, trans and nonbinary folks could be who they are without fear of violence or a life in and out of prison. Maybe they’d stop murdering our babies in the street if we just shouted loud enough, disrupted their business-as-usual. If we were smart, organized, innovative en masse. Maybe. For a second, it looked like progress.

Nope.

That dream deferred is really just a dream: a nightmare we thought we could move through lucidly until we all woke up. The hell our ancestors lived through. The brutality and injustice their children, not more than two generations ago, lived through. The impoverishment, murder, and lock up present generations live through today. It’s always been there. But we’ve been there, too: organizing, resisting, fighting back; educating ourselves and each other.

It turns out we weren’t the ones sleeping—it was the giant. Rumbling. Visible, but in that predawn slumber. The giant let some of us have a moment of hope. We made friends with some of its nicer parts, built alliances with them. We thought the Tea Party and KKK were fringe, but they were just the giant’s toes wiggling as it entered into full wakefulness. The giant flexed its arms as we protested. And still, some were afraid to put the feet and toes and arms together and name that giant that was stretching itself into full consciousness. That giant is now awake. And if we do not name it, see all its insidious parts and how it is not us, but threatens our very existence, then it will crush us.

The giant is not Donald Trump (though I’m sure he’d get a hard-on at the thought of it). It is the foundational system of white supremacy – the power of whiteness that propped him up and landed him the most powerful seat in the world. A system that endowed his privilege on the backs of workers his family exploited for generations. A system that rewarded his family with great riches by denying housing to Black families. He only needed to say a few key phrases, and the giant woke up. He spoke directly to the giant in every white person in this country, and that mini Klansman within unchecked whiteness knew just what to do. If we thought we were the chickens coming home to roost, white supremacy led us to slaughter on our way there.

I thought we’d have more time.

I knew there was going to be blood in the streets and that eventually we’d need a revolution. I just thought we had more time. I had a baby this year because I thought we had more time. I work in social justice knowing it’s a long haul. I was okay working toward necessary reforms because I felt good about the work we were doing to get people out of prisons and bring relief to families, to ensure health care, and to fight for fair wages. I knew it would get worse before it got better, but I thought maybe we hit rock bottom already. But we hadn’t. We have further to fall before we rise from the rubble.

So, what now?

Organizing for policy change seems like a futile response to the giant; like we are plucking hairs one by one only to be cast aside as an annoyance. The giant will remain intact. Right now, I suggest a pause. We don’t have much time, but we must come together with all of our strategies and at least be in agreement about what we are combating. There is nowhere to hide, progressive white organizations. It’s clear how Trump was elected. White supremacy is alive and well. We must name it, never forget it, and organize to eradicate it.

There will be those whose strategy is to protect those in danger – undocumented families, Muslims, and people of color in hostile territory, for instance. There will be others who craft local or state policy, or track federal policy that must be stopped. And there will be those whose sole purpose is to dismantle this racist white supremacist giant in its entirety. Whatever the strategy, we must agree on what we are fighting for and against.

In the immediate moment, I imagine hiding from it: shrinking so small the giant can’t see me and my little family. Ignore us. We are no threat. But that is neither sufficient nor sustainable, despite my privilege as a light-skinned, natural born, middle class citizen. My privilege, my desire to hide, will not protect me.

This moment is calling on my courage. And in order to be courageous, I must take care of myself and my family. We need to fortify ourselves. We need to make sure we are strong and healthy. We need to make sure we know who our people are. We need ways of communicating and supporting each other that do not involve reliance on corporations or the state.

As I write this, my belly swells with fear. I do not know how to live like this, but I am taking one step at a time. Tonight, I will pick up my daughter from daycare. I will cherish every moment with her – smelling her sweet head, burying my face in her neck. I will rub her down with mami’s special blend of shea and cocoa butters. I will love her little precious body. I will relish in her freedom. I will lay her down and kiss her all over. I will wish her sweet dreams, deferred.


 

Echoing Ida is a home for Black women and nonbinary people committed to telling our truths. If you have a post-election reflection or analysis to share, please submit it to echoingida@forwardtogether.org.