Believe

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 anywhere
everywhere.

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.

 

5 thoughts on “Believe

  1. I’ll hold my nose and vote for Joe, because unloading Trump by the biggest possible margin is more important. But damn, Deb … We could have had Liz Warren. I like Bernie – no, I love Bernie. I love his passion and his consistency, and of course I love most of what he stands for. He’s been transformative in such an important way. But I don’t see him as president material, and anyway, dammit, I don’t want to vote for yet another old white man. It just makes me sad that, last time around, Trump/Hillary was the best the voters could do (I made no secret of my strong liking for Johnson) … and now it’s Trump/Biden. Sad and disappointing how we keep rolling down the same plughole.

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    1. I accidentally deleted a long comment I’d written to you.

      I’m so glad to see you commenting, if I disagree with substantial portions of your comment! I mean it. So:

      The gist of it is that only folks who haven’t talked to Trump voters tend to think a vote for Biden is a vote against Trump. For folks who’ve had lots of conversations with Trump voters, it quickly becomes clear a vote for Biden is (reasonably, to so many) a vote for H. Clinton is a vote for Obama is a vote for B. Clinton and all the destruction he wrought. With all I’ve read, I hear and I get it.

      So when people say they’re voting for Biden so Trump doesn’t get a second term, I get really sad. Each of these votes for Biden is, effectively, a vote for Trump’s second term. Google Biden verbally assaulting a union worker a week ago to see how Trump’s already capitalized on that and will continue capitalizing on anything yet ahead.

      If you want to go deeper, search Twitter for the many, many more recent, valid clips about why people won’t be voting for Biden, even if it means another Trump candidacy.

      (Did you know Trump’s approval ratings are getting ever higher due to his handling of coronavirus? It’s a HUGE mistake to think “my experiences and perceptions are similar to most everyone’s who’s not racist.”)

      At this point, Biden has 1,200 delegates to Bernie’s 900 delegates. To already have written Bernie off, with about half of Americans having yet voted, in the hopes Biden might beat Trump is horrifying. It’s a horror that the DNC is propping up, and it breaks my heart every time I see evidence that the DNC’s “pied piper” strategy seems, among voters, to be working pre-November … whether or not it will actually work in November, with so many signs indicating it won’t.

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      1. Okay … wait … As long as Bernie is an option, I’ll choose him over Biden. I think Biden is part of the system that got us Trump, I think he’s as entitled as Hillary was, and I’m disgusted by the way the DNC is once again putting its fingers on the scale to work against Bernie, and on a personal level he gives me the creeps. This behavior is one of several reasons why I will not, under any circumstances, register as a Democrat.

        I haven’t “written Bernie off”. I still support him over Biden. But Washington’s primary is over. I don’t get to vote again until November, and I will then choose whoever the Democrat nominee is. If it’s Biden, I won’t like it, but I’ll choose him over Trump. Or … I don’t know … do you favor a write-in? Because if I write in a candidate, I’ll find it hard to choose Bernie; I really strongly prefer Warren. And I believe VERY strongly that it’s not enough just to beat Trump – we have to beat him by a landslide.

        Biden would just take us back to where we were pre-Trump, I get that. (I’m not an Obama fan. I like the man as a human – specifically, I like his sense of humor and I miss not feeling my stomach clench every time I read the news.) Biden would be a horrible choice. But Trump seems worse.

        I don’t know, Deb … What will you do, if Biden is the candidate? Do we refuse to vote, send yet another message for the DNC to ignore, and let Trump have it? Do we write in the person we really want and pray for a miracle? Or do we, once again, pick the lesser of two evils?

        Last time I voted for Johnson, partly because I liked many of his policies and I liked what I knew of his record, but mainly because I considered him a man of integrity. Unfortunately the two main political parties managed to block him from the debates, and those few voters who had heard of him fell for the old lie that “an Independent can’t win because of the Electoral College”. If I vote for Bernie it will be for the same reason, with the caveat that I don’t think he’ll make a good president – he’s too divisive and uncompromising, which is good in a game-changer but not necessarily what you want in the leader of a pretty unwieldy system.

        And yes, I do know, and am appalled, that Trump’s approval rating is rising based on his handling of Covid-19. How is that even possible? What is WRONG with this country???

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      2. I want to be able to reply with the care your comment deserves (thank you!), but I’m so emotionally exhausted from the last few weeks that finding more words feels like … the last mile of my first marathon, during which I wished repeatedly I’d pass out already so I could stop running. So I’ll say: (1) I hear you, (2) I, too have so many questions without any viable answers I like, and (3) I am so glad that Nathan J. Robinson wrote most everything I’d currently struggle to say in “Everything Has Changed Overnight” at https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/03/everything-has-changed-overnight

        (I’m also glad the other new post on Current Affairs gets at my other concern: “Stop Trying to Make Andrew Cuomo Happen” at https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/03/stop-trying-to-make-andrew-cuomo-happen)

        Big, big hugs from a big, big distance

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