A Post 11/9 Election Communiqué
by Esmeralda Simmons, Esq.
“Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around, I’m gonna keep on talkin’, keep on walkin’, walkin’ up to Freedomland.”
Traditional Freedom Song
“We who believe in Freedom cannot rest…”
Bernice Johnson Reagon, Sweet Honey in the Rock
In turbulent times like these, I turn to freedom songs to ground myself. I hold onto who and where we are as African descendant people. I look at the present through the perspective of our history. I glance again at our goals for the future—keeping my eyes on the prize.
Admittedly, after the election on 11/9, our immediate prospects look glum. Once again, racial animus is raw in this country. Donald Trump, a man exulted in the United States by Neo-Nazis, the Klu Klux Klan, and ultra-extreme conservatives who dub themselves as the “alt right,” is now the President Elect. The same nation that elected Barack Obama to be its first Black President, has now elected his 180° opposite.
The 11/9 presidential election was a shock to many African Descendant people in the U.S. Metaphorically, and maybe literally, it was a hard slap to our face by the proverbial “Miss Ann.” After the initial shock, we engaged in a lot of “wringing of hands” and “gnashing of teeth.” We questioned, we analyzed, we asked “How could this have happened?”
The blatant racism of then candidate Trump’s rhetoric, and the recent rash of hate crimes his rhetoric spawned, signal the dawn of another era of racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, misogynistic, anti-LGBT, and anti-“differently-abled” actions and policies. We are in the early stages of a 21st century White American backlash to the post-Civil Rights period – a period that brought expanded rights to a host of “different” American citizens and residents. This new era will be much like the post Reconstruction era when White terrorism against Black people, and wholesale mob and public lynchings, were societal norms in the U.S.
By now, the sobering reality has set in and the new inquiry naturally emerges, “What now? What is in store for us?” Out of our questioning, an implicit answer has become apparent: “It’s about us! Now more than ever, our focus must be about African descendant people in the U.S., and beyond, having a collective viewpoint. It’s about our concern for, and action on behalf of, what we used to call “the Race.”
In recent years, due to the work of Michelle Alexander and others, our community has a greater understanding of “The New Jim Crow” and the mass incarceration of Black folks in the US. Also, Ava DuVernay’s 2016 documentary 13th has effectively broadened our understanding of this modern-day assault against African Descendants in this country. We’re clearer now so post 11/9, our communities best be prepared to face Jim Crow 2.0 which will result in an exponentially increased number of attacks against us as a people.
The good news is that African Descendant people in the U.S will persevere. We’ve come this way before. We are the masters of intelligent resistance: on the continent, the slave ships, the Caribbean breaking grounds, the Wall Street auction blocks, the plantations, in every US war, during post-Reconstruction, through Jim Crow, through the Civil Rights Movement, and as Abolitionists. When “we” recognize a new major societal attack, “we” join forces and collectively resist and persevere.
This time, the first wave of the attack is most likely to be an economic one. Resources, funded by our tax–paying dollars (upon which African Descendant people have long relied) may vanish or be severely reduced. Federal jobs and block grants to states which convert to state and local government jobs will likely be cut. Further cuts may be attempted in federal government aid programs such as SNAP (Food Stamps), free school lunches, federal homeless aid, health care subsidies to states (Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare), and social security aid to the differently disabled. Many in our community have grown accustomed to these governmental safety nets. If the Trump administration makes cuts, as they promise, then there is a great likelihood that many in our community will be seriously hurt.
The solution to some of these assaults lay in own hands. As a people, we must hire each other and support the remaining institutions within our control. We still have farms, houses of worship, non-profit service providers, businesses, schools, health care centers, and cultural centers. Innovative solutions like Black-owned “farm to community” food co-ops must greatly expand if we want to afford healthy food. Our advocacy organizations, e.g., nationally, NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Urban League, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; and locally, e.g., the Center for Law and Social Justice, political clubs and the wealth of charitable and organizations (like sororities, fraternities, ethnic benevolence societies, etc.) must expand their collaborations to reach even more members of our community. Now, more than ever, we must take care of ourselves!
At this “wake up” moment, we also need to re-assess our habits and ask ourselves, “What does my family and community need?” Is our “shopping” utilitarian or recreational? Most of us are not among “the rich and famous,” so we have no business attempting to emulate their lifestyles. Regularly supporting our local tailors, bakers, and restaurants may lead to our collective survival and prosperity. Putting our talents and skills to use for our people is imperative.
Our history in this country informs us that the prosperous “Black Wall Street” town in Tulsa, Oklahoma was real. There, we produced goods and transacted business. We didn’t merely consume. As we gear up for the battles ahead, let’s shed those aspects of our lives that are not serving us or our people. Let us appreciate what’s sacred to us: family and loved ones, our culture, our spirituality, and the eternal flame of love in our hearts. We sing this song for a purpose.
Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet, with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed.
We have come, over a way
That with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path
Through the blood of the slaughtered.
Out of the gloomy past
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast…
… Let us march on till victory is won.
– “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, The Black National Anthem by James Weldon Johnson
These post 11.9 days are just another trial in our path. Let us march onward, toward freedom.