Self and the City is a column intended to increase visibility and dialogue surrounding mental health, relationships, harmful stereotypes, and the necessity for self-care and vulnerability. Self and the City will be headlined by Jessa Chargois on a bi-weekly basis. Submissions and guest columnists are welcomed to send work to firstname.lastname@example.org
I believe in hope. I believe that the future is as bright as we demand it to be. I believe that while a shift in power can be a reflection of the shift in our society’s values, it is imperative we do not forget the past four years. I believe that we must celebrate the 46th Presidential Inauguration, yet, we must immediately go to work. We must maintain the momentum of the Georgia Senate Run-offs, we must maintain our fight, our measurable change, and maintain our hope.
This past Monday, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King’s 91st birthday; on Wednesday, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, offering an opportunity for change after an-all-too-long period of division. It is not lost on me the irony of yet another, white cis-male assuming the role of Commander in Chief just days after we are meant to reflect on the systematic racism and instuttional prejudice that runs rampadant through our society. It is not lost on me that after yet another year of demonstrations, demands, and protests honoring those who have been unjustly taken from this world, we are having predominantly white domestic terrorists display such fierce acts of hatred, storming our capital, risking the lives of many. So, how do we move forward as a country united, that is all too clearly still divided? How do we move forward as a country united, when one half is supporting and committing domestic terrorism, demanding to keep their racist ideologies and Presdient in power?
While it is incredibly important to mention the power and importance of Kamala Harris, the first female, Black, and Asian American Vice President-elect to be appointed to office, it is imperative we remember it took forty-six elections to get to this point. While her race and gender are monumental, her actions have yet to prove she has represented these groups properly. Until her legislation and actions support these groups she identifies with, I would argue, our applause should be held. Examine her legislation through the same lens you would as if a white-cis male was making it, because frankly, we all know she will be critiqued differently due to society’s love for magnifying a woman’s actions. Is it possible to congratulate her all the while holding her accountable? We will see, won’t we?
In an historic election that resulted in the highest rate of voter turnout in 120 years, white Americans failed to hold the 45th President accountable. Now, while I don’t aim to be pessimistic, I see little proof that indicates the elected administration will pursue legislation and justice that would directly benefit the same demographics that worked to not only appoint the 46th President of the United States, but directly affected the results of the Georgia Senate run-off’s democratic victories. Throughout the Presidential election, over 91% of Black women voted for President-elect Biden, according to exit polls. Not to mention the work of indigenous voters who worked to flip swing states of Arizona and Wisconsin, have been systematically oppressed throughout the entire history of the United States. While Black youth in Georgia directly supplied Biden’s flip of the state, white women voted for President Trump at a higher rate than they did in 2016, proving that social media infographics many shared may not tell the whole story of someone’s views. While we do not always understand the full scope of our family, friends, and loved one’s political views, it is your job to start a conversation. It is not the job of the marginalized and oppressed to educate the masses on the injustice they face on a daily basis. It is now our duty, to demand that the work and needs of the very people who worked to appoint this administration, benefit from the legislation, rather than have their work swept under the rug of political nonsense.
So while some may argue it is naive of us to celebrate tomorrow, I would argue, it is necessary to. Many will urge you to curb your enthusiasm this Wednesday, I want to give you permission to celebrate. I want to grant you the opportunity to reflect on the country-wide celebrations that swept the nation the moment we found out our 45th President would be leaving office. I want to offer the chance to believe in a hopeful future filled with justice, equality, and hugs with your loved ones. I want to give you the chance to breathe; take a deep inhale, exhale, and gather your intentions for the next four years.
President-elect Joe Biden is far from our savior. He has advocated for an array of problematic legislation in the past, such as the 1994 Crime Bill. He opposed school busing desegregation in the 1970’s, and had voted for a measure aimed at outlawing gay marriage in the 1990’s. His past is in no way a proper reflection of modern day values and frankly, is not that far off from presidents past. Granted, he had my vote, because he is the only option moving forward towards safety for a Black person in the United States. As a white woman, it was imperative to support the Black women who organized and campaigned to protect themselves and their future generations from the danger and recklessness of the Trump administration. As a human who values human life, it was imperative to support the first responders and healthcare workers that have selflessly worked to save hundreds of thousands of lives during the ongoing pandemic; a pandemic that has claimed over 400,000 lives in less than one year, due to misinformation and mismanagement. Even 1 life was too many.
So, while we navigate the future four years, remind yourself to utilize your privilege and hold the 46th Presidential Administration accountable, just as you did for the 45th Presidential Administration. Utilize your voice, your platform, your whiteness (for those readers who look like me) to turn these hashtags, these performative allyship seen on social media, these TikToks, these tweets, these protests, into legislation, policies, and measurable change that supports and benefits those who determined the result of this election. Do not let yourself relax because we feel safer under the Biden Harris Administration. Do not let yourself hide behind your guilt, your excuses, your performative infographics. If you are unsure of where to start, open a dialogue with those who love you, those who listen to you, those who value your life, and those whose views may not align with yours. Change starts from the ground up.
So celebrate Wednesday. Celebrate change. Celebrate hope. Celebrate the future. Then go to work. Demand the legislation we were promised. Demand accountability. Demand the conversations, despite the difficulty, despite the discomfort, despite the displeasure. That is how we change.
That is how we find hope.