Dear Black Women: Just Sit This One Out

Disclaimer: We’re fortunate to have a wide variety of readers following this blog, but this entry is heavily geared toward black women because I am the black woman co-author of this blog and I am speaking from my own perspective. All are welcome to enjoy.

To my melanin rich sisters: let’s not mince words. America did a number on us on Election Day.

Deep down, we knew. Didn’t we? We sucked it up when Hillary was nominated and said OK, I guess I’m with her. Sure, she was qualified for the position, but the Clintons, and Democrats in general, clearly take advantage of our vote. It’s getting old. We know what’s up.

The campaign was fun for a while. We got to drink in Michelle Obama’s heartfelt campaign speeches and imagine a world where not just our sons could imagine being seated in that highest office, but our daughters, too.

In the end, 94% of black women voted for Hillary. 94%!!! That number alone is awe-inspiring. What single voting block pulled together in such a unified manner to vote in their own best interest and the interest of their families? None other. Probably ever again in history. Think of it: generations of black women, old, young, rich, poor, mothers, wives, college students, seniors, gay, straight, shy, outspoken. You name it, we showed up.

But there’s a reason why our numbers were so solid. We weren’t voting for policy. Or for jobs. Or for taxes. We were voting for our lives. Because a world that chooses “law and order” over “protect and serve” is one where our sons and husbands become targets. It's one where families are broken apart. The world calls our boys and men thugs, regardless of social standing or innocence. They call us welfare queens, even as we work multiple jobs. They assume we only have our corporate positions because of affirmative action, not because we are the most educated and overqualified people group in America.

Most cannot relate to our predicament as black women, nor should they. It is a lonely one. We carry the world in our wombs and nurture it with our breasts. Our mothers cooked and cleaned, reared children, and maintained the homes of the middle and upper classes without complaint for centuries. Even from girlhood, we practice a forced smile that appears genuine because the world interprets our pain as anger. The media portrays us as wholly undesirable and only good for subservient roles even as we hold the poetry of Maya Angelou and the lyrics of Beyoncé ahead of us like a weapon to prove our femininity and humanity.

It was OK. It was all OK. Because we had hope. We embraced the "strong black woman" mantle and used it to our advantage. We raised our children to want more. We learned the lessons of the past. We refused to go backwards. We got tired of the mask.

That god forsaken mask y’all. The poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask, gave me so much life for over 30 years. Whenever I had a bad day, I put on my mask in honor of those who came before me and did not have my opportunities.

These past few weeks, I put my mask back on for a bit. Funny thing though, it doesn’t fit anymore. The truth is, I don't have anything to hide.

It’s time to take off these masks. I know, I know. You’ve practically chewed a hole in your tongue to avoid speaking your opinion about this election so you can keep your job. Ducking people who sound like broken records saying stuff like, “Oh I didn’t vote for him because he’s [insert loathsome personality trait here], I voted for him because SupremeCourtJusticesGunsAbortionVeteransTaxesMyPastorToldMeToProtestVote…” or whatever other weak reason helps them sleep at night.

Now that I’ve had a few weeks to think about it, I can define why this election felt so personal. It wasn’t so much that Hillary lost. Let’s face it, she was a long shot. She had decades of political history to criticize with the benefit of hindsight. And even though a lot of her criticisms were overblown (for example, if you cared so much about Benghazi are you also aware of the hundreds of American deaths caused by previous secretaries of state?), that’s the name of the game in politics.

No, it wasn’t Hillary’s loss. It was more personal. It forced me out my daydreams.

I was happy in my dream state. I dreamed of an equal America. A fair America. An America where my Ghanaian born naturalized husband and my dual nationality children could be looked at as complete equals. An America that finally reflected what the Constitution described. An America where justice was the same regardless of gender or melanin allotment. That's honestly where I thought I lived. 

I got caught up. I was foolish. Go ahead. Judge me. 

The election helped me finally accept that the Constitution serves only those for whom it was written. Our justice system serves only those for whom it was written. Even our welfare system serves mostly those for whom it was written. And it wasn’t written by anyone who looks or acts remotely like me.

