A vote against the future

Glenn Ligon | 2014 | Double America 2

I wrote this a few days after the election, mainly as a way to put my thoughts to paper. I suppose I thought it was all I needed, but in the last week I’ve found myself reading it as reminder of how I felt and what’s important.

Hi Trump Voter,

I get it. You probably don’t identify as a racist, a homophobe, or a womanizing misogynist (and you’re tired of being labeled as such). You’re also scared and concerned for your well-being. You feel wrongly judged and incorrectly labeled as a deplorable, lumped in with the KKK and neo-Nazis (both are definitely deplorable, and definitely Trump supporters). You might feel that those of us who live in coastal urban clusters don’t understand your plight or that immigrants have taken your jobs.

I hope you’ll read on even when I say that you’re not entirely right. I’m not to blame for what ails your communities, but I’m not oblivious to your struggle.

You say you want to be understood; well, ditto.

Your support for Trump was a rejection of what makes our country whole. You might have voted for reasons you feel are justifiable, or perhaps you simply sought to ‘shake things up’ in Washington, but in the process you have propelled and legitimized some dark forces which I wrongly thought we’d left behind.

You reject the notion that I have a right to be here, that my hard work and dedication should pay off in the same way you expect yours to, and that my education and drive are worth as much as yours. You affirmed that my dreams are second to yours, and that my hopes and aspirations need to be approved by you. All this, for no other reason than the fear of what I represent: an ‘other,’ something new and unknown to you. With your vote, you’ve opted to enshrine whiteness and maleness as uniquely worthy (as if that false notion needed any reinforcement). In an odd way I owe you some thanks for alerting me that this oppression is not a relic of a distant past, but rather a force that we must address and resist.

Yes, I am hurt and I am distraught. I believed you thought more of me and of the value my culture and background have added to our melting pot. But I won’t accept your explanations and justifications of your vote as you seek to make sense of what you have supported. The views of your candidate and the danger he poses to the nation and to our social fabric were on clear display for the 18+ months of campaigning. To say that you’re surprised to learn how I feel about your decision affirms that you spared no thought for my humanity and my well-being when you made your choice.

And today I want you to know that I see your oppression, and I reject it.

I will not allow this to be normalized. I refuse to describe your decision as a tolerable part of our current social dynamics and national identity. This fear and hatred will not be institutionalized.

I don’t intend to slow down, and I don’t intend to back off. You have reminded me that I need to be bold, loud, and active.

Gloria Steinem put it best when she said that your vote was a vote against the future, a future that is coming anyway. And despite your vote, maybe even because of it, I’m ready to do everything I can to make sure we get there.