I feel as though I must draft this missive to you. I feel as though it is my duty, my responsibility to share with those willing to listen, what has been tossing around in my spirit over the course of the past few days.
I feel as though I need to write, to say something to those who may be willing to listen, consider and then act in the wake of what has taken place in our country these past few days.
And so, if you would allow me the opportunity, I would like to take the time to share a few thoughts with you. My hope, my motivation on today is not to teach. To think that I have, in anyway, the ability to teach or alter the perspective of others in anyway, to think I have that kind of authority would be arrogant. And what I do not want to do on today is, in anyway, be as arrogant as many within the beloved political party in which I hold near and dear, Democrats.
No, what I want to do today is simply generate thought for those that are willing. My desire is to share my own perspectives as a means of discussion, and then leave it to you to come to your own conclusions.
Now, what I am about to say may lead some people to want to snap back. What I am about to say may provoke some people to immediately dismiss everything they read. What I am about to say may prompt some people to consider me uninformed, unrealistic, unpatriotic — there may be a long list of assumptions made because of what you are about to read. Please, please fight against all of those knee-jerk reactions and simply consider.
The outcome of the 2016 election is the result of a sum total of things!
Half of America
Thursday morning I came across the post of a friend of mine on Facebook that stated that half of those eligible to vote in the 2016 election chose not to vote at all.
To see those numbers, 49%, was startling to and for me. What was even more startling for me were the responses of so many when they saw those numbers. Now, let me be clear, I am in no way interested in passing judgement on anyone who felt as though the choice of 49% of people to not exercise their right to vote was absurd. I find myself just as bothered by that statistic. The fact that millions of individuals chose to “sit this one out” concerns me.
But then I found myself wondering, “Why?” Why did they make the choice they made? Why?
Now, I cannot say I know the answer — but I do want to know why. And I think I want to know why because I want to understand them; not for my own sake or my own comfort, but because I wonder what could be done to motivate, to inspire them to make a different choice. And then again, I also realize there is a sense of arrogance in thinking I can “fix” them or “change their mind.” But, it does not stop me from wanting to at least try or at least hear them.
I think that is why we are where we are today.
“Us white guys, who go to work every day, doing manual labor for 20 years, just got fed up.”
A colleague of mine shared an interaction she had with an individual in New Hampshire on her Facebook page the other day. She tells the story of how she was walking down a street, notebook in her hand and a fresh cup of coffee in the other when a random individual sparked up conversation with her.
He asks if she is a reporter. When she respond in the affirmative, he goes on to explain — as if he felt it were necessary to explain to his African American women of a certain age, on this street, in New Hampshire, that people like him made a choice based off of feeling invisible.
They, meaning working class white men, the majority who helped elected Donald J. Trump as the 45th president, had gotten fed up.
“We’re being pushed under the bus.”
Here is the thing, I have been fully aware since early Wednesday morning, the morning after the 2016 Election season came to a halt, that those who supported Trump have supported Trump because they have felt overlooked.
And as an African American male, born and raised in the South, I know what that feels like. And, as an African American, same gender loving, male, in his 30s, there is part of me that wants to say, “NOW YOU KNOW HOW IT FEELS!”
At the same time, understanding and knowing that I have a lot more in common with the working class, rural, white man and woman, than I do with the likes of the vast majority of the Democratic Party brass, I find myself with this belief — the election turned out the way it did because those trying to convince us that they represent us and understand us and speak for us and are fighting for us have lost touch with us.
Now, hear me clearly. In no way am I attempting to negate the influence that race and gender and the long list of phobias had in this election. Yes, those are all factors — very important factors. But there are also other issues permeating. And until we figure out a new strategy for how to create results even in the midst of all of that mess that makes us all dysfunctional, I do not know how we make progress.
There are some very real and deep divides in this country, in this republic, in this society. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, is standing on their respective sides, pointing fingers, creating more and more divides. And that is the true nature of politics, isn’t it? We spend more time focusing on what makes us different, rather than figuring out ways to find common ground.
This, I am sure, is what President Barack Obama was referencing when he was simply a state Senator being introduced on a national stage some years ago before eventually becoming the 44th president of the United States.
I am convinced that what led Trump to becoming the 45th was this feeling by some that everyone else was getting theirs and working class, white men and women were not. And that, I believe, is a travesty of our contemporary times.
And again, I am fully aware that the vast majority of white America has been getting theirs since the beginning of time. At the same time, I am also fully aware that many of the working class community are anti-multiculturalism and all that comes with that because they are beginning to feel replaced in a space that they consider to be theirs and theirs alone.
What do we do with that? And how do we help them to understand those they do not understand and realize that we all have more in common than what separates us? And how do we find the stamina and the patience to commit ourselves to the work of building bridges rather than creating more divides?
And yes, I know there are some who are becoming burned out by justice work and bridge building. If that is the case, take a break. Go to your respective corner and figure out a way to do the kind of work that is more centered around protecting your community and strategy building.
Maybe I am naïve — — and if so, I own that possibility. But IF we claim that we are a republic that is committed to caring for each and every faction within the republic, then we only have one choice and that is to find a way to cater to the needs, cares and requests of everyone within that republic.
But, if that is not the desire, to care for the entire republic, then let’s just say that. And I recognize there are some who have no desire, no interest at all, in upholding the republic.
