Why do we continue to let presidential elections determine how we breathe?
Who owns the air? Why all the gasping after a vote? Always believe in a second wind. Don’t run with your mouth open. Listen to your heart. Does it continue to beat? Celebrate life. Work and love. Change is but a kiss.
– E. Ethelbert Miller
The Spirit of Ida B. Wells – How Will Black Women Fare Under Donald. J. Trump?
By Julianne Malveaux
The unfortunate election of Donald J. Trump is a bitter pill for those African American women who have been focused on social and economic justice. To be sure, the sycophants like Omarosa Manigault are overjoyed with their new power and position, especially as Ms. Manigault asserted that we would all have to “bow down” to Mr. Trump when he was elected. Many of us are not bowing, we are strategizing, organizing, and assessing the damage that African American women will experience during a Trump Presidency.
Mr. Trump has asserted that the size of government is too large and has indicated that he intends to shrink its size. Indeed, days after he was inaugurated, he signed an executive order freezing federal hiring. Although the executive order is loosely worded and allows for many exceptions, the fact is that more than 20 percent of federal workers are African American women. Many work at the bottom, as clerical and administrative workers, with salaries at $40,000 or less, but many also work in “middle management” with higher salaries. One cannot say that Trump intends to impact African American women by freezing or cutting (which may be the next step) federal employment, the fact (real, not alternative) is that African American women will experience a disproportionate burden from this freeze and possible subsequent cut.
Mr. Trump has also issued ill-advised and potentially budget busting executive orders. He wants to build a costly wall, although there has been no appropriation to do so. He wants to embark on a multi-million dollar (low estimate_ investigation of voting fraud. He has talked about balancing a budget, so where will the money come from? Likely from the social services, health and education. Likely from those government functions that are helpful to Black women.
Mr. Trump has illustrated his hostility to women with his comments about “grabbing”, and more. If he has contempt for all women, how must he feel about African American women? His affection for Ms. Manigault notwithstanding, it is telling that there is no African American woman in his cabinet, or any Latino man or woman. His commitment to diversity is minimal, and it is unlikely that the Department of Labor will have the resources or leadership to continue to monitor labor market discrimination. Will the EEOC survive, and with what resources? African American women have relied on these agencies for oversight and protection in the workplace.
The impulsive, egotistical and narcissistic nature of this President suggests that he will represent in the Oval Office exactly as he has as a candidate – arrogant, self-absorbed, myopic, enamored of billionaires (we still don’t have proof of his financial status), and contemptuous of the “little people”. We, African American women, are all “little people”, and “big people” like BET Founder Bob Johnson have cautioned us to “wait and see” what Trump produces. Well, we have waited weeks since the November x election, and we have seen the havoc and destruction that one man can wreak on a nation when he is the one in power.
We must summon the spirit of Ida. B. Wells, the Truth-Teller who documented outrages against those lynched. Now, with the possibility of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, we must be ever vigilant to see with the “Justice” Department does to enforce equal justice. We must summon the spirit of Fannie Lou Hamer, who was beaten to within an inch of her life because she dared register people to vote, as we fight to ensure voting rights for the nation, and for the restoral of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. We must summon the spirit of Coretta Scott King, who managed to get concessions from both Democrats and Republicans as she worked to establish a Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. And we must summon the spirit of every ancestor as we remember that we have gone too far to turn back now.
While Mr. Trump will not target African American women, his actions will disproportionately hurt African American women. Still, we have tools to resist his “carnage”. We can fight at the state and local level, we can pressure our national officers, and we must insist the we won’t “let nobody turn us around”. We have survived through more challenging times and we have role models to remind us that resistance is victory.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and educator. Her most recent book is, Are We Better Off: Race, Obama, and Public Policy.
Blind Faith: A Contemplation of the Alt-Right White
By Jodi J Thompson
“I sat reading a children’s book, the ideology so thinly veiled, the congregation blushed scarlet.”
