Don't Leave America, Fight For It

This is my country. I will stay and fight. I will continue to point out injustice in the hopes that we can effect change on the local level.

I am an African American woman in an interracial relationship.

I have never been so terrified about the state of affairs in our country.

Last night, we elected a new President who has alienated a variety of groups with his rhetoric, and has given a voice to the white supremacist right.

I know what that hate looks like. I’ve endured the nasty looks with attempts to demean my relationship. I’ve endured attacks on my credibility and ability to perform as an African American attorney (subtle as well as blatant). I have seen the eyes of resentment of my success as a professional woman of color.

This election is a backlash from the new civil rights movement. Eight years of progressive thought as public discourse is now over. The discussion of criminal justice reform, the progression of African Americans in appointed positions, the investigations into excessive force by police officers by the Department of Justice are all about to grind to a screeching halt.

It was an exquisite privilege as part of the leadership of the National Black Prosecutors Association to have had amazing discussions across the country on moving the needle forward in our criminal justice system. It was wonderful to see the increase in qualified African-American attorneys being appointed to the top spot in United States Attorneys offices across the country, as well as the diversifying of the rank and file. It was such a joy to be present for the swearing in of our Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman to serve in this post. It is interesting that we just lost Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as Attorney General. In looking back at her legacy, she had been discussing criminal justice reform since the 1990’s.

Unfortunately, that chapter has closed on a certain level.

I believe that there is a backlash from a segment of angry voters who are tired of being respectful of nonwhites, being “politically correct”; tired of seeing African Americans succeed while lamenting their own perceived failure, tired of having to confront America’s racist history. This segment, albeit not all, believes that the manufacturing jobs of yesterday will return, and that technology has no bearing on their success.

I fear the following:

  • cutting of community programs benefiting people of color (and no, I am not referring to welfare).

  • The Department of Justice refusing to investigate police shootings.

  • A new Supreme Court justice(s) who will chip away at women’s rights, rights of people of color, voting rights, and allow even more outside monetary influence in elections.

  • An emboldening of the alt right and racist groups to harass, intimidate and harm non-white groups.

What can we do? Some are saying it’s time to go to Canada or other countries. This is not a unique debate ― history repeats itself. I recently went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and saw this quote.

Let us all unite...and declare that we will not leave our own country....this is; ....our forefathers have planted trees in America for us and we intend to stay and eat the fruit. -Peter Osborne, 1832

Slaves who fled, and freed African Americans had to decide whether to stay here, or go to another country such as Canada or Africa. Some left permanently; others left and returned; but most stayed.

This is my country. I will stay and fight. I will continue to point out injustice in the hopes that we can effect change on the local level. No politician is immune from the will of the people. Right is right; wrong is wrong. I will stand by the immigrants who are seeking the American Dream. I will stand with those who are oppressed and will fight side by side with them. I support the right to marry, love and choose.

A new movement must begin, from the ground up. We must keep the pressure on local government to uphold the law, change unjust laws, do what’s right by all communities, and hold those who do not do right accountable at the ballot box.

I am afraid; but as Maya Angelou so eloquently penned, I embody the dream and the hope of a slave. I will stand tall and fight for justice, no matter where that leads. I echo the sentiments of Hamilton Director Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Jonathan Chait in the New Yorker.

In the words of the immortal hip hop pioneers Public Enemywe’ve got to fight the powers that be”. Will you stand with me?