“The end of an error.”
“We’ve reached the end of the tunnel!”
With the January 20th inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States, people nationwide celebrated the ushering in of what many have deemed a “new era” in American history. No longer does our blood pressure spike at the ding of a new Twitter notification. No longer do we open up Twitter to learn that Ivanka won’t let Secret Service agents use the restroom. No longer do we anticipate shuddering at every press conference. Finally, the constant unrest and problems of the Trump presidency are behind us, right?
Fellow Trump-haters, let’s talk. I know leaving behind the past four years and pretending to wipe the slate blank for a new golden age of American politics is tempting. No one wants to think about former President Trump and his effect on the country for any longer than we absolutely have to, hoping to flip the switch and get back to the perceived normalcy of the Obama era. But — like many people much, much smarter than I have said before — the unfortunate reality is that there is no switch, and there never has been. The vast majority of the problems that seemed to surface under the Trump presidency aren’t new. When you’re viewing police brutality, casual sexism, xenophobic policies from a position of privilege, it’s easy to feel like issues like these have been lurking beneath the shiny American exterior, only just able to leap out with Trump’s encouragement. Well-meaning liberals on Twitter call out “This is not my America! This is not who we are!”. But of course, Trump is our America. Trump is who we are.
Our America is White supremacy, slavery, mass incarceration, internment camps, missile strikes, foreign interference, segregation, assassination, marriage inequality (I could go on, of course, but I’ll stop here). The America many people have only recognized for the first time in the past four years has always been there, even if many weren’t in the position to realize it. The mainstream Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013 under the Obama presidency, and yet in many liberal circles, BLM remained sidelined until the Trump era, with the protests of summer 2020. Even with the conscious knowledge that movements like BLM have been around for decades, the prevalence of it within the last few years allows for the Democratic party to view it as a uniquely Trump-esque problem. Don’t forget about the humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border that’s fallen to the sidelines of American politics. Issues many people consider Trump-caused have been here for years, well before the 2016 election. Or consider the fight for the measly raise of $15.00 for a minimum wage that’s been going on for years, throughout Democratic and Republican governments.
The desire to distance from the mess of Trumpism, discounting the centuries-long build-up that has led us shockingly close to fascism, means many prominent Liberals have subscribed to the happy, perfect, new Biden presidency myth that dominates current Democratic politics, ignoring the stark reality of our county. Pretending racism and white supremacy are uniquely Trump-era phenomena not only discounts the harsh realities in America for BIPOC but is deeply dangerous, furthering the risk of repeating the same mistakes that lead us down the path of the last four years. We’re not made blameless because we didn’t storm the capital or because we voted blue. To pose an identity on the liberal spectrum without actively recognizing the benefits of white privilege as a whole and continuously uplifting the voices of BIPOC in the US helps no one, least of all the people you claim to support.
When the presidential race was finally called on November 7th, I walked out of my apartment to see my fellow white women literally dancing in the streets. They stood up from socially-distanced brunches to clutch their mimosas in the center of Spring St, celebrating that they could finally dismiss politics again and return to the days when DC drama was just a background buzz in their heads. I can’t think of a better image to represent the neoliberal dismissal of all the issues in our country, relying on a new “progressive” White House to repair everything so deeply broken in the United States. The US will remain broken, and our fault lines will only grow larger as long as the values of White supremacy continue to permeate our nation and oppress minorities. The “Trump-era” can’t end if we, the left-wing, refuse to acknowledge our role in perpetuating its harm.
We have to do better than that. We, Americans, and we, New School students. As students at a small, private university in a generally progressive city, we’re afforded an opportunity so few get, and many of us can take our position for granted. Don’t. I’m writing this to urge you (and urge myself) to not get lazy. To not get complacent. Many people reading this are college-educated white women like myself, so hear this: the urge to dance at brunch and take a break from the constant political stress may be tempting, but that’s not a temptation we get to give into — many people don’t even get within shouting range of that temptation. Survival takes precedence. So even if you’re afforded the chance to lay back and relax, don’t. Find the balance — it’s our duty.
In the new age of 46, let the anxiety of 45 fade away, but call on yourself and the people around you to stay as fired up fighting systemic problems that unfairly impact immigrants and people of color in the US as they were under Trump’s presidency. America won’t be magically fixed with Biden in the White House, so while you allow yourself a moment to rejoice in the fact that we’ve finally reached “the end of the tunnel”, don’t let it mean the end of the road too.
Ideas to keep moving forward, sourced by Prim!
https://alp.org (Audre Lorde Project)
https://mutualaid.nyc/resources-groups/ (Mutual Aid for NYC Directory)
https://incite-national.org (INCITE – Radical feminists who are women of color, working to end violence in their communities)
http://www.peoplescommunitymedics.org (People’s Community Medics)
@ihartericka’s Instagram (education and mutual aid requests)