There are some who are saying, “Leave us alone and let us do the work of uplifting our own community.” Some of those are the very same people like the man whom my friend encountered. Some of those are friends of mine who have committed their spirits to the Black Lives Matter movement. Some of those are Hispanic, Latino and Latinx individuals committed to fighting for justice, equity and equality. Some of those are cisgender, gender non-confirming, transgender, same gender loving and queer who are saying, “Give me the same freedoms as those who claim to speak for, support and represent.” And some are those saying, “You cannot have my guns!”
IF it is their desire to just be left alone, then what can the republic do to support their wants, needs and desires, and at the same time provide for them protection, support and freedom to respectfully and respectively live in community with everyone else. There has to be a way, I am convinced — I do think it is possible.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Let them protest
I have been impressed. I have been impressed with the ways in which so many young people, the majority of them educated and white, have taken to the streets to protest since November 8, 2016.
Their efforts, their actions to express how they feel is something I consider to be impactful. Sometimes, I believe, we all should be allowed to express how we are feeling, especially in moments when we have felt robbed and find ourselves disappointed.
Now, I do wonder where some of these individuals were when people who look like me, live like me and love like me took to the streets, but hey sometimes we all have that moment that sparks just enough outrage for us to take a stand.
This is their time. Our country was built on protest. Our history has a tradition of protest from the early beginnings, to the Civil Rights movement. Protest, taking a stand, making our hurts known in a peaceful and productive capacity is who we are.
And so I am impressed.
The question was asked the other day by some friends of mine, “Why are people protesting?” It is a fair question. And many of us know why, so the question in some ways is a lot more rhetorical than anything. Many of those feeling stunned by the outcome of the 2016 Election season are in a state of shock and disbelief. Some of it is rooted in cognitive dissonance. Some of it is rooted in our own arrogance, in many ways intellectual arrogance and elitism.
Neoliberal politics has tricked us and now the veil has been removed. People of color, members of minoritized communities and individuals of lived oppressed and othering experiences have met with this kind of whiplash for generations. We have learned that the system does not work for us — the system was never designed to work for us — even though the perceived powers that be have worked so hard to convince us that our lived experiences are a figment of our imagination.
And so they protest because they have been brought back down to earth. They protest because they are now vulnerable. They protest because what they thought they knew, they do not know anymore. They are having their day after the crucifixion moment — and they should. What they thought the outcome would be is no more and they are trying to make sense of that.
So let them protest and after they protest, I pray the protest fuels revelation. I pray the revelations fuel strategy. I pray strategy fuels understanding. I pray the understanding brings about change and the change brings around renewal.
Who will lead the new Democratic Party?
Samantha Bee went on a rant recently the day after the 2016 Election. In her monologue she spoke to the emotions, fears and concerns of a many in the wake of the election. She talked about the surprises. And she shared a sobering reality.
“How many times are we going to expect black people to build everything for us?” she asked. Then she said, “If Muslims have to take responsibility for every member of their community, then so do we,” to her “fellow white men and women” who decided the outcome of the election.
Bee’s statement, while they shocked me in many ways, also resonate because they speak to a very real tradition that in our political history. I immediately think back to California’s Prop 8 from 2008 and how black voters were blamed for that outcome. Scholars wrote extensively about the scapegoating that took place in the outcome of that vote.
Marcus Anthony Hunter, assistant professor of Sociology at Yale University, was one of them. He utilizes the debate surrounding Prop 8 and the black vote as his backdrop for his article, “All the Gays are White and all the Blacks are Straight: Black Gay Men, Identity, and Community.”
Hunter points out that as fingers were pointed and blame assigned regarding the same-sex marriage amendment “questions about whether black LGBT individuals identified with Proposition 8 as an important political issue went unexplored, and instead debates that positioned a notion of homogenous black vote dominated the discourse.”
In some ways, the same is happening with the 2016 election. However, statistics show that over 80% of blacks voted for Hillary Clinton with more than 90% of those voters being black women.
People are coming for Colin Kaepernick because he admitted to not voting in the election and suggest that he should end his campaign to bring attention to police brutality as he refuses to kneel for the national anthem.
There are reports that 11,000 wrote-in the name Harambee on their ballot for president, the gorilla killed in the Cincinnati Zoo to rescue a young boy who fell into his habitat earlier this year, which has generated all kinds of memes calling out what they consider to be the absurdity of the actions.
And I have even heard of young college students writing-in phrases like, “Reparations” instead of selecting one of the candidates on the ballot as a means of making a point.
I have my feelings and thoughts about all of this, but at the end of the day I find myself coming back around to the question I had at the beginning of this missive — what is the solution, what is the strategy for understanding the motivation behind some of these actions and then doing some very real work to engage the perspectives of those on which we want to pass judgement for their taking a stand and making what they believe to be valid points?
What will we do moving forward? Who will we bring to the table? Why can’t we get off of our high horses and stop acting as if we know what is right for everyone and have a monopoly on how people should express themselves when they are frustrated and fed up? How will we truly come together? Who will lead the new Democratic Party, or any party for that matter, in getting us to a renewed position that truly lives up to what we say we are all about?
What will the Kingdom of God look like here on earth?
How do we create jobs for those feeling overlooked while also providing the social services needed for those who want protection? How do we allow the haves to have, while creating opportunity for the have nots?
I admit that I am not sure at this moment, but I do believe that should be the strategy moving forward; especially for the Democratic Party as they consider what’s next, new leadership and 2018.
I agree with Stephanie Taylor, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “The Democratic establishment had their chance with this election. It’s time for new leadership of the Democratic Party — younger, more diverse, and more ideological — that is hungry to do things differently, like leading a movement instead of dragging people to the polls.”