BY ISOKE SAMUEL '18
For my dear friend Elaine Reed who died on Nov. 9, 2016 at 10:30 a.m. upon hearing the results of the election; thank you for opening our minds and our hearts and reminding us to live.
Last night, over 4,000 miles away from Mount Holyoke College in a small Italian city, I crowded around a tiny computer screen with three Greeks and four Americans to watch CNN report the results of the 45th presidential election. With every state that turned red, the same people who hated the color of my skin since the day that I was born labeled all of the other portions of who I am as invalid and unimportant.
6 hours later with eyes still glued to the screen I began to cry. I cried for the slave whose brilliance was suppressed; I cried for every immigrant who was forced to believe that assimilation was the key to acceptance; I cried for the woman whose body was seen as an object to be conquered without her consent; I cried for every queer, trans and non-binary person who has been told that their identity is not valid. I cry because today these people and every individual who has fought and died for justice has been forgotten.
Then I looked around the room and along with my fear, I felt alone. Alone not because these wonderful individuals did not care for me but rather because they, no matter how hard they tried, could not understand what it meant to a person like me. “I’m shocked” was the universal phrase echoed again and again by the seven other people in the room. I cried some more. The only shocking thing about these results is that they could shock a person living in America or observing it from abroad. America’s suppression of any person who challenges its white supremacist utopian ideal is visible in every aspect of our society every single day. These people and the government have chosen to see me only for my simplest definition: a black woman. Their actions have shown that because of this I do not matter.
Then I laughed while crying as the only other woman in the room said, “I’m just so sad that the next president won’t look like me”. Despite the obvious presence of white feminism in that statement, it forced me to recognize something that I overlooked for the entire presidential race. I don’t care if the person running my country “looks like me”. The leadership that I am looking for couldn’t possibly be found in physical appearance. I want a leader who cares about every marginalized community enough to be unpopular with the majority. I want a leader who insists on positive and peaceful change and who stops at nothing to achieve it.
Those were my instant reactions. When I began to think of all of the people who faced adversity tirelessly throughout history I was reminded not only of their courage but also of their hope.
Sometimes the result you want isn’t the result you get but that has never been a reason to lose hope. When I look back at America’s deeply flawed history I see countless powerful, brave and resilient individuals who refused to be told that they did not matter. Today and every day I stand with them and all minorities and marginalized people who continue this timeless fight. You are not alone. The oppression cannot continue. Cry today but rise tomorrow. If your neighbor is struggling, lift them up with you. Remind them that victory can be found even in defeat. As always, we have work to do. It won’t be easy, but then again, what in this journey to justice ever has been?