Right before my “white” reality check, I had what my friend and I referred to as our “black” weekend. To be clear, we are already black gay men, but we made a conscious decision to embark on activities that were decidedly centered on the African-American Diaspora. We checked out Moonlight, and “Birth of a Nation,” two movies that received critical acclaim and had a whirlwind of media excitement and attention around them. The most moving moment for me was going to National Museum of African American History and Culture. Also, a much talked about event, the museum was packed when we went, and did not disappoint. There was so much history packed into such a massive space we had to break for lunch to process the moment.
While walking there the area dedicated to the civil rights movement, there was a small plaque with just a paragraph of information.
It was a very non-descript piece of information discussing how during the civil right citizenship schools were established throughout the south. The purpose to help African-American’s pass the mandatory literacy test needed for voter registration. But a by-product of the schools was activism. People became involved in the issues and connected the dots between voting, literarcy, and citizenship.
I snapped a photo, thinking the tidbit was interesting, but soon forgot it when we went down for lunch in the cafeteria.
SIDENOTE: $48 for lunch for two people. Really? That is a lot for a museum. But I digress.
The museum and our “black weekend” gave me a connected feeling to my community, that we were on the right path.
And then Trump won the presidential election. It took me five days to even be able to form the words. I was walking around, calling it “the incident” until Saturday. But it wasn’t some isolated
It took me five days to even be able to form the words. I was walking around, calling it “the incident” until Saturday. But it wasn’t some isolated occurrence. Half our country, for whatever reason, looked at the candidates, heard the soundbites and the rhetoric and decided that Mr. Grab Them By The P&*Y was more fit for the job.
Shock hit the democratic party. It was striking to see the reaction mirroring Karl Rove in the 2012 election.
Reality is a hard thing to accept when you are on the receiving end of the bad news.
The media starting spinning the line that it was black folks fault that Trump won. Really? Half the country votes for a guy who says he is going to “get those hombres out of here,” and it’s black people’s fault. It was not our fault that Trump won.
However, and this is a big however, we are responsible for what happens from this moment forward.
Van Jones articulated the fear of this outcome on election night.
So let’s have a real moment. We as a people, particularly black people got caught sleeping. Obama in office, Jay-Z, and Beyonce dancing in the white house. Michelle Obama giving fever on Vogue covers. We thought a lot of things were guaranteed. But our freedoms are not in the bag. Do not forget the many many young men and women who could not vote because they were killed by police violence. Do not forget the men trapped in prisons, and further ensnared in the long unforgiving tail of the criminal justice system.
Progress was earned off the backs of slavery, civil rights, and the millions of women and men who fought every day to ensure we had a better life. That fight is daily and never ending. It is exhausting and sometimes unfair. But it ain’t going no where.
My anger was real after last Tuesday. But it was drenched in the guilt of not doing enough. Of feeling showing up to a polling both and not even knowing my voting district was enough, in a world where laws are created and taken away to restrict people from getting ahead.
So now what? This question has graced headlines for several days as people pondered their next move.
Second Side Note: Stop saying you’re going back to Africa. Every time something happens Africa can not be our fake go-to place. I can barely pay my student loans, I know I don’t have trans-Atlantic airfare. I digress again.
As I thought about what to do next, my mind went back to those citizenship schools. Septima Clark who led the way to help black learn not only to read, but the importance of the vote, we have to understand the power we have. We have to connect the dots between Obama in the White House and the rest of the political offices in between.
Civic responsibility isn’t just for kids in school, or people applying to become U.S. citizens. How our government works and how it is used every day is a matter of survival particularly for marginalized people.
We are here now. Trump is our president. Whether we use the tools to hold him accountable is up to us.