That’s morbid, yes. I do believe we have the power to change these systems, but we can’t do it while we’re sleeping. I honestly think we as black women were lulled into fear and complacency after the martyrdom of key figures in the 1960s. We took the Civil Rights Act to mean equality (not a chance) and Affirmative Action to mean opportunity (also nope).

We stopped shopping at “our” stores in “our” neighborhoods and sending kids to “our” schools because we thought we had gained access to the Promised Land. Equal access to shopping malls and schools and banks and water fountains. Well. Welcome to the Promised Land. We gained those things, and lost ourselves. It happened so slowly we barely noticed.

It's too easy to blame ourselves though. Take a deep breath. A long, deep breath of fresh American air. We didn’t create this problem. We didn’t teach anyone to hate us or treat us unfairly. And we most certainly didn’t choose the most inexperienced presidential candidate in our lifetimes. We didn’t force him to run on a platform of [insert loathsome personality trait here]. Not collectively anyway.

So I say, black women, just sit this one out. Yes. Sit it out. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? We work so hard for our families and communities every day, and here I am saying kick your feet up.

This one isn’t our fault. No one can point a finger at us. We showed up when it counted. We must live through it. Survive it. Choose our battles, sure. But it’s not ours to fix. Let the Trump voters revel in their choice and support him through his presidency. That’s their responsibility. Our job is to be. Just be. Live.

While you’re observing though, be vigilant. Stay woke. How? Here are a few tips:

1.       Don’t be afraid. Be prepared. "Be prepared" is the Girl Scout motto, and one of my favorites. A Trump presidency is unpredictable but there are things you can do to come out on top no matter what. You don’t have to build a bomb shelter (ha!) or build a weapons cache but you may have to make a few lifestyle adjustments as a precaution. The last time Republicans held the House, the Senate and the Presidency was 1928, and the very next year the stock market tanked and the Great Depression occurred. This is why checks and balances are so important - and right now there are none. So be vigilant on your finances and your investments.

2.       Keep your options open. At some point in the next 4-8 years, especially as a person of color, you may need to make some quick decisions. Are you or your children of age to register for the selective service? Ask them their thoughts on a possible draft versus a college education. Do you have active passports for everyone in your family? GET THEM. Do you have debt? Gain full and complete control over your finances as quickly as possible. Regardless of what decisions voters make now and in the future, you are debt free and at best you have the proper documentation to take your whole family on safari or to see the pyramids.

3.       Choose media sources with standards. There’s a reason why when you first hear of a celebrity death on social media you wait for CNN or another reputable source to announce it. It’s because some institutions still have journalistic integrity. This means they pick up the phone and call sources directly. If an actor dies, they call the morgue or the hospital or the agent. They verify news before posting it. There are fact checkers and multiple layers of editors who are at work. They don’t always get it right, but they DO have standards. Reuters, the Associated Press and PBS Newshour are a good start. I personally get the majority of my news from NPR, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. My guilty pleasures are The Root and Very Smart Brothas.

4.       Remember your community. Vote as often as you can regardless of where you live. Join movements like Black Lives Matter and the Injustice Boycott. We can’t do much about the emperor with no clothes but we’ve never had the luxury of resting on our laurels regardless.

5.       Enjoy the show. We’re going to see some hilarious shenanigans for the next four years. Dave Chappelle delivered my favorite monologue about this election where he talked about riots in Portland. The tweets from the president-elect are so salty that some are just downright funny. He has already reneged on half of his campaign promises and he isn’t even inaugurated yet. Just don’t get so caught up that you miss when or if the narrative becomes alarming.

So that’s what it comes down to for me. I’m taking a knee. I’m the Colin Kaepernick of my tiny little world.

In the meantime, sisters, keep making that black girl magic that is continuing to grow. Keep stealing that spotlight with your confidence, security, beauty and resolve. Keep raising your children to be resilient and fulfilled. There’s not an individual in the world that can interrupt this momentous transformation that is happening in the hearts of black women across the nation – and perhaps across the world.

We’re in the midst of something special and unique, unseen by any other people group. It’s even spilling over into the mainstream. Instead of movies like The Help, we’re getting Hidden Figures. Instead of making a beeline to the “ethnic” shelf at Target we now have rows upon rows of beauty products especially for our hair and skin. Instead of debt slavery and career limitations we’re choosing entrepreneurship, running, traveling, golfing, coding, creating and so much more. We are stepping into our purpose. Get it while the getting is good ladies. You earned it.

