Persisting in 2017
It takes a lot of energy to #resist. But remember you aren’t the first.
Being #woke is exhausting. Resistance is the opposite of comfort, complacency, convenience, and certainty. It’s no surprise that many of my friends and I awake each morning and brace ourselves for battle wondering, what sinister move will 45 make today? Whose loyalty will be tried? Which dystopian novel will be the best metaphor for today’s events?
The amount of cognitive capacity that I have given to politics has increased tenfold since he took office. Often, I float through the day in disbelief that people can still believe him and his propagandist team. I feel regularly personally insulted by his blatant disregard for my experience as a person of color in this country. Moreover, I am deeply troubled by how this man is methodically dismantling our country’s reputation as the leader of the free world and the gold-standard of democracy.
Perhaps more consistently, everyone’s wondering how long this will last. ‘This’ could mean anything… his presidency, the polarization of the country, personal uncertainty, hate. I can’t answer that, but what I do know is that we are not the first people to feel this way.
We cannot forget our privilege.
We are Americans in 2017. Some have more privilege than others, but we all still have more than those like us before us. It’s very easy to assume that no one has ever been as tired as you are. It’s easy to spiral into a hole of all of this being too much, of feeling like you absolutely cannot. Today I’d like to remind you that we can and we already have persisted through times much worse than these.
This is not the hardest nor the most important fight this country has seen. This is not the first time humanity has been questioned and morality has been absent. This is not the first time a deceitful misogynist racist has inhabited the White House: This is the story of America.
For 245 years, people owned black bodies in this country.
Think about your body being listed as property in someone’s inventory books. American slavery was the first system where bondage was perpetual and inherited. Think about the despair and hopelessness people felt to know that your situation would not miraculously change. People murdered their own babies so that they wouldn’t have to live a life in chains. Slaves had no agency over their future, but today we do. I am proof. We survived, then it got better. Former slaves were recognized as citizens. Black men not living in the Jim Crow south got to vote. Abolitionists got to pat themselves on the back, but the war wasn’t over.
100 years later, blacks had still not been liberated.
The Civil Rights Movement was bigger than what we are doing now. We cannot draw parallels. Today’s voter suppression efforts look like boy scouts compared to the state-funded terrorist tactics used to systemically deny blacks the right to vote in the South. This is the first time I’ve wondered how people managed to get up and go to work every day 60s. For godsakes, Fannie Lou Hamer coined the best phrase ever because of these times. “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Despite their collective fatigue, they survived. They passed the Voting Rights Act and Jim Crow was gutted. The bell rung and the fight for equality to move on to the next round. And now, that struggle continues.
It is now on us to advance the struggle.
Since January, I have felt like an activist for the first time and as such, I’ve gained a new level of respect for those who laid the foundation for modern social movements. I am calling legislators, writing op-eds, amplifying marches via social media, and attempting to engage in productive dialogues across difference. What I am doing is important for our time, but I stop short of claiming that this is the same as what Black women have endured before me: I am resisting with a steady job enabled by my degree from a Top 25 university from an apartment owned by a man who couldn’t discriminate against me. I may be tired, but the limits of my exhaustion are fundamentally different from those of the many women who persisted before me. It’s bad, but it is not the worse.
We must challenge our friends who use apocalyptic language.
We live in a superlative world. Everything the president does is the best, biggest, most terrific thing that ever happened. Similarly, this resistance feels like the most important, the most pressing fighting against the worst thing ever. We have managed to equate our fight for injustices with earlier movements, but it shouldn’t be an equation — this is the next iteration.
To white friends who have possibly never felt this way before, to the white folks who feel like these are the darkest times America has seen, to anyone who hasn’t “felt ashamed of this country before” — welcome. You now have a point of reference for what struggle feels like for the rest of us.
Moments like this enable empathy and empathy fuels change.
This is our time and our responsibility.
Too many of us have been waiting to be sent for. Well, here we are: your number has called. I can’t make you feel better and this is not supposed to be easy. I don’t know how to find the right balance of being over or underinformed. I too am guilty of the newfound obsession of trying to analyze and interpret every move this man makes. I too am guilty of complaining that we can’t live like this, can’t march every weekend, can’t stay glued to twitter. But we have to play our part and stroll down this long walk to freedom.
Complaining without action is whining. Don’t whine — act.
I don’t mean to preach, I mean to empower. We can’t get discouraged when change isn’t immediate. We can’t let them get to us. Those in power want us to feel helpless. They want our efforts to feel futile so that we give up. But we cannot quit. We’ve come too far from where we started from.
Marching. Writing. Conversing. Listening. All of it matters. Acknowledge your own privilege. Challenge the system when and how you can. Let your voices be heard and engage in dialogues. Call your representatives. Stop judging other people’s path of resistance. Stay focused. Do what you can and that doesn’t have to be everything — it all adds up. Make choices that you have no problem defending. Be proud to be an active participant in democracy and continue to show gratitude to those who were before you.
This story was originally published on We, Ceremony — an effort that uses storytelling to share the unique experiences of women of color. With our collected stories, we celebrate the unique voices within our community, while challenging society to confront the issues rooted in systemic racism.