This post was originally published at Woman of (an)other Color.
It was a big deal, and I think that’s important to remember, first and foremost. It was a time to cry and grieve and celebrate and feel overwhelmed by symbolism. There are so many more days I think, where I will cry looking at the images of November 4th. There are so many words that have been said that I know only begin to scrape the surface of how people have been feeling. I don’t have any intention of denying that, or forgetting that, because it’s too important and because it is the kind of history I’d like to tell to my friends’ children one day in the future.
But I will also tell them this.
1. There is no post-racial America. This is not a country that “had arrived” because it finally elected its first black President in 2008, a time that seems shamefully late in history to me as it is. It is not a time to write off the existence of racism, the intersectionality of institutional racism with other injustices, it is not a time to wash our hands of affirmative action, and of turning a leader of color into a scapegoat that white people might use to justify their own feelings about racism, “reverse-racism,” and white privilege.
2. There are not simply two glass ceilings for the President-elect to break: black and woman. There was no simple Hillary/Barack binary, and the Oppression Olympics are too ingrained, and too complicated, not to take years and years of undoing and sorting out. It will be a milestone when a white woman becomes President, it will be a milestone when a woman of color becomes President, it will be a milestone when a first generation college student, a second generation immigrant, a Muslim American, becomes President. There is always work that will need to be done. There are so many histories to overcome. This is a time to remember how those histories intersect. I don’t want my child, or my family’s children, or my friends’ children, to look at Obama as a mere turning point. Nor do I want them to write him off as a token, or a reason never to question the racist attitudes that they are bound to face in their lives. I want them to see his face among a sea of leaders, who flooded the media throughout their lives, who continued to break barrier after barrier after barrier, who risked their lives just by living every day in their bodies.
3. It is not a time to forget the narrative of exceptionalism that plagues this country and its citizens. I think it’s easy for many citizens, myself included, to embrace Anti-American rhetoric when we feel like our opinions and politics were not at all reflected at the highest administrative level. I think it becomes just as easy, to embrace our citizenship privileges under a newer administration that we can more easily support. This is a dangerous fog, and we should be careful. We should not forget the privilege that comes with our citizenship, and we should always, always be weary of those that suddenly feel comfortable with the imperialistic and nationalistic agenda that pervades US politics simply because leadership has changed. Because while there are many reasons to feel overwhelmed and strong and proud and hopeful, there is also, now more than ever, a reason to remember the work that needs to be done.