Analogy of subjective belief aka Faith:
when you find out that Mary meant dance soiree
but couldn’t pronounce the alien word. That everyone
else thought dancery. And you, sole dandelion, heard
deseree, you shake your head and wonder at why not
one fool close to Mary told her any better, why no one
close to you seems to have enough wind to rustle your
beliefs, make silly something you held as truth, witch-
craft your eyes to make you observe a new reality. but
Mary answered that – “no hateration in this deseree.”
we choose the people who allow us the space to keep
all our little quirky crooked spores intact regardless of
how hard the wind blows any day in the dance soiree.
Doubt vs Belief:
Doubt is just Belief giving you the middle finger. Two sides
of the same feather. Trump says that a woman who knows too
much, knows without knowing. Knowledge becomes a burden,
not a flowering. Does that mean that the mystical Knowledge of
my black pussy weighs me down like a Palms Spring snow globe?
Or like a NYPD choke hold? Or a bath of bullets after a long day
of slave labor? Or like the future president, an alleged child raper?
True Knowledge vs Faith:
Knowledge is a powerful hallucinogenic. It gives you the allusion of
knowing. So the real knowing doesn’t come from actually knowing. It
comes from the belief in knowing. The blind faith in True Knowledge.
I must not know – not have Faith in my mind’s eye. Because reality is
subjective and thus impermanent. If I decide to let go of that last thread
of humanity. That thing we all have but often ignore. Then I can bend
under the burden of Knowledge without breaking. Then I can remain
blind with eyes wide open, like all-knowing belief systems built on Faith.
Jodi J. Thompson is a poet, teacher, dancer, and scholar. She was born in Jamaica and immigrated to Brooklyn as a child. Migration, whether forced or voluntary, has been at the forefront of her scholarly work – specifically political solidarity among people of Asian and African descent. An avid traveler, Jodi currently resides in Taipei where she teaches literature of the Asian and African diaspora.
Letter to My Students for the Day After the Election of Donald Trump
We are all in a privileged space: A space where we can take the time to reflect on our lives, hope for better, and work to make it happen. The privilege isn’t the same for all of us. Some of us feel like our voices don’t matter so we don’t speak up in class. We don’t join clubs on campus or engage in politics at all because we see the system as rigged against us or we are worried we’ll be attacked for our beliefs or the way we look or sound. I am afraid today. But I know that it was not that long ago that being brown meant that you would not be allowed to become educated. That being a woman meant that you would not be allowed to be educated. Some of us still live in fear every day that the status of their documentation will keep them from being educated. But right here and right now, we have the privilege of access to mental and physical health care on campus and we have the very hard-earned privilege of diversity. I encourage all of you to speak with and really listen to those you disagree with. Intolerance is based on ignorance. Right here and right now we have the opportunity to learn – not just from our teachers but from one another. We do not have to be bullied. We are here in this room because people fought for us to have the privilege of meeting people from all walks of life and learn from one another rather than being isolated in our own ideas of the world. If you are feeling afraid, please know that I am here and there are many resources available to you.
Anger can be constructive if you decide to make it so.
We are our greatest resource.
We “are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”
We are the past, present, and future.
Please don’t take your education for granted. For all of its flaws, there is great potential for each of us to be better; To do better. We have each other.
Ph.D. student and T.A.,
University of California, Riverside
“Throwing a Molotov Cocktail” or “Setting off a Suicide Bomb?” Which Metaphor for Pro-Trump White Workers?
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
I was struck by film-maker Michael Moore’s metaphor, prior to the November 8th election, of angry white voters—particularly those who have been victims of the restructuring of global capitalism—throwing a Molotov cocktail through their voting for Donald Trump in order to express their outrage with the system. The basic idea behind that vote was to create a crisis and demonstrate to the system their fury with neo-liberal globalization.
I have a different metaphor: a suicide bomber. I started thinking about this after reading a letter written by a white union member to his union’s leadership explaining his decision to vote for Trump. The letter, shared with me by a friend, was brief. The writer claimed that he had previously voted for Obama but this time he and many other members of his union were going to vote for Trump. He claimed that he was doing this because he needed to do something in the interest of his son’s future.
