The State of Normality: History Repeating Itself

When I was still in the single digits, the inauguration of Barack Obama was an event, in the moment, where I felt “seen,” as I believed it was a sign towards change. Yes, I know. This sounds absolutely ridiculous, but in the mind of a six-year-old young Black girl, such was all that met the eye at the time. Thirteen years later, as a young Black womanist, turning twenty in April, my thoughts concerning the Biden-Harris administration will not be of a sugarcoating nature. One of the many problems in our current climate is the belief that through electoralism and a smile, all problems of oppression and injustice will disappear. The cognitive dissonance is directly connected with the complacency many give into simply because they seek normalcy. What many fail to keep in mind the lack of accessibility to all spaces for disabled people, the continuation of systemic, institutional and structural racism against Black folks and the further degradation and dehumanization against Indigenous communities and marginalized folks. The idea that we are somehow out of the fire is symbolic of what this country represents: sweeping dirt under the rug in order to protect and preserve the American fabric as a “beacon of democracy.” The America which embraces Black and Indigenous genocide. The America where universal healthcare is “impossible.” The America where the constraints and murderous roots of capitalism are simply “doing business.”

person holding a sign that says Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

The Inauguration. 

The question is, where do I begin? In the middle of a global pandemic, the rage of climate change and the persistence of all types of oppression, the last thing the United States is indicative of is unity. Not only did actor and entertainer Jennifer Lopez sing the song, “This Land Is Your Land” (representative of western ideologies built on imperialism and expansion in order to steal Indigenous land), but there was also a facade in place in order to attempt to distract folks from the bigger issues of top priorities. Tone-deafness is placed in the hands of the powerful and privileged as it is showcased for the country to be stronger, better and coming towards a place of “healing.” And that is the problem. You can not wish away systems and structures which were built corrupt and oppressive. You can not “heal” if the very problems created by white supremacy are still in place to police marginalized communities. Those who seek “normalcy” do not mind risking the lives of marginalized folks and essential workers. The definition of “normal” is embedded in sustaining an unbalanced and privileged fabric built on neoliberalism and complacency. To clarify, there is zero expectation for “change” to take place overnight; however, there is rightful pressure being applied in order to push the recognition and the enactment of action to reflect the dire concerns and needs of the people amidst catastrophic havoc exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and crisis. From a personal perspective, I do not feel comfortable with the performance, gaslighting or respectability politics. These times call for action for those who haven’t already begun. These times call for the same energy during the 2020 election to be applied to holding all members of the Biden and Harris administration accountable. 

crowd of protesters holding signs Photo by Josh Hild from Pexels

Respectability Politics.

Liberation and compromise are not connected. The idea of marginalized communities being encouraged to play along with political powers is indicative of how the American political system operates: conform to whiteness, go along with the establishment and be willing to “sacrifice” intricate parts of your liberation for the sake of making the status quo comfortable. When activists, grassroots leaders and organizers rightfully remind others of the importance of never being complacent, such results in gaslighting and the classic phrase, “let us enjoy this.” While there is a breath to be taken for Trump being out of office, there needs to be a recognition that white supremacist powers such as Donald Trump and those who enabled him do not just emerge from anywhere. This is a responsibility that requires conservatives, privileged folks, white people, the Republican party, neoliberals, etc. to bear for their actions. 

Donald Trump was (and still is) the product of the traditional American fabric being entrenched in white supremacy and privilege as well as the two-party system centered on corporations, capitalist endeavors and the essentiality of wanting the people to be grateful for crumbs. As an invasion by white supremacist terrorists happened less than a month ago, the arguments being made symbolized that there are zero excuses to not be aware of how privilege, tyranny and oppression in this country connect and co-exist. You can not dictate to any marginalized community what their liberation looks like and you certainly can not begin to understand how liberation and abolition are processes that require those who are responsible for upholding these systems to be the ones who dismantle it. The same celebrities, influencers and organizations who told folks to “vote,” are now silent and feel that their two-minute venture into activism is complete. Marginalized communities are expected to be of humility, in support of oppressors in all forms while following through the locomotion of respectability. Not only are these views harmful, but they are also based on the structural atmosphere of intersectionality when examining oppression; a complex circumstance built on attempting to restrict marginalized folks from recognizing their worth and power. 

woman in black swimsuit meditating Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Peace, Love and Harmony.

