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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Last Night, I Wept. Today, I Apply War Paint.

I've always fancied myself a revolutionary.

In history class, when we talked about the civil rights movement or women's suffrage, I envisioned myself as the type of person who would have been on the right side of history. Maybe I wouldn't have been staging sit-ins, but certainly I would have given speeches at my university. Written pieces of incendiary journalism. Bigoted white men would roll their eyes when I came up in conversation. It would've been great.

But I was born in 1997, to a two-parent household of economic affluence in a liberal city in a liberal state. Yes, I am a mixed-race, Jewish black woman. But I'm also economically privileged, have attended private academic institutions my whole life, and have had the unconditional emotional support of two wonderful parents. So yes, people have made offensive comments to me and tried to undermine my achievements. But I have been shielded from much of the oppression that might have impeded my development had I come up in the mid-twentieth century, or in a conservative part of the country, or both. To top it all off, the bulk of my childhood was spent under the first black president of the United States. I coasted into last night, thinking that the bulk of my young adulthood would be spent under the first female president. Honestly, the thought of Hillary's victory was bittersweet to me. Where was my glass ceiling to break? Sure, police brutality is still an issue, the wage gap won't go away for another 100+ years even by optimistic estimates, and in many parts of the country, the LGBTQIA+ community is actively discriminated against, but before last night, it felt very much like we were on our way. Like I would simply be buoyed by the progress that was already taking place. Like all I had to do was exist as a socially conscious millennial, and the world would unfold before me as it always had. But then a funny thing happened.

A bigoted, incompetent, sexual predator won the presidency.

And I cried. Hard.

Last night, I lost my innocence. I watched as the America I'd built up in my mind, the America that still had a lot of work to do but was at least on the path to excellence, disintegrated before my very eyes. I read the New York Times article declaring that a reality TV-show host who will be going to trial for fraud and sexual assault will take the oath of our nation's highest office on January 20. My Uber driver asked me why I was crying. I said many things in response to that, but the crux of it is this sound bite: Trump did not invent hatred. Obama's presidency simply concealed it. Trump's campaign exposed it. The bigotry was already there. It was just less socially acceptable to show it with Obama at the helm. Now, as his time in office dwindles all too quickly to a close, the so-called "silent majority" is silent no more. Their champion has won. They have been vindicated. And last night, that felt like rock bottom. Hopeless.

But I wake up today far from hopeless. Because here's the thing, my fellow women and PoC. My LGBTQIA+, Latinx, Muslim, and disabled siblings:

NOW, more than ever, is our time.

For all the times you've wondered who you might have been during slavery, during World War II, during the Civil Rights Movement - this is when you find out. Sure, laws and amendments have been passed that are meant to protect our civil liberties, and social conditions aren't as bleak as they were 50, 100, 200 years ago. But I assure you that this is a turning point in history. I assure you that our children will be asking us about last night, and the last year, and the coming ones. I assure you that we will be confronted by hatred, and, even more frequently, indifference to our rights under a Republican president, a Republican senate, and a Republican house.

I refuse to be hopeless. I refuse to be complacent. I refuse to spend anymore time weeping. I also refuse to pretend that we are not a nation divided. I wish I could love our president-elect and his constituency unconditionally, because I truly believe that love can triumph over hate. But now is not the time for love. Not yet. In order to love, I first require mutual respect.

I don't have all the answers. I don't have any of the answers. I don't know what this movement will look like, what shape it will take. I don't know what I personally need to do, or what we need to do as a collective. So I'll do what I know to do: I will write.

And tomorrow morning, and all the mornings after that, I'll do what I did this morning.

Apply war paint.

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