I woke up the day after election day to what I firmly believed when I went to bed was the impossible. Somehow, although when I look at the numbers I know how (the bulk of our country is rural and it’s exceedingly White and Republican), my neighbors and friends (?) elected the person most unsuitable in U.S. history as its new leader.
Talibah Chikwendu (Courtesy Photo/Facebook)
My daughter is frightened, many of my students are frightened – they don’t know what went wrong. I am scared. This man has cheapened, at some point or another in this campaign, things that I am and value.
He doesn’t respect or understand my race/heritage; throughout the campaign, I have been one of “the Blacks.” He doesn’t respect or value my gender; from his misogynistic comments and actions towards women to his outright disregard for female reproductive rights and personal space. He doesn’t respect or value my professions; he expanded the rhetoric and disdain that has made education and journalism suspect and reinforced outlier doubt about importance of these institutions for the progress of our nation.
Our last Republican president, with the assistance of a Republican Congress, led us into a war just now ending, left an excessive national debt from military spending and tax breaks for the affluent, and took our civil liberties claiming we would be safe in a way never possible in a world his policies and global standing made uncertain.
We corrected this with President Barack Obama, and for eight years, except for the obstructionism of the Republican Congress, lived in relative progress and peace. I saw the country moving towards physical, emotional, and economic health – available health care not resulting in unpayable debt, a restoration of business stability increasing job availability and security, and an increased positive standing in the world. We lived under a president that understood that while we are American citizens first, it means little if we are not world citizens too.
I cannot understand – after seeing a president with class, integrity, positivity, thoughtfulness, the ability to solve problems without opening with violence, and a willingness to do hard work and make hard choices – how we could view Donald Trump as presidential?
When Trump emerged as the Republican nominee, with his lack of civility, violent rhetoric, unchecked bias against immigrants, misogyny, and clear double standards, I was worried but sure my fellow Americans would see through him, especially when his opponent, Hillary Clinton, was the most qualified and experienced candidate to ever run for the U.S. presidency.
We have become a country I don’t recognize, and no, this did not just happen election night. The need for a #BlackLivesMatter movement in this millennium was a big wake up for me. I didn’t think we were post-racial, but I did think race was no longer the primary basis for placing blame or institutional behavior profiling. I did believe we had reached a point where the overt promotion of hate action based on the simplicity of stereotypes was found unacceptable by most people. But I forgot there are still large segments of this country where people believe they can’t pull themselves up by their own bootstraps because someone else received help (read monetary assistance for food and shelter, affirmative action, etc.). I thought we had figured out that no one can get there alone, that everyone needs some help. Or at least, that success isn’t a zero-sum game.
I don’t know what happens next or what America will look like in four years. Today, the day after election day, it is hard to be upbeat and certain. I know, however, if I put one foot in front of the other while looking towards the future, I will get there. I don’t know what it will look like, but if I keep looking for a way, there is potential for positive change.
Tomorrow, I will find my hope in that. Today I mourn my loss.
The struggle continues.
Talibah Chikwendu is the former executive editor for the AFRO-American Newspapers, a public school media specialist, and college professor.