Upon reading this letter, my first reaction was to say to myself: “So, this guy is going to look out for his son…by doing it on my back…” It was at that point that the notion of a ‘suicide bomber’ emerged for me.
Hillary Clinton actually won the election by more than 2 million votes. In any other country, she would be the President-elect. But due to a legacy of slavery known as the Electoral College, we now face the prospect of the incoming Trump administration. And Trump was able to win not because of a mass working class uprising but due to a series of factors that ultimately influenced a relatively small number of voters in key—traditionally blue—states to vote for delusional Donald.
But what about those white workers who turned to Trump? This is where the ‘suicide bomber’ metaphor emerges. A suicide bomber is carrying out asymmetric warfare. They are aiming to make a statement. They are not necessarily concerned with winning in the classical sense but seeking to disrupt the established order. They obviously do not, ultimately, care about their own life, and they do not care about “collateral damage.” In fact, the distinction between combatant and non-combatant is largely non-existent for a suicide bomber.
Pro-Trump white workers have to be distinguished from the core Republican electorate. The latter are those who one can count on to vote Republican and are hardcore conservatives (of different varieties). They hate Democrats and they especially hated President Obama. On the other hand, the white worker who turned away from Democrats and consciously chose to vote for Trump was not simply disenchanted with Hillary Clinton (for whatever set of reasons) but was prepared to cast a vote with a complete understanding of the extent of the havoc they were wreaking. These voters were not naïve, nor were they voting “against their own interests”; rather, they had defined their own interests in a way that aligned with the racism, sexism and xenophobia of the Trump campaign, even if they did not see themselves as racists, sexists and/or xenophobes.
In the case of the white union member who voted for Trump in the name of his son’s future, this particular “suicide bomber”/angry white worker voter was prepared to push the button in favor of destroying the lives of people of color, women and immigrants, not to mention other union members, as a way of making a statement that he hoped would benefit his WHITE son.
In this sense, these voters were not voting for Trump despite Trump’s white nationalism and sexism. They were fully conscious of Trump’s total politics but saw in that candidacy what a suicide bomber sees in carrying out their own mission: destruction and chaos that can bring attention to one’s ‘cause,’ i.e., the cause of those who feel that the so-called American Dream is no longer serving the interests of white Americans.
Michael Moore was onto something when he spoke about angry white voters ‘throwing a Molotov cocktail’ in the November 2016 election, though he was inadvertently removing a discussion of the physical pain suffered by others because of this act. A Molotov cocktail typically is thrown against or into a building or, during combat, against an enemy vehicle or position. Individuals may or may not be killed as a result.
The objective of a suicide bomber, however, is something else. Their aim is to destroy people. They look at a mass of civilians as part of the enemy and, in destroying them and their lives, the suicide bomber hopes to make a statement about a larger cause or about the enemy to which the suicide bomber believes those civilians to be part. There is pain connected with the impact of a suicide bombing. People are taken down. The cause is upheld.
The button pushed on November 8th has already begun the process of taking down “non-combatants.” Certainly, the political establishment has been awakened to the fact that there are angry white voters out there, many of them workers and some of them white union members. But the cost of pushing that button will be felt less by the political establishment—which is already in the process of adjusting—and more by the populations the Trump campaign explicitly targeted in its maniacal rush for power.
That white union member who voted for Trump in the interests of his son’s future may have, in fact, condemned his son to an inferno. Time will tell.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the former President of Trans Africa Forum. He is a talk show host, writer and activist. He can be followed on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.
