Like most of the people I know, I’ve been working through a lot since the election. And where I think I more or less landed is:
I fucked up.
For context: I am a white woman, the demographic largely credited with tipping the scales in favor of the current president-elect. And while I did not vote for him, I have had to wrestle with the fact that I have absolutely been part of the problem.
I thought that progress was inevitable. I’m not blind, but I’m an optimist, and I had myself convinced that we were on the grand upward slope of history. Gays could get married. We elected a black man president. We were working on a electing a woman.
Even typing this, I’m cringing at the naivete of all of that. Because of those thoughts, I thought it was okay not to fight. I knew things weren’t great but the truth is that they were okay for me and that made it easy to tune out. I used self-care as an excuse to not read media that I found upsetting–it started as avoiding stories about rapists escaping justice, and ended as avoiding stories about abortion limitations, violence against the black community, laws restricting trans people’s freedoms, and a host of other topics. I was basically sticking my fingers in my ears and humming, hoping the world would improve while I row-row-rowed my boat.
So where I was shocked into a state of hopeless grief by the realization that the country I thought I was living in was not the reality, I’ve learned that this election did not come as a surprise to many. Black women, for one, were not taken off guard by America’s continued misogyny and racism like I was. They were the strongest demographic to turn out for Hillary, and they had some of the highest rates of activism in the lead-up to the election.
I can’t fix my inaction and inattention in the past. But I can use this as a way to galvanize myself going forward. I can acknowledge that I’ve been riding on the backs of the people who have been here, and listen to and learn from their experiences. I can start fighting, finally, for myself and for the people around me. I can donate, I can make calls, I can write letters, I can get in the streets. I can get involved.
I’m disgusted and ashamed that it took this to wake me up, but I’m going to do my best to make up for lost time.
One of the things I did, directly following the election, was to ask people I respected that were already involved what I could do. Some hooked me up with grassroots and local organizations, while others instructed me on how I could contact my representatives and what I should be focusing on telling them. One person who is very dear to me told me to write.
And I was at a loss. Write what? Write how? What do I even say when everything is wrong and I feel like I’m actually going crazy because the emperor is bare-assed and half of America is talking about how tremendous his suit is? But I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m never going to figure out what to say if I don’t at least start saying something, somehow. My silence has purchased me a share of the blame in this new society, and I can’t afford it any longer.