On Being Black, Female, Terrified, & Hopeful in 2020

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I’m pretty anxious about the upcoming election. That’s both the understatement of the century and an accurate description of my current state of being. I spend my day ping ponging between nausea-laced despair and regular despair — despair zero: all of the flavor without any of the pesky calories. If I’m awake, I’m worrying about a few hundred things at once, each one enormous, the cacophony beating along the inside of my skull.

And, yet, I still feel hopeful for some reason.

This is despite being a Black woman at this moment in America.

This is despite all evidence to the contrary.

In fact, let’s take a handful of seconds to go through some of that evidence, and then I’ll make my case for why we should keep on trucking in the direction of the light I’m looking forward to finding one day at the end of this long, strange, narrow tunnel.

After limping through the last four years of an incompetent megalomaniac occupying the White House (when he’s not occupying various golf courses, that is), there appears to be nothing to look forward to, no reprieve, no magic bullet, no hope of any kind. We’re living through a global pandemic that has killed more than 230,000 people in this country and sickened many more, kept us away from family and friends, turned our economy upside down, and financially destroyed millions of American families. Even before the pandemic bulldozed its way across the country, we lived in a state of perpetual dread at what irresponsible, bigoted, and/or outrageous thing the so-called leader of the free world would do next. Racism isn’t new, but Trump sure has managed to make it great again, hasn’t he? Ditto for sexism. And homophobia. And transphobia. And Islamophobia. And xenophobia. You get the point, right? It’s a truckload of isms and phobias. Not to mention the courts are packed to the rafters with conservative judges, we’re not doing one goddamned thing about climate change, and we’re the butt of every joke on the international stage.

But, here I am, hopeful. Nauseous as I maniacally check every election related metric imaginable, but still hopeful.

Part of this hope is directly related to what I do for a living. Back in 2016, as I watched the political train careen off the track and into the canyon below, I had absolutely no way to influence the process past my vote. Don’t get me wrong. One person’s vote is important. But back then I believed voting was all an American needed to do in order to claim engagement in the process.

I learned how wrong I was the hard way.

I felt hopeless and scared the morning after Election Day, and when that despair turned to anger, I didn’t really know what to do about it. By the middle of November, I’d found my people — other pissed off folks (mostly women) that hadn’t been involved before but wanted to fix that lack of engagement in a hurry — and that started me on a path I’m still traveling to this day.

Another reason I’m hopeful is that I finally understand the full extent of my power now, how it’s amplified when I stand shoulder to shoulder with other people like me who want things to be different, fairer, better. Not just a return to the pre-Trump era, but a reimagining of what we could be as a country if only we eradicated racist and sexist systems that have been in place since the nation’s founding.

Every time we lose a fight or take a hit that should leave us down for the count, I feel that abiding, stubborn flicker of hope intensify, and we get back up again. If you’d told me 4 years ago about this persistent little flame, I’d have waved you off, disbelieving. How could such a thing exist, I’d ask, given everything that’s wrong? But now I think it only exists because of what’s wrong. The fixing is fuel, and there’s so much that’s broken.

So, what about this election?

I voted weeks ago, and we’re shortly running out of work that can be done that might influence the direction of this election. But I’m going to keep pushing. I plan to leave it all on the field this year.

Before getting sucked into the world of politics, I’d never experienced the feeling of helping to shape history. Of being part of a movement that could bend the arc of the moral universe a little further towards justice. I feel that now. We’re making history, all of us, together. And we’re a few short days away from the fruits of our labor. I really believe that. I have to. That little flame demands it.

And after Election Day?

We keep going, fighting, pushing to create the country as it should be. There’s so much damned work to do, but I’m grateful to be able to do a small part of it, and I’m even more grateful for the people that are doing the work right along with me.

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