What’s Next?

With a special election coming up in my community on Tuesday and another death of a black man close to home in Sacramento, I’m thinking back to how I was feeling after the presidential election and still wondering…what’s next?

So here’s the thing. I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t because I was upset about our new president. It’s because I’m worried about how I continue to show up for the other people I care about. I’m okay, but how do I support my staff, my wife, my family back home in the middle of a very red state, and my friends all over the world.

I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t more upset. But Bola Olupona helped me understand this morning. She pointed out that I just had less belief that this country was better. Not because I’m a bad person or because I’m cynical or because I’m un-American. But because I live this life unapologetically as I am. That means I’ve seen more of the ugliness. I’ve had life experiences that have shown me what’s been under the surface. For me, it’s often been in my face. My expectations weren’t as high because I’ve lived a life where I’ve been kicked too much to expect that another disappointment wasn’t possible. I knew it was. I believed it was. I hoped it wasn’t. But my life experiences would not allow me to be surprised by anything he has said or done, including winning the presidency.

But when I went to bed last night, it was the same as when I went to bed every single night. And when I woke up this morning, it was the same as when I wake up every single morning. I am a person who lives at the intersections of so many identities in this country, but has figured out a way to keeping living. Because of who I am, I haven’t been able to close my eyes to the racism that lives in this country.

America has always been a white country that feared anyone who is different. I know people are out their fearing that their families will be ripped apart across borders. I know people are out there worried about if this shows that if you’re a woman, experience doesn’t matter because a man can encourage rape, engage in assault, and if you’re a woman and people think you’ve lied, they will use that to justify their male fragility and sexism. We live in a country where if land is sacred to the folks whose country this actually is, being sacred doesn’t matter if those in power can make money from that land. We live in a country where people can be “illegal,” not people, not Americans. We live in a country where being a Muslim means that your life is not valued and your contributions to this country can be ignored because of fear. We live in a country where being a person with a disability means you can be mocked and treated as weak and people will ignore it. We live in a country where the KKK is alive and well and people feel more comfortable saying All Lives Matter rather than Black Lives Matter. We live in a country where who you love means that your relationship stands to be devalued, or where you can be bullied and people will blame your “choice.” This country is real. These fears are real today. I’m worried about the POCs in my life above all, especially the black folks, especially the immigrant folks, especially the undocumented folks, especially the Muslim folks. If you woke up terrified, angry, confused let that be okay. Give yourself that permission. This is real.

Do all that you need for you. But today, let’s also be honest.

This country did not become what it is because of Donald Trump. This is the country that was here yesterday. This is the country that was here last month. This is the country that was here last year. You may have been blind to it. But that was your choice. Trump didn’t make this country, he just capitalized on it. He made a strategic decision, a good one, to run on fear that “those” people were taking things from the people who deserved it. He ran to make America great again. Great for who? Many of use already knew. Trump didn’t build this. It’s been here. You didn’t know? That was your choice.

And while we’re talking about choice, stay out of my feed and off my wall with this you’re leaving bs. I joke around all the time about marrying a Canadian, but real talk, I’m not going anywhere. When you say that and are serious do you know how it feels to those of us who don’t have choices? Poor people aren’t out here saying, we’re leaving because they don’t have the privilege of that choice. LGBTQ people aren’t out here saying I’m going to choose to not be me and love who I love and live fully in my gender identity. Undocumented folks can’t choose to overnight get all the paperwork they need to beat this wall — metaphorical or real. Women stand to lose the little bit of choice they have. Black people got here without choice. Indigenous People had people come without a choice. Black folks and Native folks have and are experiencing state sanctioned genocide. We do not have a choice.

However, we are resilient. We do keep fighting. We do keep pushing. We find joy. We find support in one another. We know what this country is. But despite that, many of us keep fighting. I woke up today and I thought I’d want the day off. But I’m heading into the office. That’s not the right thing to do, it’s what I need to do. And we all need to do what we need for self-care.

But friends of privilege, I ask you, as you completely fall apart and melt and make travel plans, and talk about what a surprise this is…just remember, you made a choice to ignore what so many of us who live in the minorities of so many groups have already known. That’s your choice. Today I woke up and I was the same person. I had the same knowledge. I just knew that now some of my friends and people I care deeply about who have lived in the bliss of ignorance now have to face what I face when I walk into rooms, when I walk down the street. Never knowing if that person is with you or against you. Constantly curious as to what forces of race, class, gender, and a myriad of other isms are at play.

As you wake up today and wonder. Remember that self-care is crucial. Remember that this man is the President of the United States, no do overs, it’s done. Be curious. Ask questions. Figure out what you can do to keep fighting. The election is over, but today I still woke up as the same person. For POCs in this country know that our struggle is now harder, but we always knew there was a struggle. Let me be clear, this is the worse version of what could have happened yesterday. This is horrible. This makes all lives of people who lack choice in many ways harder. Trump isn’t great. But Trump didn’t get to be President of this country alone. This country did this. We’ve lived in this struggle. We’ve lived trying to get free. I woke up today to still struggle. I’m sad, but I will find joy. I will find a way. And I will continue to be unapologetically me. Challenge the wrongs I see. Keep fighting. Know that my life matters. Keep getting free. Do what you need to do. But know tomorrow, the sun will rise again. You can leave. You can run. You can fade away. You can go back to sleeping on the realities for many of us in this country. But for many of us today is a scarier version of yesterday, but it’s also just another day. We woke. We been woke.

For me, I am resolute. I am ready to keep working. I didn’t do this work or live my life for one election or one person. I do this for us. Because we’re all we have. I’m still on one. I’m still me. There will still be days when I’m down. But there will also be laughs, there will be joy, there will be another tomorrow. I’m still grinding.

What about you? What’s next?