Part of being Black and a woman in America is having hope in the face of despair and pressing on against the anti-Black and sexist establishment. These are the moments I’m celebrating.
Without knowing the official outcome, I have been celebrating this election since Tuesday. When I say celebrating, I mean literally singing aloud, listening to old school hip-hop playlists, uprocking, copping a B-girl stance alone in my living room, and imbibing. Call me crazy, but I love the idea of democracy, and seeing it actually at work makes me giddy.
Voting is a right denied for so long to so many that it truly is “precious,” as the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis once said. “It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society, and we must use it,” he added.
Several of the people I’ve spoken to over the past week, however, have told me how disappointed they were that so many people had voted once again for Donald Trump—not to mention his partners in crime, Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham. Others weren’t watching the results because they couldn’t take the possibility of a disappointing election outcome. Many, in fact, questioned how I could be so upbeat in the midst of such a turbulent time in American history, with all of this anti-Black racism and the possibility of another four years of a white supremacist.
My answer? “Because I know where I live.”
Part of being Black and a woman in America is having hope in the face of despair and pressing on against the anti-Black and sexist establishment that actively works against our progress. There are so many examples of this type of leadership and resiliency: Sojourner Truth, Barbara Jordan, Carol Mosely Braun, Shirley Chisolm, and others.
As a college professor and writer, I often deconstruct topics and issues to put them back together so they make sense. Because of my areas of expertise—intersectionality (race, class, gender, sexuality) and media—I can be very cynical and often see the world through a dark lens, sometimes to the chagrin of those around me. Yet and still, it is because of my deep understanding of those issues and how they work in this country that I still have hope for democracy.
Part of having hope is celebrating the wins, however small they may seem. Having a presidential race that wasn’t a landslide for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is disappointing. But I also realize that in the United States, that landslide could have very well gone the other way because of all of the work around issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality we haven’t done.
In Georgia, there is still so much to celebrate in this election. Voters in coastal Georgia ousted District Attorney Jackie Johnson, who failed to appropriately investigate or initially charge anyone in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery earlier this year. Independent Keith Higgins defeated Johnson, a Republican, 66%-34%. This is particularly noteworthy considering Johnson was initially running unopposed in this election.
Georgia voters also elected three men to become the first Black sheriffs in their counties. One of them is Gwinnett County’s Keybo Taylor. By defeating Chief Deputy Lou Solis, the county moves one step closer to ending its controversial 287(g) program, which enables local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law.
I’m also celebrating because Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff earned enough votes to have run-off elections for important Senate seats. If Warnock wins on Jan. 5, he would become the state’s first Black US senator in history.
Moreover, I’m celebrating because people are finally seeing the hard work Black folks—especially women—and allies have been doing to help this nation reach its fullest potential.
The reason why Georgia has played such a pivotal role in the presidential election is because of Stacey Abrams and folks like her. When the 2018 gubernatorial race was stolen from her, she didn’t throw her hands up and sulk. She got busy and founded Fair Fight Georgia to make sure it wouldn’t happen again to her or anyone else.
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Another young Black woman and HBCU graduate Georgians have to thank for energizing voters is Nikema Williams. The state senator is on her way to Congress to represent John Lewis’ beloved 5th District after spending years putting in work with the Democratic Party of Georgia. This young woman—who was arrested for protesting the results of the 2018 gubernatorial race—was elected chair of the party last year, becoming the first Black woman to hold the position.
Between Abrams and Williams’ efforts and the other behind-the-scenes fundraising, organizing, voter registration and voter education campaigns led by Black women, we are witnessing a historic moment happening thanks to decades-long hard work.
How can I not celebrate? How can I not have hope for a future so many of us are actively working to change for the better? Trump and his cronies have stolen so much of our joy over the past four years—I refuse to continue on that path.
So yeah, I’ve been skipping around on my bad knee all week: I am committed to having hope in the face of despair.
There’s a meme floating around the Internet that says, “Waiting is hard, but Democracy is worth waiting for.” I would add: Celebrating the wins along the way, however small they may be, certainly helps to pass the time.