So, in the same week we will witness the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr and the inauguration of Trump. I am fairly certain the dominating rhetoric this week will attempt to bring these two personalities together with a thread called "unity" or "peacefulness" or "love". It will be overtly suggested and subtly implied that walking in the steps of King requires that we lay down our concerns for the sake of such pretty words.
This expectation has already been stated with calls to "support the President-Elect" to "see how it goes" to "try working with him instead of against him" to "unite behind him" . We have even been expected to be silent about the overt racism of Trump, many of his staffing picks and yes the folks who voted for him. We have been told in article after article after article that it is unfair, too far-reaching and altogether unwise to state unapologeticaly that race was a driving force of the campaign. We are told to believe it was economic concerns that drove people to Trump, not the racial rhetoric of "law and order" for black bodies, not the protests that kicked, and punched and pushed black protestors around, and not Trumps hate-filled speech egging on the violence of crowds. How easy it is for all these writers and pundits to forget how many folks cited "political correctness" as a reason to vote for Trump- read I-want-to-be-able-to-say-racist-things-but-never-be-called-a-racist. Its amazing to me that we have become so used to uncovering dog-whistle politics, we dont recognize the overt versions of racism anymore.
And I partially understand. White people really dont like being called racist. The politically astute are correct that this isnt a great strategy to win converts over to the democratic party. But even in light of this election, I am less worried about winning people over to the democratic party than I am worried about the dignity of my community.
In addition to "I dont like this", those who only have a superficial understanding of racism are genuinely convinced that it is inaccurate to say that white people, who knew his racial rhetoric was problematic but just wanted his economic policies, are racist. But this is the classic definition of racism once we move beyond the interpersonal, white hooded, slur-using racism. To make a decision to choose ones own economic security at the expense of people of color is exactly how we arrive at systemic racism. It is the small step on the way to big leaps of disparity. Choosing white economic security over the personhood of black Americans is how we got redlining and housing covenants, segregated schools and segregated neighborhoods, job discrimination and college segregation, unequal access to loans and mortgages and credit of all kinds, mass incarceration and environmental racism. Much of America believes there is nothing wrong with a pursuit of happiness that sacrifices the dignity of Black citizens. But I dont have to cooperate.
For weeks I have been trying to figure out my game plan for inauguration day and beyond. Will I stay home or go to work? Will I write or hang out with friends? Will I take a long bath or go volunteer in my city? Will I road-trip to the Womens March or spend the entire day reading about black history. Will I plot or rest? Honestly, I still have no idea! But here's why. I have decided that whatever I do on inauguration day will only be the first step, the launching pad, the starting block. Instead of focusing on just the one day, let us think about it as the source for infusion of energy for the race to come. If you need to march, march on! If you need to plan or write or read, go forth. If you need to rest, practicing self-care or indulging in your art, I affirm that choice. Because contrary to popular memory, MLK resisted white America's desire for the status quo. He spent his entire ministry resisting the abhorrent treatment of Black folks. He was so successful in leading this resistance, he was assassinated.
So no. I will not be "supporting" my own erasure. I will not be "joining together" with the dehumanizing language Trump uses to talk about black communities. I will not be "waiting to see" how many policies are dismantled that help those in need. I will resist.
I really wish there was just one way we could do this. I wish there was an easy way for all of us to band together to resist. But this is going to require writers and professors, pastors and artists, voting and calling representatives, protesting and petitions, journalists and organizers, youth leaders and donors, lawyers and health professionals, homemakers and third-shift workers, CEOS and the retired, historians and researchers, millennials and baby boomers, celebrities and voices who will rise out of "Nazareth". The next four years are going to require all of us. Its going to require all of our voices, all of our skills, all of our passion. Some of you will focus on housing and homelessness. Some of you will focus on food justice or environmental racism. Some of you will turn attention toward mass incarceration and criminal justice. Many will need to keep an eye on health care policies. We will have to work locally and still keep our eyes on national politics. You dont have to do it all, but please do what is yours to do, bearing in mind that all of our work matters.
This is how we pursue peace. This is how we unite. This is how we love one another.