By Tayllor Johnson
Paralyzed. If I had to put it in one word. I feel paralyzed. I have not spoken or written about the election until now. Not even during the traumatic election campaign did I write a post to express my horror, my fear, or my disgust. I did not see the benefit of adding to the tsunami of opinions already taking over the Internet. What was my two cents going to do, besides entice more opinions on a platform that doesn’t lean itself to constructive action steps?
Yet, behind liking every funny meme mocking the election, the late-night show sketches, and tweets, I considered this a serious issue. I was scared that this toxic punchline would become the bottom line. I was not willing to stamp an LOL on his campaign just yet. It wasn’t his appearance, lack of experience, or disregard for women, disabled folks, queer folks, refugees, the original borders to Mexico, Black folks, Brown folks and immigrants that unsettled me. It was the fact that thousands upon thousands of others agreed with him. One rotten tree is a rotten tree, but a forest infested against humanity is an environmental issue.
I thought my scariest day was the day after the election. After watching SpongeBob Squarepants to keep my mind off of the results frenzy and tossing and turning all night, I still wasn’t prepared. When I asked my roommate that morning what the result was, she responded by silently pouring her tea and letting the tears fall down her face. I followed suit. I felt betrayed, yet not extremely caught by surprise. This is the America that I heard whispers about for as long as I identified as an activist. The true face of America revealed himself, I was told. It was a matter of time.
But this was supposed to be my home, my Black brothers’ home, both of my moms’ home too. Where are we going to go, while rich, straight White men retaliate against America’s true face? I couldn’t bring myself to call back home considering that one week ago I sat with both of my moms and little brother voting. My little brother called to ask me who I was voting for the night before the election. I told him. He responded in the softest and most angelic voice, “Okay. I was just asking. Some people are voting for Trump but he’s not nice.” It occurred to me that morning that I didn’t have a hiding spot big enough to keep the people I love safe. So, I cried. That is when the spiritual, mental, and sometimes physical paralysis started.
I thought that I would bounce back relatively quickly. The birds in Brooklyn still sang about something. The people on the subway didn’t look anymore spaced out than usual. Maybe Trump’s lack of experience will make him the loudest, orange-colored, clueless dog with no teeth to be let into the White House. He will fumble through policy after policy and by the end of his term be as confused as he looked when shadowing Barack Obama, a couple days after being inaugurated. I was quickly reminded of the cunning nature of White Supremacy. The House of Representatives. The Senate. Both supporting the rhetoric and proposed policies of Donald Trump. I was reminded about the Electoral College, which places the bulk of the future in the hands of the unknown.
I started to blame the media for distracting me for almost a year with presidential debates that became yelling matches and gossip passing for news. Then I remembered, when did I ever depend on mass media to educate me fully on my country, or any country for that matter? When I was in the United Kingdom, studying abroad, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was escalating. I was in a pub with friends watching the news as footage of the border was playing and the soldiers stood nose-to-nose with automatic weapons. I was terrified listening to the updates, the tensions rising, the sanctions and embargoes flying across borders. I began to wonder how I would react to this situation if I was at home in the U.S. My guess is that I would not react at all. The severity of this situation could easily be buried under almost anything else that would be considered news. My education in America is a constant re-education. This was yet another example where I need to look backwards and sift through my “lessons” to find the truth. Electoral College. Popular Vote. Laws that negate both of these opportunities for Black and Brown folks. I knew it was time to act; to prepare; to heal. But I still was not ready.
On January 20, 2017, I still was stunted. Protests happened all over the country, pictures and comments with pink p****y hats. Women of all shades, children, and men joined together. I was at home thinking about the many times I lost my voice in protest, feet aching, nudged in the breast by White men, yelled at, and watched. I was tired. And I did not do half of what my sisters did. If I am tired now, I can’t imagine what they are. We have fought for our existence for as long as we have been Black women. We are activist from the womb; born from the generation of activists before us and before that.
Yes, I was tired. There were no hats made or CNN coverage celebrating the battles we fought so far as Black women. After all the fighting, studying, learning, planning, courageous conversations, Donald Trump was still inaugurated, and we were still unsafe. I did not know where to go to next. White Supremacy now has one more face to operate from and it was the President’s. I asked my friend, an activist out of Oakland, in town on business, what to do now. Do I need to invest in a bunker? A gun? A one-way ticket? I do not remember her exact answer, but I do remember her asking while holding her Black son on her hip that I sit next her and read through Trump’s plan for the first 100 days of his presidency. I was horrified and I think that was her point. Not to scare me but to wake me up. I can’t fight and resist with my eyes closed. I have to acknowledge unacceptable behavior and its existence before I can prepare to push back.
Yes, it took me a couple months. I cried, I talked, I resented people, places and things, I was still. I was forced to be present through this spiritually and physically for if I tried to force it, I would add nothing to the cause. Today, Trump is still keeping his promise to wage war on America’s citizens masking it as genius, machismo, and loyalty to his country, just like yesterday. It has not been a month, and he has declared war on my body, my family, and people that I love. But what he and his administration do not know is that in his eagerness to destroy and conquer, he ignited an urgency that will bring people together to do the work. What he is not prepared for are the meetings that are not happening on the streets; the messages that are not being written on posters and picket signs and Facebook, but whispered in living rooms and kitchens and basements all over the country. I am going to a part of the solution and resolution to fight and deconstruct an America that has disappointed me for 23 years. I am still tired but not tired enough. By any means necessary … I am ready.