Looking back as 2020 looms
Another election year is nearly upon us as 2019 comes to a close. Looking at the field of many candidates it is somewhat difficult to say what's what. We have candidates preaching immense change while others straddle a more moderate progressive agenda. The late surge of Mayor Pete presents some with optimism, while others question the track record of someone who's yet to meet the concerns of the black community in their own backyard. Further, with the role as mayor of a mid-size city being their most senior political post - there is cause for worry.
Amidst the debates and campaigning what looms large above all the political jockeying is the now public impeachment hearing process. The daily hoopla has captured a nation as the term quid pro quo has likely been uttered more times in the past few months than for the previous two decades. Yet still the nation remains split on whether a president's action or inaction to aid an ally in need, without some form of support for their own personal gain, is below the esteem of the office.
What does stand clear is the political divide the 2016 election unearthed. Even amid the most recent school shooting California, there doesn't seem to be any reconciliation or ease nearing. Not even around protecting our children! We can only hope the months ahead bring that peace. Among it all all I can do is think back to just hours after the dust of the 2016 voting results settled. I wrote this letter below to my home country as I ruminated on what lay ahead. As another election cycle continues on, these words still seem fitting...
A Letter to America
For many of us across the Nation today you let us down. You pulled at the principle ideal that makes America great – hope. This morning many of us woke up in mourning, heading to work or to school or wherever as if on a funeral procession.
For the other half of the nation there is jubilation. A movement has come to fruition and a new era begins. What will this era bring Lady Liberty? How will you protect those that look to you for new opportunity at a better life? The immigrants who work hard just to make ends meat? What about the young black boys who fear that their life is only destined for a prison cell, if not an early grave? And what of our proud women, who have birthed, nurtured, fought, climbed to break through glass ceilings?
Right now I sit not in disbelief, but uncertainty. Unlike some, I did see a future where this was the outcome. I cited the many disenfranchised members from industrial families, from the ultra-conservative right, and those disenchanted with the status quo. I worried about the ever-graceful and ultra-qualified Hillary as just not being exciting enough. And I was uncomfortable that we could not get past those damn emails! So now here we sit with a future as uncertain as ever.
The race is done and the debates are over, but the work has just begun. Our nation has shown depths of despair we didn’t want to face. You have hidden from us the radicals and the “silent majority” who came out in throngs to support their candidate. Those Americans left behind by technological advances and the ends of the industrial age. The hard-working people who thrived when the factories were booming and Ford and Dodge were king – those who have felt their cries have fallen on deaf ears for far too long.
The idealists of us are hurt. We believe/d in an America that included us all. One that could embrace our difference and collective talents to truly create the best America possible. I am in that group. Seeking, thriving, pushing for an America where my Muslim brothers and sisters, my LGBTQ people, and my family from ALL racial & ethnic identities can stand together. Not this nation where our leader belittles and objectifies women; Mocks the disabled; and refers to us as “his African Americans” – forgetting a history of brutality that still shapes race relations today.
Despite all this, the idealists STILL LOVE AMERICA. We call on the strength of the brave men and women who came before us to fight for a better America because they too loved this country. Despite it never truly being for us and continually working against us, we have continually challenged the discrimination and worked to overcome inequities to make America truly “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”
Now we face another major obstacle. I implore you to mend the open wounds. It will take time and patience, but it is possible. To the people from both sides, the election is over. The contention can subside because we NEED to ensure a better tomorrow. I am angry, I am hurt, and I am in shock. Someone so unqualified with complete disregard for non-white, non-conservative Americans should NOT be able to be the leader of our great country. Someone who has no respect for the poise it takes to lead should NOT be president. But he is and I accept that, only because I know I must pivot quickly and be ready to lead.
I would not call myself a religious one America, words like “one nation, under God” don’t always sit so well with me but I do believe God only lays burdens on us that we can handle. I do believe that this is fire to fuel the passion I have for a better America. I may be naïve or just overly idealistic today, but I CANNOT and WILL NOT give up on those who need me to be strong. I recognize even as a POC that I have a different position of privilege as others in the Black community. I recognize that my choices are much more broad than many others who look like me. Yet, I also know that I won’t turn my back on my people or any group who feels particularly dismayed today.
I sat in a classroom of brown and white faces this morning and watched true compassionate humanity play out. Regardless of age, race, or background there was not a dry eye. I watched people who may barely speak embrace and console one another. That is the America I know and love. That is the ideal I am fighting for. And that group is why I can’t tuck and run. Harvard brought me here to “Learn to Change the World” – America I’m starting with you.