#ElectionRewind: The Day Fear and Ignorance Prevailed

By Andrew Hairston

The cool breeze of a brisk November Tuesday felt familiar. Oddly enough, it provided a warm and welcomed form of energy. After an exhausting election season, the country seemed poised to deliver a clear and decisive message that rebuked bigotry and hatred — at least in my mind. I ventured to my polling place in Columbia Heights in Washington, D.C., and eagerly awaited the opportunity to vote in another presidential election. A few hours passed, and I soon found myself in the middle of a surprisingly normal work day.

I refreshed the New York Times application on my phone more than a few times over the course of eight hours. Each time ended in a sigh of relief — the expected victor maintained a steady lead as the polls closed. My optimism about the expected results imparted a sense of calm balance. I left my office with a colleague to watch the election returns at another friend’s home. We laughed, broke bread and prepared to celebrate the election of the country’s first woman president — a victory that would ostensibly establish the security of the first Black president’s legacy. The air of joviality quickly transitioned into one of ominous solemnity.

We moved to a viewing party at a nearby restaurant; things started to feel more peculiar as the growing number of red counties registered in my mind. Around 9:30 p.m., the horror fully settled into my psyche. We journeyed to one more destination with a fleeting feeling that the initial returns were a fluke. Each passing second came with a growing sense of dread.

I caught a Lyft to my house with a numbness spreading through my body. I slept fitfully and eventually woke up at 3:30 a.m. to the official notification — fear and ignorance prevailed. I tried to make sense of it but it defied any logic that existed. The shock translated to pain as I walked to my office and passed numerous Black and Brown children with melancholy and heartbroken looks on their faces.

It’s certainly been a draining and infuriating 12-month period. Even in the midst of personal accomplishments, such as joining Advancement Project as a staff attorney, the frustration grows in intensity with each new hateful policy proposal or tweet. All of it has created an intriguing paradox. I am honored and excited to be where I am in my career. However, I also recognize the tremendous amount of work that is being created by this administration’s stark racism and the rebuilding that must occur, regardless of when this regime concludes.

During these troubling times, I hold strongly to faith, family and community. I remain grounded in the fact that the ongoing fight for justice existed prior to the current administration and will continue after it is out of power. I pledge to be resolute, attentive and innovative as I confront unrelenting civil rights challenges. I also commit to not back down from supporting local communities and amplifying the voices of the marginalized.

I am in the freedom fight for the long haul.

Andrew Hairston is a staff attorney for Advancement Project.