November 8, 2016 may be remembered as the moment we passed the point of no return.
After almost two years of campaigning, America survived Election Day 2016. Despite a less than 20 percent chance of winning, Donald J. Trump will be the country’s 45th president. The unthinkable has become reality for more than half the country.
What followed was typical politics.
A hallmark of the American democratic process is the peaceful transition of power. Mere days after the man who rose to prominence via reality TV and WWE appearances was elected to the highest office in the land, that trend continued. President Obama, in what can only be described as an extreme act of grace, continued to put the country first, calling for a unified America.
“Everybody is sad when their side loses an election, but the day after we have to remember we’re actually all on one team, Obama said the morning after Election Day. “We’re Americans first, we’re patriots first, we all want what’s best for this country.”
Obama’s words sounded more like a speech you deliver after rivalry week during college football season. While we all may want what’s “best” for the country, getting to best, as this campaign season proved, is an entirely subjective process.
The President continued, giving the future “45” a political endorsement from all of us.
“We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” President Obama said.
I believe we will appreciate President Obama and his always take-the-high-road demeanor more after he’s gone. History will judge that stance favorably. Today is not that day of judgment. Calls for unity and uniting under a President Trump are premature.
While President Obama may be more than willing to bury the hatchet with a man who led the movement that questioned his very citizenship in this country, the wounds ripped open by Trump’s unconventional campaign cannot be healed with flowery speeches and calls for decency.
Unity cannot precede forgiveness. Forgiveness must be sought by the aggressor before it can be granted by the aggrieved
Trump ran a campaign that far exceeded the boundaries of differences. Differences are deciding between turkey or ham sandwiches. Differences are a couple deciding whether the toilet seat should be left up or down. Differences occur between the Dallas Cowboys fans and every other fan of the NFL.
This is not that.
There can be unity and understanding among sandwich lovers, couples, and football fans. There can be no unity in our current political landscape because the barbarous bigotry the losing side has been exposed to is not simply a difference of opinion.
And asking the aggrieved and oppressed to unify with their oppressors and would be oppressors displays an appalling lack of empathy.
We cannot reasonably expect Latinx people to unify with a man who called Mexicans criminals and rapists. A man whose signature policy position is building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.
We cannot reasonably expect Muslims to unify with a man who called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
We cannot reasonably expect the women who voted against Trump to unify with a man who bragged about committing sexual assault on tape.
We cannot reasonably expect our LGBTQ brothers and sisters to unify with a man whose running mate and vice president who opposed marriage equality and holds some problematic views on HIV/AIDS treatment.
And we cannot reasonably expect Black people to unify with a man who repeatedly denigrated the state of Black communities, made us the proverbial “other” by continuing to refer to us as “the Blacks,” and supports unconstitutional stop and frisk policies under a “law and order” platform.
With police violence a central issue in the Black Lives Matter movement, Trump is also reportedly eyeing Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. for a top post with the Department of Homeland Security. Clarke became a darling in conservative circles after condemning the movement as a “hateful ideology” and calling protesters “black slime.”
Fellow Trump ally and another likely figure in the Trump administration, Rudy Giuliani called Black Lives Matter “inherently racist.”
Even if, under the most generous of concessions, we write off Trump’s racism, sexism and xenophobia as him doing what he had to do to win an election, the poison released into our society by his supporters is hardly a clarion call for unity. It is exactly the opposite. His campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” harkens back to a time when America was a lot Whiter, more homogenous and those who didn’t assimilate into that American whiteness knew their place.
His supporters have followed suit, reminding the rest of us that unity is little more than silence. The Ku Klux Klan, which endorsed Trump in its official newspaper will rally to celebrate his win in North Carolina. All over the country, in isolated incidents that are far from isolated, people of color have been the targets of harassment and violence.
We’ve suffered enough harm throughout the course of American history. We’ve proved that we are a resilient people, capable of surviving trauma and don’t need anymore lines added to our resiliency resume.
I apologize, Mr. President, but there isn’t a tent big enough for us to unify with those that would do us harm. Just because we can survive trauma doesn’t mean we should survive trauma.
If there are groups and coalitions that need to unify, it is the targets of violence under Trump’s America. People of color, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, women and White allies. The protests that sprang up across the country after the election need to evolve into a united front. But this call for coalitions must be bigger than uniting against Trump. We must be for each other.
True unity finds us showing up and showing out for each other. A world where Black people fight for the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, who go hard for Indigenous people, who go hard for issues important to the Latinx community, who go hard for Muslims, who go hard for Black people. A world where White allies go as hard on the Kitchen Table Klan, those friends and family whose soft bigotry has gone unchecked, as the Ku Klux Klan.
That is a coalition deserving of unity.
That is change I can believe in.