Why We March
As a black woman who grew up as one of the few POC in a sea of predominant whiteness (I did ALL of my schooling in super-racist and homophobic Canby, Oregon), I’ve become very aware of the kinds of bigots and bigot sympathizers who made a Trump presidency possible. I, like so many other Portlanders, gritted my teeth and voted for Hillary Clinton with the highest of hopes (despite her problematic past policies), but I felt sick at the overconfidence of my social network of progressives. I didn’t want to be surprised when Trump was elected, like so many UK citizens were by their comparable Brexit vote. So over the course of the campaign season I told myself and others on a daily basis that Donald Trump was probably going to win the Presidency.
As the days passed and the election results started to sink in, I saw my friends and family members shaken with grief, shock, confusion, and concern for what these results mean for so many marginalized groups, then take to the streets to protest. That’s right people, we have not been making this shit up or “complaining” for years about our disenfranchisement just for shits and giggles. The majority of white people—or at least white voters—do not care about Trump’s lack of experience, policy proposals, or mental stability. Instead they rally around him because of his backward rhetoric. We know this because it’s the only thing he has presented to us.
I identified heavily with what Dave Chappelle illustrated in that Election Night SNL sketch: being the only unsurprised black person in the room (until Chris Rock arrives) while watching a group of white liberal friends realize that the majority of the country is racist and sexist. And while I personally have been well aware that our country is filled with citizens who want to maintain their individual privileges at the disenfranchisement of everyone else, seeing these numbers come in from the exit polls still hurts. It hurts to know just how much of the population wants to go backward.
But let’s be honest: these views are nothing new. And while I am concerned about the very serious repercussions of this decision—limited access to birth control, the repealing of the Affordable Care Act, revoking marriage equality, and the deportation of Muslims and immigrants—I know that Team Trump will have to jump through a few hoops to make these changes.
What gives me the most anxiety is how Trump’s followers have become liberated and emboldened by this win. For days I have been nervous in public, fearing that I will be verbally or physically attacked by some criminal white supremacist from Gresham who decides to cross the river and do a hate crime in the name of Donald Trump.
That’s why I also identified with much of Chappelle’s opening monologue, in which he expressed that he’s “staying out of it” in regard to the nationwide protests, taking a knee like Colin Kaepernick and letting “the whites figure this out amongst themselves.” Because honestly, this is white people’s mess to clean up. Many of us know that this is not the time for our black/brown/Muslim/immigrant bodies to be out in the streets. Especially since... have you watched the news lately? It’s kind of a war zone in downtown Portland, where anti-Trump protesters are getting tear-gassed, flashbombed, and arrested by the dozens, as their demonstrations are being hijacked by anarchists. Oh, and there’s a reactionary uptick in hate crimes and threats toward people of color, women, and LGBT persons! (Follow Shaun King of the New York Daily News for ongoing coverage that will make you both aware and anxious.)
So now that we have about two months until President Obama leaves office (wahhhhhhhh!), I am choosing to react with preparedness, self-care, and joy. From now on I’ll be following in the footsteps of influencers like Crissle and Kid Fury from the This Is the Read podcast: I’m going to have a good BLACKASS time, and I’m not going to let anybody steal my magic. Speaking of which, I’ve been listening to Solange’s A Seat at the Table album as music therapy all week, and I am so grateful that she released this project prior to the election. It’s an affirmation and celebration of blackness that’s just what the doctor ordered.
Oh, and I reject the idea of unifying with Trump’s America; I’m going to be brave and disrespectful toward everything he stands for. I’m not going to cower or hide inside my apartment; I’m going to continue to stretch my afro as high as it can go, and blast “F.U.B.U.” at every opportunity. I’m going to purchase a “fuck Trump” T-shirt, and continue to support businesses, organizations, and artists that celebrate diversity and denounce bigotry. I’m going to focus on loving my fellow women, people of color, and queer folk so that we can continue to rise above. And since my mere existence makes me a target, I’m going to arm myself to some degree.
While I understand the need to stay in the US and fight to make this country better... leaving the country is definitely not off the table. If I need to flee the country to avoid an “ethnic cleanse” (which, with Trump’s newly appointed white nationalist Stephen Bannon in the White House, is in the realm of possibilities), then that’s what the fuck I’m currently preparing to do.
Even though I don’t feel comfortable putting myself in an unruly crowd of angry white people right now, I think it’s great that so many of you good guys are taking to the streets to make your disapproval known. It gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling to know y’all are willing to get super pissed on my behalf and wear insignificant safety pins of support. HOWEVER, these protests have become the opposite of organized and focused; they’ve created a dangerous, destructive, and financially draining environment for the city of Portland. I’m not saying to stop protesting; by all means, go throw a tantrum in Portland, a city that voted Hillary Clinton into office, if that’s what you want to do. In the words of Solange: we’ve got a lot to be mad about. But as a black bisexual woman living in the whitest major city in America, I would rather you use your voice in ways that really matter, that are impactful on a close-to-home level.
Go protest with your hard-earned dollars by refusing to support Trump-backing companies like New Balance and Coors Light. Donate to Planned Parenthood (in Mike Pence’s name), or get involved with Showing Up For Racial Justice PDX, or buy a subscription to the New York Times, or any of the many actions that the Mercury has recommended in the wake of this decision. But we also need to change minds to make a difference for our future. So in addition to all the actions I pray you’re going to take, also make your disapproval known this Thanksgiving, not by boycotting dinner altogether, but by cussing out your Trump-supporting relatives and letting them know that you are requiring more from them in exchange for participation in your life—like human decency and compassion toward your friends who look different from them. ’Cause we’re going to keep on existing one way or another, and the time has come to pick a side.