My mother, who is Scottish, English, Italian, rosy freckled, and knows who’s mother she is, said to me on the phone, “The old gods are tired of not being prayed to.” Is that what those that would see us banished or crushed did? My father, who is Black like soft dirt, leather, butterflies, and rainbows, said, that he hoped this now finally would be an impetus to get woke. I am pulling at thin strands when I say I think magic will do the trick. We on the side of justice still come from people that believed praying, could do as many wonders as running, and that the Earth, can take care of herself by herself only when she is not being messed with by her boarders. Toni says now is not the time to fall, to sit, to lie down, we must rise to the challege of creating something beautiful in the face of tyranny, and Katy Perry says, America will not be run by hate. But it was founded on it. And I have been flying while lying down. I am as much disabled as I am black, and I do not have the privilege not to have faith in the body’s capacity to want what is good for us. I ask my lovers to remember that they are in relationship. To be living, is to be in relationship. I ask my friends and would be comrades to wean themselves from the addiction to the name given to brown land by the people who crashed into us and coiled around our bodies, valleys, peaks, and trees. Stole our land or stole us from our land or told us we would never be better off anywhere but on the land they stole but that we better learn to learn our place. We on the side of justice for the most suppressed, we of sweet tea and soft dirt, of twisted ankles, limp wrists, and pink beating hearts, might be tempted to believe the problem lies in allowing the privileged descendent of our enslavers to hold the hand of the disprivileged and call themselves our ally. I just don’t know, baby. What I do know is that there are many righteous bodies who do not look or move alike, who’s stories and desires and needs are not identical, who want to lace what they’ve got together like a net or shield or floor or roof or bow. Our ways of asking for help, for connecting to one another too have been colonized. But that is not all there is. I will be a brown and green forest floor with you. I will be a black wave with you. I will be a hourde of fur lined, toothy on the inside animals with you, armed and open- strong and always vulnerable. United doesn’t have to mean imperialist nation, does it? Does it now? The realest, deepest, most diverse and beautiful America, is not “America” at all, my people.
Neve Be is a Black, disabled, queer, offgender femme, of Sudanese and Scottish-Italian descent. Neve was born and raised in the gorgeous dirty Jersey countryside and educated by their artistic and spiritually brilliant birth and adoptive parents, and by wandering around and dancing in New York City. They attended Hampshire College studying visual culture, film, dance, and the creation of disabled mythology. They are currently an integrated dance educator, performance artist, and disability justice activist living, working, fighting, and loving in South Seattle. Follow them at littlebeasthood.tumblr.com and on Instagram: @littlebeasthood
We here at #StayMadAbbyProfsINC are pleased to release our highly anticipated post-election app!!!! Called, “People of Color Have Been Knowing and Doing this Shit for Centuries,” our new app is designed especially for our white friends and colleagues who are surprised by “how divided this country really is” by racism and intersecting forms of systemic oppression and who are looking for ways to (further) join in the work. And due to technical breakthroughs having to do with human life, the app is our most accessible yet!!!! In fact, it’s not even an app– it’s just the library, the google, and the work and lives of real, everyday people of color. Spend hours, days, weeks– even entire lifetimes!!!– engaging these realms of knowledge about the unending, continuing struggle for justice in this settler colonial, white supremacist, cis-hetero-patriarchal, ableist, anti-Muslim nation-state. We recommend beginning and staying with the parts about Indigenous people and about Black women and then working your way from there and simultaneously back again. Those who ask why we didn’t release this app before the election– we actually did. We have released it every day for centuries…
Django Paris is Associate Professor of Language and Literacy and Core Faculty in the African American and African Studies Program at Michigan State University. He also occasionally posts apps and other musings for our scholarly getting-free under the #StayMadAbby hashtag.
To my fellow “minorities” who are disheartened, horrified, confused and afraid, I am with you. However, there is very little time to be overcome by sorrow and hopelessness. We cannot wallow, we cannot afford to let fear make us quiet or anger make us small. We cannot allow ourselves the salve of self-righteous revulsion directed toward fellow citizens who voted against our lives and livelihoods, against our children and our futures. It is those very people to whom we must now turn with minds and hearts more open than they have ever been. Many of those celebrating Trump will not understand for some time that they have voted against themselves, against their country and against the future of Earth and humanity as a whole. Eventually, they too will feel the truth of their mistake, but we cannot wait for that. The work ahead is daunting, terrifying even; it seems impossible, like all important work at first appears. Yet, it is work that absolutely must be done if we have any hope of reclaiming our dignity, leaving a world worth living in to our children and saving our planet from its near imminent demise. There is no more room for safe spaces. We have received our last trigger warning.
