The title of this blog went from “Stop Scrolling, Start Having Conversations,” to “Time For a New Playbook” to “F Your Respectability Politics,” to “Can We Stop Coddling White People?” to its current iteration. Clearly I have a lot of feelings about how some white Democrats are racing to soothe the hurt feels of people who voted willingly, proudly, for a racist.
I’m already seeing a lot of Facebook posts/comments – mostly by white women – about taking the higher road in this win – not rubbing it in Trump voter’s faces or disregarding their feelings the way they did ours. I get the desire to believe a Biden Presidency has restored American democracy – although if that is the takeaway I suggest doing a deep dive because, pre-Trump, things weren’t all that great either. Something doesn’t sit right with me about the “respectability politics.” This wasn’t just a vote between two political parties. Donald Trump (and the GOP) were a real threat to peoples’ lives – particularly marginalized groups; through stripping civil rights legislation, child separation policy, inciting violence with his rhetoric, enabling white supremacists his handling of COVID-19 that has killed more Black and Brown people overall, etc. Not to mention the ignoring of climate change that is literally going to wipe us out if we don’t do something. You don’t get to both sides one party trying to vote to save the environment and give people healthcare and the other working to burn it all down, literally and figuratively. Another 4 years of DJT would have been mentally and emotionally painful to a middle/upper-class white woman like me; it would have been absolutely apocalyptic for low-income, marginalized people in this country.
I think we showed kindness through our votes. No, Joe Biden wasn’t my first choice, but I want even the most obnoxious Trump voters, you know the ones with flags in the back of their pick-ups and “Stop the bullshit 2020” bumper stickers to have healthcare. I want them to have economic opportunities and a living wage. Sorry for trying to save y’all from yourselves. I want them to see the insidious nature of white supremacy and that THAT is the enemy, not Black and Brown people. I don’t think we accomplish that through mere civility. I think we (white people) need to continue having intentional conversations with the people in our life who supported this man. It’s on us. We can’t expect Black people, in particular Black Women, to save us every 2-4 years. We need to do the work as well. I see (and am guilty of it myself) so many white Dems complaining in their progressive circles about “those friends and family members.” Yes, you could keep scrolling, but I think we all need to get more comfortable having conversations with our friends and family who voted for him. Technically they make up a minority of the country, but have outsized influence because of gerrymandering, the Electoral College, etc. We might be able to draw some fairer districts in some states in 2021, but the Electoral College is going to be harder to abolish. Now I didn’t say fight or argue, I said have a conversation. Don’t go in thinking you’re going to change their minds. You are simply planting the seeds.
I think this line of thinking, “let’s show them how nice and gracious we can be in winning” is a subconscious attempt by white people to return to our comfort zones. I don’t know about you, but I was pretty damn comfy in 2008-2015. I rarely engaged in politics. I felt taken care of. I didn’t even see the fire around me. I claimed to be “not racist” and yet I didn’t lift a finger to help marginalized people who were clearly suffering. I didn’t even see it. We cannot return to pre-Trump times. That was never the goal of the 2020 Election anyway. Joe Biden is a step in the right direction. We are going to have to continue the hard work of both undoing the harm of 4 years of Trump and champion progressive legislation to improve the lives of millions of Americans. Oh, and work to fix the cracks in our democracy caused by decades of court packing, gerrymandering, Citizen’s United, The Voting Rights Act, just to name a few.
This is a monumental task. I’m not suggesting we do not enjoy the sweet relief of having removed one major, orange-colored obstacle, but I would warn against a hard pivot to normalcy. This is the new normal. We talk about politics. We have hard conversations. We are active participants in our democracy because we have seen that when we allow others to run the show we hand over our power and that powerlessness is a terrible feeling.
We made Donald Trump a one term President. We ousted a racist. We have our first Black/Asian Female V.P. Elect. Yes you damn well should celebrate. We can work to heal the divide without neutering our cause. We cannot compromise when Black + Brown + LGBTQ+ and immigrants + women’s + low-income Americans lives are on the line. I get that “being the bigger person” and racing back to our comfort zone feels good, but I don’t believe it helps anyone in the long-term. Just like I didn’t feel the “Whoever wins the Presidency, I’ll go to work the next day & live my life” memes from before Election Day were particularly instructive. They displayed an incredible amount of privilege.
Please resist the urge to declare normalcy and make it all go away. That’s not the lesson of the past 4 years and I know most of us would really like not to repeat this lesson. In fact, this seems to be a mistake that Democrats continue to make…maybe if we show our abuser kindness, play by the rules, etc they’ll do the same. It. Never. Freaking. Works. I’m not suggesting “stooping to their level,” but I am suggesting we retire the playbook. Let’s stand firm in our beliefs. Let’s invite people to join us when they are ready. And remember the golden rule, we don’t coddle racists or those who vote for racism. Tough love ppl.