In 2009, my Black now-husband told me the baby I was carrying–our baby–would experience racism someday.
I laughed him off. Racism? In Los Angeles in 2009? Was he confusing here and now with 1960s Arkansas? I figured it more likely he was hyper-sensitive than that racism was a broad present-day concern hurting brown-skinned people every single day in the U.S. of A.
Since then, I’ve seen and learned more about racism than I could ever hope to fit in a series of books, let alone a single post. I won’t even try, though I will tell you my oldest son was only three when I first saw him subjected to overt racism, and that he was only three when he started making statements reflecting that he was internalizing messages from classmates on darkness equaling badness.
By then, I’d already seen over and over again the kind of quiet but potent racism my now-husband endures just living in the United States daily. George Zimmerman had already killed Trayvon Martin. I was no longer confused about how and (every)where racism expresses itself today.
Still, I was heartbroken to learn that even three-year-olds can’t escape it here in the United States.
My older son grew older.
Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson killed unarmed, eighteen-year-old Michael Brown. #BlackLivesMatter grew into a movement; as I followed it, I saw how many Black and brown people are killed by armed representatives of the United States and those of its various localities.
By the time the U.S.’s 2016 presidential primaries rolled around, I was no longer confused about racism. Nor was I confused about how the racism my husband endured was intimately related to the many violences I endured–and witnessed my single mom enduring–growing up a poor white girl.
And yet, for all I’d come to understand, there was still so much I didn’t, yet.
It took the 2016 Democratic primaries to deepen my education.
In early 2016, two of my younger siblings, both historians, challenged my assertion that Hillary Clinton was the most practical Democrat choice. Because I trusted them broadly, I listened–to them and others who could not endorse Clinton, as well as to those who did.
As a result of my reading and listening, I ceased to see Clinton as the practical choice. I grew from cautiously supporting Bernie Sanders to enthusiastically, all-in supporting him.
From this vantage point, I was horrified to see how members of the Democratic National Committee put their thumbs on the scale over and over and over again. How they crushed Bernie’s chances while presenting an appealing illusion of choice to primary voters.
To understand better, I shifted from reading blogs and articles to reading books. I read, and read, and read: history, politics, culture, psychology, sociology.
With each page I read, I became clearer about how my childhood poverty was linked to my husband’s experiences with racism
was linked was linked to Trayvon Martin’s murder
was linked to Michael Brown’s murder and #BlackLivesMatter
was linked to mass incarceration
was linked to every injustice
I could see
In a recent LinkedIn post, I wrote about how the words “the Black vote” are “my three least favorite words this U.S. presidential election cycle.” As I wrote there,
I know Black people who voted for Stein, Clinton, and Trump in 2016. In 2020, I know Black people who will vote for Biden if he’s the Democratic nominee, and others who will never, based on his policies, consider it. At least one will vote for Trump again this year.
I concluded the post:
If you don’t talk about “the white vote,” reasonably understanding there is huge diversity among white voters, PLEASE don’t talk about “the Black vote,” which words erase an also profound diversity.
When white people talk about the Black vote, they erase many Black and brown people I love. I reflected this in a comment on my LinkedIn post:
Here’s what this erasure looks like in Google search:
“The white vote”: “About 138,000 results”
“The Black vote”: “About 2,160,000 results”
When Bernie Sanders announced his 2020 candidacy, I’d only just removed a Bernie 2020 sticker from my car. I’d done so at my husband’s request; when driving my car, he’d been accosted a few separate times by white folks accusing him of having brought
us U.S. Trump.
For me, supporting Bernie in 2020 wasn’t about supporting an individual. It was–and remains–about supporting the policies for which he has been fighting, in many cases, for decades. While I often wish he’d go further still, his policy proposals as they stand today represent profoundly positive change for all members–Black, brown, white–of the U.S. working class.
I entered 2020 with no feelings whatsoever about Joe Biden. I’d heard something about an unfortunate fondness for non-consensual hair-sniffing, but took him for a run-of-the-mill DNC guy–which is to say, someone for whom I’d be unlikely, for policy reasons, to vote.
