The following is adapted from a Facebook post I wrote early in the morning of Wednesday, November 9 with some additions from some additional conversations I had throughout the day.
To be honest, I am not really surprised at anything that happened last night. Ever since 2008 I’ve been waiting for the retribution. I wanted to buy in to the reality of the post-racial America and to believe the idea that we are always progressing towards a better version of ourselves. I wanted to believe the myth. My training in the field of history wouldn’t allow me to. I know too much of the deep wickedness woven into the very fabric of America to believe that America could ever get beyond race when the idea of race is written into our sacred civil canon. I have also spent 30 years as a black man in this country and my experience shows me that this is not true. Perhaps this election is a reminder that the United States of America, big as it might be, is one of the proud empires of this world that will pass away one day.
I know that sometimes hate puts up a damn good and fight wins the battle. But Love has already won the war – not the capricious love of humanity, but the boundless, unrelenting, unchanging love of God which has already defeated the powers of darkness and human brokenness. Period.
The next four years will test our character as a nation – not as a collection of politicians and and branches of government, but as an imperfect community of people. To quote Ella Baker, “we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.” We must be vigilant, advocating for dignity and safety for those who are most at risk. We who believe in justice and freedom will be called upon to stand in solidarity and support with vulnerable people. We will be called upon to build relationships of understanding across difference. Those of us of different versions and shades of power will be called to use it to protect others.
None of this erases the pain of last night. I found it hard to sleep, and when I did, it was a dreamless, anxious sleep. I’m tired, y’all. Really tired. The best of religious platitudes will not mitigate the effect exploitative power can have on the physical bodies of the powerless. That makes me afraid. Scriptures did not stop mobs of white Americans from lynching black men, women, and children on any given Sunday after church. Prayers did not absorb the breath-taking pounding of fire hoses or the crush of biting police dogs. “Thoughts and well wishes” didn’t protect the land and livelihood of indigenous peoples. Platitudes did not prevent tens of thousands of Japanese Americans from being sent to internment camps in this country. At the level of flesh and blood, bone and muscle, power can destroy. Utterly.
Last night hurt, not because my candidate lost (I’m 2-2 for picking presidents), but because the one who won has been so hateful and disrespectful to expressions of humanity across the spectrum. It hurt, not because he is a Republican and I am a Democrat, but because his campaign represented a reckless violation of fundamental human dignity. It hurt because, for good or for ill, this is the decision we have made together. It hurt because beneath his bluster and bombast was a clear message: only certain people belong here and only certain people get to decide who that is. Women, African Americans, Latinxs, Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and many others were offered as a burnt offering on the altar of American security. Our bodies were the price so many were willing to pay in order to purchase an America that never really was.
So where is my hope? My first hope remains on Jesus Christ who teaches us how to love and support the vulnerable even without political power, and sometimes in defiance of it. His commandments do not change depending on who is in power and his promises are sure. I have to know that and I have to recall that to my mind when I begin to spiral into hopelessness. Saints throughout the ages have found ways of bearing witness to Christ even in dire circumstances. Much of the world today illuminated by the gracious lives of women and men living in danger bearing witness to the truth.
My second hope is in us – humanity. Somehow it is still there. I’ve seen us do amazing things even when hard pressed. I’ve seen us engaging hard conversations that break open the possibility of difference. I’ve seen us build, create, write, sing, dance, and laugh. I’m hoping the human spirit can triumph over whatever hardships and obstacles await. I’m hoping that we can rediscover the radical, messy, vulnerable beauty of a diverse community.
Before I went to sleep last night I prayed for myself, for other people whose very bodies are endangered by what happened, and for healing in our land. I also prayed for President-elect Donald Trump. I prayed that somehow the weighty mantle of the office he is assuming would birth in him humility and compassion.
Many of us will mourn today and for weeks to come. We will mourn continued pain inflicted by an America so enamored with what it thinks it was that is can never really be what it can be. Be gentle with yourselves. Drink plenty of water. Take deep breaths. Go for walks. Surround yourself with loving relationships. Pray. Cry. Check-in on folks. Read a book.
And when you are ready, get to work building a better world from the ground up.