The Others

How do you say this? How do you write this? I’m a mixed bag of emotions. Yesterday I was angry. Today, I accept that I was wrong: I thought I knew which way the wind was blowing. This is both humbling, and scary. I’m reminded of a time when I was talking to a counselor about expectations. He told me– you’re a cool cucumber and you expect people to hold themselves to the same standards as you. That’s not the way the world works. And I asked, should I expect less? No, he answered. If you did that, you wouldn’t be you. I’m only asking that you be more forgiving. I thought that was reasonable.

Right now, I’m struggling with the forgiveness part. How do you forgive friends and family that voted for someone who doesn’t value the existence of “others”? I want to say non-white folk, but then I might offend white folk, and right now, it’s not a good time to even imply racism, sexism or intolerance. Or you’re playing some “card.” But numbers speak volumes, and they cannot lie. This election was decided by people who have felt ignored or neglected by government, whites in the middle of the country, outside of cities, that have their own set of issues that need tending to,  but also by people who flat-out have hatred in their hearts. They wanted to be heard, and now they have: they are tired of the politicians and the establishment. This is who they wanted for their president. We have to accept that.

But the truth is, this isn’t just about our President-Elect. This is about the vitriol and the rhetoric that is inspiring people to act brazenly out of their newly accepted righteousness. This is about the fear spreading through people who have always been marginalized and now have to worry about that worsening. We can all accept our fate right now, but we don’t have to promise to like it. We have the right to that.

When you are black in America, there are things you accept. You have to accept that people will ask you inane things about your heritage, your hair, your language, and say things like: you are the whitest black girl I know! (Which I suppose is a nice way of saying I don’t resemble the stereotype?) There will be people who will be surprised about your level of education. They will express that to you as well. And they’ll laugh a little, as if it’s a joke. And you’ll smile or nod and say nothing. There will be people who will try to cut you down just for the color of your kind. You will still say nothing. Because if you do, you are starting something. You will become the equivalent of the angry black woman or man. That’s the last thing you want. So you accept. You go home and you cry a little at your anger. But you don’t unleash, no you never really can. You accept it and move on. But don’t feel sorry for us either. This isn’t about us. This is about the world we live in. This is about the country we were born into and is ours, even if our caucasian friends claim it as theirs and theirs alone.

Feel angry for those without homes, fleeing dangerous situations and seeking peace, seeking safety for their families. Because our country just said they aren’t welcome. They are terrorists. Feel protective of our Muslim Americans. Because apparently, they too are either terrorists or not worthy of residing in our country. Feel compassion for the people whose gender isn’t defined by the body they were born into, or sexuality that isn’t looked upon as traditional. Because our country is now saying that we don’t have to be particularly tolerable to them either. Feel determined for our women; we have rights to chose what is best and safe for our own health, we are strong, we are equals, we will not be at the mercy of men, we will not be groped, grabbed, or abused. Because our country just said it was ok for a man to think otherwise, and still rise to the highest point of office. Feel sorrow that our progress has taken a step back. Because that is how you make America great again.

We will survive this, for better or worse. That’s what we do. I’m not going to say it’ll be ok. I won’t patronize you, and I honestly believe we will survive. We’ll find our resolve and we will stand up for our “others”. We’ll walk a mile in their shoes, and we’ll understand that we’ll never understand what they experience. But we’ll listen. We’ll support them. And I know you’ve heard it (I know I have at least) but this is not the end of the world. This is the beginning of something new. It’s scary, I’m scared, I admit that. But I also think this is a wake-up call. We need community, we need tolerance, we need to reach out to each other. And think of all the good jokes and sarcasm that’ll come of this. Entertainment to numb reality. Arts. Literature…. Look for silver linings, it helps.

 

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3 thoughts on “The Others

  1. I am heartbroken. I’ve had people tell me, “listen to his acceptance speech, it’s got a better tone, he wants to work with everyone and be inclusive,” but that feels hollow. He has never treated words, and their power, with the respect or the true weight they carry– if he did, he couldn’t have been so careless and vitriolic for the past year (or for his whole life). I’ve got to tell you, my kids are not people of color but they are still upset, anxious, scared about this man as President. Nothing about this guy feels safe. BUT, like you I try to figure out the next step– how, maybe, if we “go high” enough then we make a groundswell of good and, in the long run, things get better. I doubt Arts and Literature will receive much funding under this leadership (hope I’m wrong), but you can bet that they will be driven by passion and a zeal for social justice.
    A friend sent me Martin Luther King Jr’s words, and I’m holding them tight: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts today; we are stronger together.

  2. Oh I feel the same as you. I’m half Hispanic, with the benefit of looking white, and am married to a black german and we have 2 children. My entire white family, with 2 exceptions, voted for trump. And I don’t know how to reach forgiveness and embrace it. I feel betrayed, disillusioned. H

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