by Nayomi Munaweera
On Election Day, I went to my polling place in Oakland, California, quietly jubilant as I imagined watching a woman elected to the most powerful seat in the land and my heart thumped with joy. On that day, I realized I had not really known the depth of misogyny I have lived with my entire life. I didn’t really know what it would mean to see a woman in that position. I didn’t know how it would feel emotionally. I was stunned at the depth of my own response.
That evening, I watched the election results come in with a group of friends. We started out in good spirits, excited and a little fearful. Then we watched in stunned disbelief as the pool of red spread and spread across the map. Hours later, we sat shell-shocked, most of us endlessly scrolling our phones, some of us quietly crying. Finally we all got up and silently left.
Like most of you, I haven’t slept properly since Tuesday. I’m liable to burst into tears at any moment, at the grocery store or in the bank. I watch as my friends post videos of racist, sexist attacks and then as others tell them not to rock the boat or “Cause undue hysteria.” I watch as swastikas are painted on schools Confederate flags are flown in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve watched a video in which, just miles from my house on BART. a woman speaking Assyrian into her phone is screamed at by another woman — who tells her Trump is going to deport her. I’ve read a post by a friend who was kicked in the legs as she was walking her dogs by a man who said, “Get back in your place. Woman.” She said the tone in which he said that word, “woman,” sent chills down her spine and terrified her more than the physical attack. These are just a tiny segment of the racist, sexist attacks that are now flooding our country.
Right now, my back muscles are locked in a painful knot; I know this is symptom of my deep grief. And I know most of you are feeling this pain as we, people of color, women of color, queers, immigrants, Muslims, feminists, Americans of all kinds wonder why our country hates us so much, whether we are safe when we walk out of our doors and how to explain this new reality to the children.
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Yet even as I grieve, even as my heart is broken, I am aware that the blinders have been ripped off. Now there is no more facade, no more hiding behind an illusion of safety. The bandage has been removed and we see that the racial, gendered wound of America is pus-filled and necrotic. Now, finally we see what we are up against and even though the sight is shocking, even though the journey will be hard and long and some of us will be hurt, now we can fight.
In the coming years we will look back at this moment as the most important in our public lives. We will remember how we responded. Already I am heartened by the activism I see forming. The Million Women March will happen January 21, 2017, in Washington, D.C. There are folks standing outside mosques with signs reading, “We will protect you. We love you.” Donations are pouring into Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
More than all this, on the day after the election, I saw a map which showed how people under 25 had voted. It was a sea of blue. That map tells me that young people do not want this shit. In my most hopeful moments, I believe that the rise and election of Donald Trump is the last dying gasp of the old white men. In my most hopeful moment I imagine that the future is bearing down on us; she is furious and she is female.
Nayomi Munaweera is the award-winning writer of Island of a Thousand Mirrors and What Lies Between Us. Her novels pivot on the damage done to women’s bodies in the context of international patriarchy. Find out more at www.nayomimunaweera.com.