Pancakes and coffee. For my first foray out of the house in 24 hours after the election, I wanted pancakes, coffee, and a vent session with a friend. We’d been working for close to a year on the election that was over in the blink of an eye. Grueling days. So many doors. Phone call after phone call. Not only asking people to vote for Hillary, but also working to grow our union’s activism. To be a part of a movement towards the education system we believe in. (More on the pancakes later.)
And that’s what our work is about. Working to organize around hope, while demanding a recognition of —and outrage about— how society continues to marginalize and neglect children of color, particularly children of color living in poverty. And that is why I engaged in Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In Katie McGinty for US Senate’s campaign. In Marty Molloy for PA State Senate’s campaign. In Matt Darragh for PA State Representative’s campaign. Not because I thought Hillary could come in and reverse generations of systemic disinvestment (read: racism) in our children. Not because I thought Marty Molloy would simply step into the State Senate and undo the years of devastating budget cuts that have plagued our schools for so long. Not because Matt Darragh would be able to reverse the tremendous vitriol incumbent Martina White has unleashed on immigrant communities in Philadelphia. But because I believed that those candidates, and plenty more up and down the ticket, had priorities rooted in visions of equity, racial justice, and hope.
And so I was all in. Not because I wanted to be victorious on November 8th, but because I wanted to know on November 9th that my city, my state, and my country are committed to fighting for a collective vision of social justice. Because I told my 9 year-old daughter that I didn’t want her growing up with Donald Trump as her President. Because 5 little girls, ages 8 and 9, sat behind me at the Katy Perry concert in Philadelphia right before election day, hoping to get a glimpse not of Katy Perry but of Hillary Clinton. And because those little girls told me that they’d heard (and they hoped as a white person I didn’t think they were being racist, they said) that white people think Donald Trump is going to send people with brown skin like them to Africa.
When Donald Trump’s candidacy first emerged as actually serious, I wrote about his hate fueled candidacy, and the deep rooted racism that gave rise to his candidacy. And some of the responses to my article were pretty much what you might expect. In fact, it inspired a counter piece claiming that I had pulled my ideas of my wherever.
But guess what? Those responses don’t actually leave me afraid for my life. Or afraid that the color of my skin could actually cause the President to make me leave the country. Or that the very safety of undocumented person in my family is in jeopardy. And that is what November 9th brought for so, so many Americans. And it is for them I wept in the wee hours of the morning. Because white America has let our communities of color down, again. And maybe there was a little self-pity in my devastation, sure. Maybe it was because of my own daughter’s crestfallen “seriously?” response when I told her that morning that our girl didn’t win. Maybe I was angry because I worked so. Darn. Hard. And Pennsylvania slipped out of our fingers.
But mostly, it was because there are 5 girls of color in Philadelphia who wonder if their president hates them for their skin color. Because racism and anti-semitism is being scrawled on Philadelphia buildings and cars. Because high schoolers in York are taunting black peers with racist epithets.
And because Donald Trump has simply let it happen. He let it happen when he didn’t denounce David Duke’s endorsement, when he hasn’t denounced David Duke’s post-election jubilation, when he has yet to speak out against the terrorization of black students at his alma matter.
These are the things weighing heavy on my soul. And self-care is important, which brings me to the pancakes. As we sat down in the diner in Philly, my colleague and I noticed a large group of white men sitting and laughing at the counter. Fox News was on. No matter, we thought. We ordered coffee and then their guffawing and loud conversation began. I thought I misheard the first time, but when the man said it again, louder, it was clear I hadn’t.
“A woman’s place is in the kitchen and the bedroom! Make America great again!” This elicited uproarious laughter from his companions. And their laugher and stares continued as we make our way out of the restaurant before our coffee even reached our table.
My God, America. We have so much work to do.