I feel like I’m living in the Twilight Zone. Every day when I wake up, I’m starting to expect some wild headline or thing to have occurred. It is becoming my new normal. I can see both the positive and negative in that, but most days it’s exhausting to manage.
I really needed some time to process what I witnessed watching the first 2020 U.S. Presidential debate. As an American citizen, I’ve watched them since I was old enough to understand them. The Presidential debates are meant to be a platform where each candidate outlines their plans and gets challenged on stances they take, things they’ve done or said in the past, and ultimately, it is their pitch to the entire country as to why they are the best candidate to hold the highest seat in the governing system. Each candidate as they craft their responses has to show incredible amounts of both mental and emotional intelligence, restraint and verbal acuity as they showcase for the viewers their leadership skills and acumen. That is what this platform mainly is about.
What we all witnessed, for those of us who watched it, was the complete collapse of decency, integrity and respect of the highest seat in the land. To witness the current President of the United States call upon a white supremacy hate group to “stand down and stand by” literally put the lives of people of colour in danger everywhere. To associate liberal minded people as being anti-law enforcement when we say “defund the police” without understanding that while law enforcement is important, policing is not, is incredibly reckless and dangerous. The history of policing in North America and in many nations is inherently racist. Here specifically, it was targeted towards catching enslaved runaway people of African descent living in both the U.S. and Canada. So we demand the complete tearing down of the system and rebuilding of it where there are more resources poured into the community to help with prevention of crime and properly trained law enforcement officers to support the community, mental health professionals that respond to mental health crisis incidents instead of police officers, proper resources for law enforcement officers including properly compensating them, continuous training in ethnicity sensitivity lead by people of colour, mental health resources, proper checks and balances and proper accountability for them. These are not hard or impossible demands. Demanding for justice and fairness is not a hard ask. Demanding to be treated equally is not a hard ask.
But there is a fundamental false premise in this line of thinking. Most white Americans believe the justice system is fair as it has been constructed. The entire foundation of the system itself is corrupt. That is the problem. The justice system in America was built on sand and not rock. There is a reckoning that is coming where anything that is unstable at its core is being destroyed completely. There is no more room for us as a society to continue building on rotting foundations. In some cases, things need to be razed completely to the ground and rebuilt from the ground up. In other cases, laws and decisions like Roe v. Wade (1973) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) that protect women’s abortion rights and gay rights to marriage respectively need to be upheld and made in such a way that they can never be re-litigated or their validity questioned ever again. But the entire justice system needs a complete overhaul. It has been long overdue in coming.
What was made fundamentally clear after watching that debate were a few things for me. First, there can no longer be any question or hesitation to say that Donald J. Trump is a racist. He’s not the first racist president, but hopefully he’ll be the last. Second, the fact that there were white people and undecided voters who watched that performance of Donald Trump and some actually not only agree with things he said but some in fact had decided to vote for him after the debate is the very reason why I personally have zero faith that Caucasian people as a whole are anywhere closer to reconciling their issues with race then they were before. Third, now more than ever it is so important for every eligible voter to ensure their vote is cast and their voice heard. I was recently reading an article in USA Today where they were saying that while major league sports teams owners listen to players, they still support Republicans to the tune of millions of dollars($14.6 million so far in 2019–20). Let me tell you what that shows me as a Black women. That white men and women who are extremely wealthy, while they may disagree with Donald Trumps’ racist rhetoric and truly believe that Black Lives Matter even, they will ultimately NEVER vote against their financial or political interests. They will use so-called morality to justify and validate supporting a man who openly calls for the harm of people of colour, under the guise of wanting “law and order.”
As I have repeatedly said, I have zero faith that white people as a whole will acknowledge and deconstruct their racist fundamentals in a timely fashion for any person of colour; I also don’t think that any anti-black racist person of colour is particularly interested in helping to heal this divide either. So it will take those of us who still believe in the power of democracy to heal our deep differences by letting our voices be heard through the power of our vote. It’s not about resting on our laurels afterwards either. There is serious work to be done and systems of oppression that need to be dismantled at a federal and judicial level that will need all levels of government on board to fix. The power of our vote is necessary now more than ever.
I’ve been listening to a few Black celebrities lately who have made it known that they will not be participating in the electoral process because they believe it’s all rigged and that their vote doesn’t count or matter. Now, my sincerest hope is that all of these individuals are just putting up a front and pretending that they will not vote (although I’m not quite sure what purpose they think that will serve) rather than them truly giving up the right that their ancestors literally fought and died for for them to execute. It was not that long ago, 1965 to be exact that Black people truly, equally and freely received the right to vote under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, spearheaded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson. That is in both of my parents lifetimes. Yet there are Black people willingly being apathetic and deciding that their vote doesn’t count or that they don’t 100% like either candidate so they’d rather not even bother. And all the while, this is EXACTLY the attitude that Republicans and Conservatives want from our community. Many of us have played right into their hands by outwardly proclaiming that our vote won’t change anything or make a difference.
I am not here to argue with anyone in my community or tell you that what you believe is wrong. I think you have earned the right to believe whatever you want without ridicule and scorn from your own. However, what you must then do is do your research and ensure that what you believe is factually accurate. Because in no government system that I am personally aware of has apathy ever worked to truly change anything. It takes courage to hope for something better than what you have now. It takes bravery to act upon that hope. Maybe some of you have lost the ability to hope for something better or different than what we’ve had for the past 4 years and that’s why you feel like it won’t matter. I would simply like to remind you that because of your very same apathy in the last election, this is why we ended up exactly where we are. Things could have been very different and while not perfect, they would have been far better than this shit show of an administration. But here we are, because of the same apathetic sentiments that were bandied around in 2016. My beacon of light however in all of this is what I am seeing especially from the youth. So many people are registering to vote and ensure their voices are heard. It truly gives me hope that the younger more educated generation who understands the power of their vote will be the ones to turn the tide. And maybe, just maybe we will have a legitimate shot at correcting this ship and restoring order, decency and integrity back to the office of the highest post in the land and dare I say the entire world. Like it or not, America is the ship that steers the world economy. That may not always remain true, but for now, it definitely is. As such, we the people have a duty and responsibility to ensure we elect responsible leaders who can take us in the direction of a more perfect union, which has always been our highest ideal.