Before I close, I’d like to address some of the other readers. I know I’ve indulged a bit so thanks for hanging in there.

I know for some of you, Trump is a victory. To you I say, congratulations. For others, it’s devastating and you lick your wounds by watching the Daily Show or reading Pantsuit Nation. To you I say, I’m sorry. What we wouldn't give for a Mitt Romney or a Marco Rubio right about now, huh?

But then there’s a subset of people who say the president-elect is the Christian choice. That’s a stretch. If your religion is tied up in your politics to that extent, you may have some serious soul searching to do. Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents and Green Partiers alike all support issues that are AND are not supported by the Bible. If you vote for any party because they’re more Christian, you are probably confusing your patriotism with your God. Ideological topics like abortion, marriage and the death penalty are used as tools of manipulation by all parties - laws very rarely change significantly in these areas, but entire elections are won on them. Why do we allow it?

I had to do some soul searching on this myself. “What would Jesus do?” I asked myself over and over again. The only conclusion I could come up with is that Jesus would never even vote in the first place. Why should He? Regardless of who is king, who is president, who is dictator, who is ruler, God is still God. This idea that Jesus wouldn’t vote hurts my soul. I scold people who don’t vote. I don’t respect them. They are irresponsible. But… Jesus probably wouldn’t bother. He always swatted away political questions like annoying little gnats. “Jesus should we pay taxes?” “Meh. Give to Caesar what is Caesars.”

OK so maybe He didn’t say it exactly like that, but He was certainly final about it. He wasn’t tolerating political shenanigans on His watch. When it comes to politics, the Bible gives us no reason to believe Jesus would side completely with one political viewpoint over another. Jesus sides with God. The question we should be asking ourselves isn’t whether Jesus is on our side, but whether we’re on His.

You can be a Republican and side with Jesus. You can be a Democrat and side with Jesus. You can be a Libertarian and side with Jesus. You can be virtually any political affiliation and side with Jesus.

But siding with Jesus means loving your neighbor. Jesus said it himself. If you had to boil our whole existence down to two simple truths, it would be this: love God, and love your neighbor.

As a black woman who is also a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur, a product of the Deep South, a college graduate … I am pretty informed. This election showed me that I took for granted that the people in my social circles value the same things I value, in particular my white counterparts. Accepting this knowledge drives a wedge into my previous belief system about what truly drives America forward. It was painful for a bit, but as with most things, you get used to it.

This election reminds me of my 8 year old son’s recent baseball championship. These 8-10 year old boys worked so hard all season, and it came down to the final championship game. My son’s team lost, and they received 2nd place pendants. Lots of my son’s teammates cried. They wanted it so bad. They worked so hard. They wanted that championship more than anything. We parents couldn’t console them despite our best efforts.

Two things stand out about that championship game. 1) My son didn’t cry. In fact, he was overjoyed. Why? Because last season he was on a team that won zero games. Not one. It was his first season in baseball and it was pretty discouraging. When I asked him about coming in second place he said, “I’m not sad, I’m happy. I know what it’s like to walk away with nothing.” How peculiar that his previous losses made him the happiest boy on the team. And 2) the other team didn’t taunt the 2nd place finishers. They took photos together, and the other team went off to celebrate their victory. They brought rocket launchers to celebrate the win. They ran the bases. They enjoyed their success. They deserved it. They didn’t taunt the losers, or call them crybabies. Or tell them to get over it or suck it up. They were too happy about their own achievement.

So if you’re a Trump voter, enjoy your success. Don’t taunt the losers. Let them cry and pout and protest, because how does that hurt you? Shouldn’t you be supporting your newly elected president and holding his feet to the fire on his numerous, lofty campaign promises? Why are you worried about the losers when you could be running the bases? And for goodness sake Hillary is a moot point - there's no need to argue against her. Have some fun already. Go cheer for your team.

I can’t close on that note, so here, enjoy some Obama/Biden memes.

Some of you will be happy to learn that since I'm taking my own advice and sitting this one out, future topics for the next four years will be largely unrelated to politics.

Happy New Year!