This changed as the early 2020 primary season continued. Day after day, I encountered text and videos of Joe opposing or striving to limit virtually every policy (particularly Medicare for All and robust Social Security) I hold dear as life-affirming and life-saving.
That these were often coupled with reassurances they reflected the old Joe, not New Joe™ did not remotely reassure me. How could they, since he continues to make daily statements affirming his old positions?
Still, I took all this for just U.S. politics as usual until, following a question from my older son, I searched the internet for “Joe Biden hair-sniffing.” I laughed at the fairly mundane creepiness of most the shots in the top video I found, and then reached one of Joe with a child … where I, a childhood molestation victim, stopped laughing, started panicking, and told my sons it was time to talk about something else.
With 2016 as my backdrop, I was prepared for DNC shenanigans in 2020.
(If you don’t know what I mean by this, search archives at The Intercept for the details. There’s a lot to find.)
I was nevertheless unprepared for what I saw in the hours leading up to the March 17 primaries in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. What I saw left me shocked and dismayed, as well as grateful that Ohio had postponed its vote for voter safety. Happily, some later-voting states had already postponed by this point.
On March 15, Joe’s Twitter account tweeted: “If you are feeling healthy, not showing symptoms, and not at risk of being exposed to COVID-19: please vote on Tuesday.”
I work in contracts, so I’ll not delve too deeply into the horrifying “not at risk of being exposed” here. I’ll simply say, every. single. person. alive is at risk of being exposed by any human contact, a risk that increases with prolonged close exposure.
(This, despite the fact it is now and was then clear the virus takes days to a couple of weeks for a carrier to show any symptoms. “Looking healthy” is not an appropriate stand-in for “actually healthy.”)
I’ll instead say: The CDC itself was clear how much is unknown about COVID-19, and about how important it was to keep a safe distance from other human beings. Regardless of what the CDC was actually saying, Joe’s Senior Adviser Symone Sanders was on CNN saying the CDC said it was OK to go out and vote.
An actor from Community actually tweeted that efforts to postpone the vote amounted to voter suppression. I replied that calls to postpone the vote were not calls to suppress the vote, but to delay for health reasons.
As I stated in tweet with correlated video, “Brie’s tweet is not about voter suppression, Yvette. It’s about coronavirus suppression.” I followed up with the text (+CDC link): “My polling place was MAYBE 10×18. It had a volunteer table & 3 voting booths–sadly, lots of potential for exposure. Line that up with how, per the CDC, “we are still learning how it spreads” & “the severity,” there’s so much danger for people & community.”
The DNC’s Tom Perez himself said that he supported states’ efforts to vote as scheduled.
When I heard yesterday that two Florida Broward County poll workers had tested positive for COVID-19, I was hardly shocked. I was, however, concerned:
To how many voters did each spread the virus? There, and at all the polling sites to which then-healthy registered Democrat voters, having been assured it was fine, showed up?
Two days ago, former Joe staffer Tara Reade came forward with details not previously offered about (alleged) sexual assault by Joe.
On January 7, I posted “I believe you,” an aggregation of several of my old blog posts on the theme of believing others about sexual assault.
I did not stop believing between now and then.
This means #IBelieveTara.
Beyond the moment, though, the hashtag has me thinking about “belief” in a broader sense:
Why are we Americans so reluctant to believe others, in general?
Why do my Democrat friends prioritize their own experience of life as stable and predictable over my siblings’ and I my stories reflecting that it is not?
Why do so many non-Trump voters assume all Trump voters are simply racist assholes, when the Trump voters themselves can speak–often eloquently–to why extending neoliberalism under any politician’s facade does not help them?
Why did I prioritize my own non-experience with racism over my then-boyfriend’s lived experience of racism?
I believe the answer is this:
Not (yet) knowing better.
If you tell me you’re voting for Joe for policy reasons, I’ll believe you.
I don’t have to share your policy preferences to believe you.
I’ll also wonder if you’ll believe me. If you’ll understand
that your (in)ability to share my voting choices
neither impacts nor reflects
my care reaching them.