To be frank, you can not pray this away. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen spirituality whitewashed and manipulated in order for white folks to assimilate and to be made comfortable. Not only are African and Indigenous spiritualities demonized, but such sacred practices are also co-opted by Non-Black and Non-Indigenous folks in order to be “hipster” or “down with the cause.” To say many folks use the word “peace” carelessly represents the problem of normalcy being based on remaining unmoved. Complacency and normalcy are positioned in order to maintain structural orders centered on not shaking the table. Through “harmony” and color-blindness, there is no acknowledgment or calling out issues as they are but rather believing that such aspects have to “die down” in order to remain highly centered on avoiding any accountable conversations about the spaces and societies we occupy. Not only must there be persistent respect towards Black and Indigenous spaces, but it should also be emphasized that you are supposed to be uncomfortable. You are also supposed to be aware of what oppressive systems you are beneficiaries of and you are supposed to configure ways to support and center marginalized communities. Let me stress heavily that it is not the job of marginalized folks to “educate” or “enlighten” you. The corrupt principle of persistently relying on marginalized communities to do the work represents the unwillingness to recognize or own your assistance to systems and forms of oppression. 

MLK statue in D.C. Photo by Gotta Be Worth It from Pexels

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black History Month.

Like many Black leaders, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther Jr. was categorized as a figure centered on unity and racial equality yet many whitewash his efforts. Not only was Dr. King a socialist, but his principles were also centered on social and economic liberation for Black folks. Instead, what is manipulated and co-opted are his calls for anti-racism to be turned into opportunities for others to believe that “not seeing color” is a basic principle. Color-blindness not only reduces accountability by those entrenched within but also pushes for “normalcy” in regard to the social order being maintained. As this past January was a hot mess to say the very least, Non-Black folks must stop turning Black leaders into martyrs as they unjustly believe that Black folks being murdered were for a “greater cause.” Not only do you fail to recognize their humanity, but you also have the belief that you are somehow owed their contributions and what they accomplished in order for you to be relieved of any responsibility towards equity and liberation. There must be an acknowledgment that you should appreciate and support Black folks three hundred and sixty-five days every year. Part of that is support, while also consisting of reparations, eradicating oppressive behaviors and making every single matter you engage in, intersectional. No, we are not interested in you sharing the same quotes or abiding by the same fashions of watered-down interpretations in order to fit your narrative. 

group of people with their arms around each other Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Tokenism, But Let’s Make It Complex!

Representation but at what cost? Diversity but at what cost? From my perspective, it makes no difference (to me) to have oppressors of the same race. Let me make it very clear that while I do recognize and validate the experiences of those who value representation, I personally feel that there should be meaningful representation coupled with accountability and actual work being put into their positions. Not only is there a responsibility for diverse and marginalized politicians and leaders to serve, but celebrity culture also should not be connected to their public service. When their constituents hold them accountable, such is not a criminal indictment on their livelihood but is rather holding them to account for the office they swore into. The accountability factor is a response to the violation towards their community and constituents. While representation is good, there should be a strong motivator to recognize the needs of the people and how they should be centered in regard to what they seek. They should not be policed or told to “wait” but rather shown through action and loyalty that lawmakers are not willing to sacrifice integrity and intersectionality for the sake of clout and notoriety. Tokenism not only serves as a shield to attempt to silence marginalized folks, but it also serves as the setup for marginalized folks to bear public accountability while other powers are faceless. While I believe there are a small number of leaders using their platform, I will not “applaud” them for doing their job. It is what they owe to the people. They are supposed to be public servants and at the end of the day, what is required is transparency, responsibility and equity. green fern on gravel Photo by Jewsin Thomas from Pexels

Where Do We Go From Here?

I do not have the answers. And quite frankly, it is not my job as a Black woman to provide labor in regard to the ways you are supposed to take accountability for your actions. Support marginalized folks, de-center the expectation of your comfortability and know that this is the very beginning. There is absolutely no reason for gaslighting marginalized folks who are genuinely concerned and have an idea of what may occur as it is a reiteration of their trauma over and over again. Not only should you support, but you should also keep in mind that the humanity of marginalized folks is to be centered first. Part of community care and liberation is recognizing that these processes are evolving and take time but how will you assist in this? How will you recognize that you can not expect normalcy from the very same systems murdering and disrespecting marginalized communities? The persistence of the carceral state, nation-sanctioned violence and nationalism are three of the many structures indicative of what lies ahead for the foreseeable future.