In two days, the United States will come to the end of what has to be the most divisive election in recent history. Media sources show that the country is clearly divided by race, class, and gender. Family feuds have started or worsened, friendships have ended. Celebrities have sworn to leave the country. Some media sources show the country perched on the edge of a civil war.
What will happen after Tuesday?
Like myself, you may not have ready cash to skip the country if you can no longer deal with divisiveness and ignorance. Besides, emigration is a long, tedious, and expensive process pretty much no matter which country you decide to move to. [Americans need to stop threatening Canada, too. Like everyone else, they have a process. Just how much do you know about the history of the country next door, and our historical relationship to it?]
At any rate, if you’re stuck here like me (for lack of a better term), here are some things you can take into consideration:
- When my own parents were children, white people were taking their kids to watch lynchings. Things have morphed to the point we are today. Whites have been damaged by white supremacy, too, and many suffer from the paranoid delusion that they’re in some kind of danger of being wiped out as a society. Even Thomas Jefferson was worried that, either through revolt or divine retribution whites would someday be punished for their treatment of blacks in America. They’ve been scared for 400 years, waiting for the other shoe to drop. They’ve watched the Haitians free themselves, and witnessed Nat Turner’s rebellion, the Stono Rebellion, and no doubt dozens more that have been tucked away for fear that black folks might get “ideas.” What they’ve failed to consider, though, is that the enslaved Africans who fought back didn’t need to hear about other rebellions to act. They only had to consider their current treatment and situation.
- Race relations will take a long time to heal. Among the issues highlighted by this election is white supremacy. I’m not going to flinch from using that term. If you don’t like it, you can find another blog to read; this one’s mine. Anyway, white supremacy has been the cornerstone of American society since the first Virginia Company landed in Jamestown. Now, however, you hear that threat increasingly. It hasn’t been that long since slavery officially ended. [When I say officially, it’s because slavery was replaced with newer tactics, such as criminalizing blackness in order to increase the prison population and, therefore, keep the captive workforce working for free.]
- Any militia uprisings that you may be worried about would be quickly put down by our actual military forces. A certain candidate made some ridiculous statements insinuating that if election results aren’t to his liking that his supporters would use their Second Amendment rights to reverse things. Basically, this was a threat to incite a civil war. What he wasn’t considering is, all four branches of our military are governed by the Constitution and are sworn to protect the country and its citizens from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
- Threats of a “race war” are not new. In fact, the race war has been going on since the first enslaved Africans landed in the colonies in the 1600s. We’ve been trying to end it. Some on the extreme right have been trying to use this threat to frighten black people, and other non-whites, into submission (actually, I can’t decipher what they’re trying to do with this threat other than to display their appalling ignorance on a global scale). This would be a bad idea, considering the fact that most of the world actually does have ties to the United States, and most of the world is actually not white. The United States is between 4.5 and 5% of the world’s population. It’s a nation of immigrants, and those immigrants have family in other countries, who aren’t just going to let a handful of statistically-challenged fools with a couple of guns wipe out entire populations.
- Ignorance and anti-intellectualism are the style of the day. The general population, it appears, seems to think that stupid is the new sexy. It’s as if they’ve had enough of the revenge of the nerds, and the jocks are back and have taken over. What they don’t understand is that the shots are actually still being called by nerds. They’re just mean, hateful, racist, antisemitic nerds with Ivy League degrees and huge bank accounts. So, while they’re out they’re complaining about big government, welfare, healthcare, and a host of other things that likely don’t touch them in any way, shape, or form, a group of racist nerdy bullies is egging them on, and lining their own pockets fattening their own heads as they do so.
So, what’s the solution?
Read. Get your hands on as many books as possible. Go online to some of the many free online libraries, such as Archive.org, or Project Gutenberg. Use your local public library. Familiarize yourself with America’s historical documents by visiting trusted sites to see for yourself what lawmakers have actually written. Don’t just listen to talking heads like those who appear on television to give their version of what these document say. Of course, most of them were written by old, dead, white guys who owned slaves and were looking out for their own best interests, but you need to know for yourself. By reading some of their correspondence you get the gist of what the real stories were. If you prefer to immerse yourself in fiction, do so. Indulge in guilty pleasures, like Jane Austin, if it makes you happy.
Stay informed, but wisely. Don’t completely shut yourself off; you need to be informed. Watch the local news at least. Nothing screams “IGNORANT” like lack of knowledge of what’s going on in the world around you (“What’s Aleppo?”). That said, pick your news sources wisely. Use your judgement to determine whether a news sources has particular political leanings. Fox is obvious. So is MSNBC. The Washington Post and The Examiner are both definitely biased. Turn to sources like Politico, The Hill, and BBC (neutral outside observer) can usually be trusted. Don’t just watch whichever outlet is biased toward your viewpoint and then assume that the all-mysterious “they” won’t show you everything. Look at a variety of sources, like The Economist and The New York Times and use your judgement.
Learn your own true history. For every voice in the wilderness preaching truth there are a hundred liars waiting to shout them down. It is important to know your own true history and value. In the United States and most of Europe black folks are pretty much taught that our presence in the world has only been as slaves, servants, or savages. There is a plethora of evidence that proves otherwise. There are also great lectures that cover the effects of slavery and subjugation on our people. There are also many narratives by historical black figures such as Learn about the accomplishments of composers such as Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-George and Samuel Coleridge Taylor. See what we really looked like (Medieval POC, Victorian Women of Color, Black History Album, Vintage Black Glamour). There are virtually dozens, maybe hundreds of these boards and pages, with more being discovered daily. Read about self-made people such as Frederick Douglass, Ignatius Sancho, Olaudah Equiano, Mary Seacole, and countless others. Know that they transcended the hate that was the norm of the day. The sources I’ve provided here are just a tiny drop. There are museums and galleries world-wide. Visit them, if you can.
Block out the ignorance. Listen to music. Keep a journal. Take up a hobby. Fight the ignorance by corresponding with other like-minded people. Purge your Facebook friends list of people who don’t display common sense (that’s the one good thing to come out of this entire fiasco; the boorish are easier to locate). You don’t have to be subjected to it. Block the hell out of people on your Twitter feed. The First Amendment does not give license to people to invade your space.
Speak out. If you see injustice, get involved. Participate in demonstrations. Don’t just sit back and think it doesn’t have anything to do with you, because it does. It involves all of us. Volunteer to help those in your community who need help. Tutor students, read to little ones, help the seniors. Help people with paperwork. Fill a need. Do something.
Don’t forget self-care. This is a very stressful time. If you find yourself stressed out, talk to a friend about it. Take a long, hot bath with lots of bubbles, music, and a glass of wine. [Men, this means you, too.] Hug family members, and tell them that you love them. Exercise. Eat properly. Take time off work. Visit a gallery or museum.
Travel, if you can. Become a one-person goodwill ambassador. Right now, most of the world thinks America’s gone down some black hole of stupidity. A big chunk of the world already thought that, anyway, and with good reason. Learn a new language, or brush up on an old one. Visit a foreign country. Be on your best behavior. Don’t go anyplace where they’re just not going to respect you, though.
Get involved in local issues. We may not be able to have impact on national politics, but we can and need to have a say in local issues. Support your local school board; this is essential if you have children in school. Attend local council hearings, and weigh in. Join a local library board. As they say, all politics is local, so begin with the local politics.
We can get through this.