What is This Feeling?

Since November 8, I’ve felt a sense of low-level anxiety and dread every single day. Before Trump took office, I took each of his comments as further proof that we were headed straight for dictatorship. Now that he’s in office, I keep waiting for the worst to happen: Abortion has been banned. DACA has been revoked. International travel frozen. Gay marriage rescinded. A new war has begun. It’s as if I’ve illustrated a dystopian state in my mind, and every day, something happens to put us closer to that awful future.

Like the women of Wicked, I eventually had to put a name to this feeling: Loathing. Unadulterated loathing.

I am loath to check the news to see another nightmare come true. I have steeled myself for the possibility that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed, causing me to lose my health coverage on my parents’ plan. I am heartsick at the fear that undocumented people, trans people, queer people, Muslims, African-Americans, and other marginalized people are experiencing.

I loathe, unadulteratedly, the white men who think they have the right to control others’ bodies, movements, and freedom.

However, after November, I had to kick myself in the ass. This feeling is not special to me, and I am incredibly privileged that it took the election of a misogynist, bigoted Cheeto to make me feel the same fear that many people have felt for a long time. I was stupid enough to think that I was white enough and educated enough and privileged enough and straight enough to be safe from the Trumpian menace, and I have to wise up to the reality of this world as quickly as I possibly can.

In the words of Amber Ruffin, it’s time for me to join the fun.

After the election, the best commentary I saw came from Amber Ruffin, a writer on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” With a perfectly manic comic affect, Ruffin invites befuddled white voters to “join the fun,” where “fun” means “that sinking feeling of disillusionment that black people have felt for centuries.”

“I have a special message to all of the white Hillary supporters who are feeling disappointed in their fellow Americans today. Join the fun!”

… “That feeling you’re feeling right now, black people have been feeling that way, forever! Right now you’re wondering how you’re going to get along with all your friends who voted for Trump. This is how black people feel all the time. Join the fun!”

Since the election, I’ve had to take Ruffin’s advice to heart to deal with my own malaise. While white people were running around after the election going “I didn’t know America was so hateful!” people of color everywhere just rolled their eyes.

Millions of Americans have always functioned with a daily sense of dread because they’ve grown up watching their rights being constantly assaulted. I need to get over myself and join the “fun,” where “fun” means “the justifiable cloud of lingering anxiety that millions of marginalized people deal with on a daily basis.”

In other words, I could have realized this just by listening to Biggie:

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I also want to be very clear in saying that while I now share these feelings of fear, dread, and loathing that others have felt for years, I do not have the right to appropriate these feelings. My oppression is not the same as others’. So instead of smoothing over difference of experience for the sake of “unity,” I must acknowledge that I’m new to the party and that I’m not currently Trump’s target. However, I’m not going to let him steamroll over Muslims, green card holders, or undocumented folks until he gets to the rights of white women.

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The reason I love the phrase “join the fun” is that it includes the verb “join.” While I practiced intersectional feminism for a long time before this election, I know that millions of women are having their “Come to the Lorde” moment and realizing that White Feminism is flawed. As our consciousness awakens, us white and white-presenting folks need to be cognizant of the struggle that has existed for years before Trump. Instead of starting our own movement, we need to make ourselves available to folks who have done intersectional protest work for decades and say, “How can I help?”

The biggest challenge that I have for white Americans is this: Do not forget how you feel right now. The Democratic Party did not do nearly enough to prevent the election of Trump, and all of us are complicit in that. If you don’t ever want to feel this way again, agitate for the return of the Voting Rights Act. Run for office. Get a law degree. Volunteer as a clinic escort at an abortion clinic. Go to a Black Lives Matter Protest. Stand up if you see a Muslim person being harassed in public.

Do everything you can to protect the rights of whomever Trump decides to assault this week. But, do not fight for the return of your privilege. Instead work (outside of the system, if necessary) for liberty and justice for all.

 

 

 

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