This seemed like the logical thing to do in light of a presidential election of epic proportions. I am of course, referring to the recent US election which saw the first black president ever to be elected into office. Naturally, there are reasons to celebrate this. For the first time, a minority is going to be what is the most powerful person in the world. But let us not fool ourselves here. While there are great reasons to celebrate, there are still work to be done. Simply electing a black person into office does not mean that racism is over. Nor does this mean that white people are “off the hook,” so to speak.
Systemically speaking, the structures that privilege hetero-sexual white middle-class males are still intact. GLBTQ folks are not afforded the same rights as their hetero-sexual brothers and sisters. Women still earn less than men. Nobody seems to want to talk about the lower classes. (Evangelical) Christianity is privileged over other religions. And, persons of color continue to be marginalized in an increasingly xenophobic environment while white privilege continues to operate. Many of the things that I am addressing may not be overt (though some are). Indeed, what makes the system of oppressions work so well is that it is hidden from us. It operates through consensus rather than through force. I am of course, drawing on Antonio Gramsci’s concept of hegemony as well as Foucault’s analysis of power, both in which are reinforced through so-called timeless truths.
I am not attempting to short-change or bum out people’s celebrations and self “patting on the back” mentality that seems to be pervading across those who voted for “Change.” But I am also well-aware of America’s propensity to forget about their past. Historical amnesia merely serves the powers-that-be to create new discourse and hagiographies on their beloved leaders. Make no mistake, hagiographies or heroic depictions of our leaders are detrimental to the way we confront the challenges ahead of us. On the flip side, those who do nothing but demonize those less-than-desirable leaders are making the same mistakes of the hagiographers. We need to construct histories that address the complexities and multiplicities of political leaders as well as in communities. The notion that “America is the best there is in the world” is not helpful. And constructing a history to build a glorious future will always bound to fail. Be hopeful, yes, but we must keep them in tension with our mistakes and failures as a community or nation.
Now that the election is over, I have seen many from the losing side of the camp talking about wanting to relocate to another place, as if the US is going to hell now that a “liberal” and “socialist” is taking over the administration. These statements, to be honest, confound me . When Dubya was re-elected in 2004, it was the liberals who were talking about moving to Canada (or Australia or NZ). The “if you don’t like it here, you can leave” mentality is at best, dubious and defeatist. There is no reason to leave a place (unless one’s life is threatened) when things are not going our way. If you really love the place where you were born, fight for it. Engage in the structures. Fight the injustice. Fight against the policies that you deem to be unfair or unconstitutional. Whether we like it or not, we cannot always get our way.
I cannot vote in the US as I am not a citizen of the country. I am grateful for what the opportunities afforded to me here. But I am not simply going to sit back and not critique the flaws and failures of this great nation. Failure to do so will only lead us down to blind loyalty and unexamined bigotry.
Remember our histories, and remember it well.