It is time instead to turn to our family, our friends, our white allies who have sworn repeatedly they “understand” our struggle. It’s time to demand much more of them than we have. Insist on more than promised solidarity, more than merely raising their voices beside us in street screams that our lives matter. We have shortchanged ourselves and the potential for social justice by confusing our demands of white allies out of anger and frustration. If we emphatically exclaim it is not the job of the oppressed to educate the oppressors, we cannot then decry outright the efforts of those who struggle to reach their white counterparts, even as they appropriate black American cultural methodologies of hip-hop and street art to do so. Those well-meaning but oft-misguided attempts can both reflect and offer critique of the system in which we are all ensnared. Structural racism in neoliberal capital is such that it can only be undone by pressure from within and without. When we separate ourselves along lines of racial categories forced upon us by the colonizers of yore, or stand divided based on whose revolutionary rhetoric/methods is more radical, we are all of us weak.
In her much-lauded speech on how the master’s tools can never dismantle the master’s house, Audre Lorde said “difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic.” As such, our fight must first turn inward, look to the fallacious logic written into the politics of our own identity-based communities. Black men must route out patriarchy wherever it exists within their ranks. White feminists must acknowledge the lack of intersectionality in their approach. Queer communities must embrace the queer of color critique and address the glaring transphobia that has settled like a fine grime across queer politics. Similarly, trans people must actively contend with the problematics of gendered, classed and racialized privilege written into the ability of some to transition to global applause, while others are murdered for daring the same. All of us must consider how rarely we engage with concerns over the continued genocide of Native peoples. All of us must address the ways in which we dehumanize and ignore huge swaths of people with disabilities, giving little thought to connections between the normalizing of able-bodied ideals and the deconstruction/pathologizing of black, brown, queer and female-gendered bodies. Most urgently, if you are white-presenting (whether you personally identity as that or not), recognize the social capital that has always afforded you, then embrace the opportunity it provides to stand against the very forces that produce such white privilege. Use your access to any privileged space, whether material or ideological, to advocate on behalf of those who are undermined in or absent from those spaces.
To our white “allies”: Do not huddle around the warmth of free-trade lattes in your local cafe and cry white tears for us. We have no use for your platitudes, your acknowledgements of how upsetting this must be. We don’t want your words, we care only for your actions. Take off the cloak of liberal presumptuousness that coddles you, put away your self-congratulation and sip the last of your craft beer. Your hipster credentials will not stop bullets from taking the lives of your one black friend. Revolution does not come from existing in an echo chamber of all your high-minded ideals. It means nothing to me that you have read bell hooks and have an Angela Davis poster, that you know better than to touch my hair and can confidently espouse the irrationality and ahistoric racism of the All Lives Matter “movement.” Don’t tell us — we already know.
Rather, do the uncomfortable work of explaining such ideas to those who find them unfamiliar or off-putting. Tell your friends who consider themselves to be post-racial about the history of mass incarceration as an extension of American slavery. Speak up in the office meetings where your male colleagues speak over the women, instead of offering whispered condolences to your female colleagues later. Step outside the certainty of your like-minded comfort zones and bear the discomfiture of saying unpopular things among those perhaps less-educated than you, perhaps more socially privileged. It is well past time for every one of us to use whatever privileges we individually have to affect whatever changes we can in our communities.
The idea that “until we are all free, we are none of us free” has been a constant refrain in American civil rights work. This is the mantra that must buoy us in the dark days ahead, where every aspect of the world’s social fabric will be tested. No American can afford to forget that your freedom is a fallacy unless it is used to increase the freedom of Others.
Tara-Lynne Pixley is a media studies and visual culture scholar whose research focuses on raced and gendered ideologies prevalent in American news discourse, particularly that of documentary imagery. She is currently a Knight Visiting Fellow with the Nieman Journalism Foundation of Harvard.