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The Death Of America

Courtesy+of+Laura+Bennett
Courtesy of Laura Bennett

Courtesy of Laura Bennett

Courtesy of Laura Bennett

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It was a beautiful sight to see. Millions of women all over the country and around the world armed with signs and a unified voice. Millions of women all over the country and around the world responded to the inauguration of Donald Trump with solidarity and disdain. The quote, “here’s to strong women; may we know them; may we be them; may we raise them” echoed across the country and became the lasting theme of the day. Laura Bennett, an Oxford College student who was able to travel to the epicenter of the march in Washington D.C. shared her thoughts with me: “It felt surreal to be there. It was an interesting juxtaposition of emotions because I felt a strong sense of unity and compassion coming from the marchers and speakers, but within that unity was a sense of built up rage and unrest regarding the election and the ongoing injustices in the world.”

Many who went to a protest site, either at home here in Atlanta, or afar in D.C., recount a similar experience. Many shared their surprise at the joyfulness of the event. Many expected anger and frustration, but were met with kindness and compassion and an outpouring of love and support. The inauguration of Donald Trump was eclipsed by this beautiful sight to see. I will always express this sentiment towards the march. It was a breath of fresh air to be alive in a moment in which history was being written right before my eyes. It was beautiful to see democracy in action and public dissent flourish into public protest. In the days that followed, many asked for my thoughts on the march. In an effort to plant those thoughts firmly in place, I have tried my best to consolidate the various conversations I have had with many people about this march and about where we as women, as men, and as a nation, go from here.

I did not attend a protest march. Instead, I watched the coverage from home, like many women of color. While I cannot speak for women of color as a monolith, I do hope to offer a particular perspective that aims to answer the question that I have heard many ask after the protests: “why were women of color largely absent from the protest marches?”

My decision to abstain from protesting was thoughtful and intentional. My absence was not a fluke. It was not meaningless. It was rooted in a deeply ideological context that I hypothesize is the stance of other women of color who chose not to go to any protests throughout the day. I have set aside the pursuit of reform. As a black woman in the United States, I have watched police sanctioned executions play out on the evening news. I have watched black bodies stopped by speeding bullets and abandoned on streets for hours on end. I have spent what little time I have been alive tracing the lineage of racism, sexism, patriarchal domination, and every other oppressive force that seems to linger in the foreground of American life. I have been able to discover that the very fabric of American culture is deeply rooted in the brutal injustices that we are hoping to eradicate in our present day. I have begun to understand that the system under which we live is not broken; our justice system is not broken; Donald Trump as president of the United States is not an aberration; our banking system is not suffering a malfunction; our institutions are not operating on glitchy software. The system under which we find ourselves is working exactly the way it was created to operate. The basis for which we exist is a hierarchical favoring of some over others. It is an obsession with accumulation. It is the rationalization that doing violence to the earth and its inhabitants is worth the monetary or material gains that one can make. The system is not broken. Blackness was always meant to be positioned below whiteness. All lives were never supposed to be understood as created equal. Women were always supposed to remain within the confines of the cult of domesticity. Minority groups were always supposed to feel an identity crisis that leads to warring factions. Incarcerated people were always supposed to encompass those within our society who are poor, less educated, and are mostly people of color. These are not flaws within the system. This is not the reality that occurs when a few bad apples are allowed to run rampant within an otherwise flawless institutional organizational structure. Rather, this social context within which we find ourselves is the product of intentional and meticulous guidelines that were written to aggressively do violence to some for the sake of others.

Courtesy of Laura Bennett

I connect my outrage to the march in this way: while I am horrified by the election of Donald Trump, I cannot say that I was particularly surprised. His overt and blatant disregard for political window-dressing is the only thing about the way he operates that has caught me off guard. For many however, I understand the surprise, the shock, and the dismay. I understand the feeling of being blindsided by the country one believes America used to be. I understand the inclination to say that Donald Trump is an aberration in the American DNA and does not represent the ideals set forth when this country came to be. I understand the need to turn out in the hundreds of thousands for a protest march that expresses these sentiments. I understand the need to speak truth to power and demand a change. While I understand, I do not hold these opinions to be my own truths. Donald Trump represents America. From its birth, America has willfully slaughtered, marginalized, shackled, dehumanized, mocked, taunted, insulted, and denigrated entire populations. This characterization is not only relevant in the 1600s. It is an accurate characterization of the 1700s, the 1800s, the 1900s, and it is an accurate characterization of 2017. The ways in which the American democratic experiment has operated under the name of nationalism, patriotism, and the love of God and country has always had a way of wiping out entire groups of people, whether literally through the disintegration of lives, or otherwise, through the destruction of culture, language, or way of life. I am not surprised by the way Donald Trump operates because I have seen it before. I have unspooled the American experiment to its origin and have discovered that this is business as usual.

I will not seek reform. I will not seek the impeachment of Donald Trump. I will not vote in an election to place a seemingly more manageable threat in office. If the system is not broken, I argue that the blueprint is. The infrastructure is rotten. It must be replaced. I did not attend any protest marches because the removal of Donald Trump from office will indeed create short term change. I will not deny that in the present moment, a short-term solution is better and more feasible than what I propose. However, I am afraid that the millions who have joined in solidarity will slip back into the amnesia that so often exemplifies huge social movements. Those who have turned out in droves will return to life as normal with a safer and more levelheaded commander in chief at the helm. They will do what women of color have never been able to do: they will stop marching. They will stop protesting. Their voices will grow silent and they will set aside their poster boards. I did not march because I am always marching. I did not march because I am no longer interested in placing band-aids on gunshot wounds. Donald Trump is not the problem. Donald Trump is merely a symptom. I do not want to calm the symptom only to wake up to discover that America is on its deathbed.

 

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One Response to “The Death Of America”

  1. Eric Howk on February 11th, 2017 12:38 pm

    I love this. This is exactly what I’ve been saying for quite some time. I believe Donald Trump will deliver on a long term solution. He is America at it’s worst and, from what I’ve learned in my humanities classes, leadership is a bit of a paradoxical thing. His hatred, materialism, and paranoia will probably overload the system and demand the reform we all need. The angry and greedy masses are becoming their own worst enemy. I strongly believe that the trolls that got Trump elected were making this very point, including tricking the masses into becoming more confident in their hatred of those who will ultimately end up replacing them sociologically. Love really will be “the new normal”.

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The Death Of America