I find myself coming back to this word, this idea. As we prepare for the inauguration of Donald Trump I find myself thinking about reality.
It’s not an easy thing to think about. Reality is complex and nuanced. It’s paradoxical and fickle. It is malleable and is often contorted to fit our perceptions.
The reality is America has always been Trump’s America. America is founded on genocide, land theft, and slavery. It is propped up by racism, exploitation, and an imperial war machine. We have this convenient amnesia where we act like the past never happened but, as Faulkner said “[t]he past is never dead. It’s not even past.” There are some 48 million people living on homesteaded land they got for free from the government. Land stolen from the Native people of this continent. Millions of people in my generation are enjoying newly created wealth that racist FHA policies facilitated for them. Benjamin Franklin, revered founding father, warned of the browning of the country. In fact, the only time xenophobia hasn’t been fundamental on this land is when Natives welcomed the Europeans. We find ourselves face to face with the enduring institution of slavery and the color-coded rationalizations for dehumanizing people of color in the phenomenon of mass incarceration: we have over 2 million people incarcerated in this country, more than any other in the world.
The reality is also that America can be better than all that. America is home to some of the bravest people to ever grace the planet. People we may never read about in history books, but live in the legacy of every day. People that showed up and spoke out. Folks that stood in the face of violence and hatred and demanded a better future.
I’m sitting here trying to make sense of my heart and head. On election night we had some people over at the crib to watch. I was the only one who thought it was possible that Trump would win. That didn’t make it easier when it was clear he was going to. I found myself focusing on what I knew to be true about a Clinton presidency in hopes it would blunt some of what was coming up, but reality kept getting in the way.
I went to sleep that night with one thought: What is going to be required of me?
Regardless of who won the 2016 election the reality is people I care about were still going to be oppressed. This is America. I was going to resist regardless. The reality is also that a Trump presidency brings with it a special kind of oppression which requires a special kind of resistance. I steeled myself that night for the reality of what I was going to have to be ok with sacrificing.
The next morning my students were distraught. Many of my coworkers were distraught. I taught 1st hour and decided to facilitate a circle. We sat there, 20 young people and me, with the lights off in the sacred circle to try and make sense of a world that was now even more scary. It was in that circle that I first verbalized the reality I had accepted less than 12 hours ago. I would speak out and put my body on the line, if it came to that.
Tonight I find myself thinking about that resolution. More specifically the increasing reality that the most drastic forms of resistance are precisely what is going to be required. I saw Trump limit the press. I’m watching his nominees– from Carson and DeVos to Sessions and Tillerson — smile as they barely bother to veil their contempt for any reality that includes the humanity of my people. I saw Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head the EPA, refuse to acknowledge the reality of climate change. I watch as their perception of reality continues to be a violence based on less and less measurable facts and more and more on protecting their own fragile social position. With these people with this much power I wonder what resistance must look like.
Reality is a tricky thing. We often see what we want to see. We can learn that 8 people are more wealthy than half of humanity combined and come to a conclusion that something is fundamentally wrong with the system, or with half of humanity. The conclusion we come to says a lot about us. What reality we choose to accept says a lot about us. More than that, what conclusion we come to will shape what our reality will be. As Chief Justice Marshall swears in Donald Trump my reality will be shaped by the truth shared by Arundhati Roy “A new world is not only possible, she is on her way.”