Up until 2008, I’d been pretty passive in regards to politics. The only reason I took A.P. U.S. Government in high school was for college applications. And when my former history teacher, Mr. Evans (RIP), prodded me to apply to be a page at the state capitol, I wrote my essay about how much I despised politics and yet they still accepted me. [insert eyeroll here]
My apathy continued in college. To be fair, I was too young to vote in 2004 when Dubya won, so you can’t blame that one on me. But when I turned 18 the very next year, I hauled butt to the post office and registered to vote. Why? Because my ancestors fought too hard for me not to exercise that right.
And when 2008 rolled around, you best believe I cast my FIRST presidential vote for the FIRST African-American Democratic Party presidential nominee: Barack Hussein Obama. And boy, did it feel good! But then I was quickly reminded that racism still existed. Admittedly, I grew up in a bit of a bubble and was naive to the ways of the world.
I was working as a general assignment reporter at a newspaper in Harford County, Maryland, which is about as conservative of a county as you can get. My coworker and I were tasked with interviewing residents on Election Day to find out who they’d voted for and why. And let’s just say some of the responses I received are not fit for print.
Later that day, we went to the local board of elections to wait for the results. We waited, we waited and we waited some more. Finally around midnight, we were able to call it a night and return to our respective homes. But I couldn’t sleep. This was history in the making. I don’t remember what time it was when I finally went to bed, but I was restless. America had elected the first Black president EVER and a love story with the Obamas was born, for the most part.
When I shared my elation in a column I’d written the weekend of Obama’s first inauguration, the hate mail I received would make your grandmother blush. Like actual, physical hate mail sent directly to me. I was 21 at the time and unprepared for the backlash. It was so bad that my editor (an older White man) called me into his office and apologized on behalf of the racists in Harford County.
“I’m sorry, I should have warned you,” he said.
It wouldn’t have mattered, I still would have done it. I didn’t know it then, but I was coming into my own, finding my voice and using the platform that I’d been given to speak up and speak out about injustices. I consider it my moral obligation and civic duty as a writer.
It was during that time that one of my closest friends and her family members started to show their true colors (or maybe I’d just finally paid attention). They were calling Obama all kinds of his names outside of his given one, blaming Mexicans for this and praising Palin for that. You can imagine their delight when Obama was re-elected in 2012. They threatened to move to Canada. I wish they had.
We’re no longer friends (surprisingly for reasons that had nothing to do with politics), but if our friendship hadn’t dissolved when it did in 2013, then the 2016 election surely would have been the proverbial nail in the coffin.
When I saw a recent poll that “57 percent of White voters who still lived in the town or community where they grew up support Trump,” suddenly this nonsensical election started to make some sense. Most of the people on my Facebook timeline who “like” or support Trump went to my high school — a small, Catholic college prep academy for girls where I was one of only TWO Black girls in my graduating class of 114. And, coincidentally, many of those women who support Trump never left their respective hometowns.
“Make America great again,” they say. For whom, exactly?
I understand people have differing political views and that’s fine. But when those views include categorically voting for someone who is blatantly prejudiced, glaringly misogynistic and grossly inexperienced when it comes to politics, that’s where I become concerned. Sure, nobody’s perfect, but I simply cannot support someone who thinks all “the Blacks” live in the inner cities, that all Muslims are terrorists, all Mexicans are “bad hombres” and women … man, don’t even get me started.
When I see people who wholeheartedly support Trump, what that says to me is “I don’t care about you as a Black person and/or a woman.” And, quite frankly, that’s all I need to know. His vulgar comments regarding women cannot be dismissed as “locker room talk.” They are evident of a troublesome rape culture. And that’s just the cherry on top of the #DumpTrump sundae.
I’ve watched all of the debates. I’ve done the research. And I’m 100 percent, unequivocally voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton. At this point, there’s nothing I can say that can persuade you to change your vote if you’re gung-ho for Trump (and vice versa). I’m not saying I’ll unfriend you (or maybe I will), but I will probably look at you differently and I will definitely serve you some major side-eye. #SorryNotSorry
So why am I with her? I’ll keep it simple.
Because, as a Black woman, I can’t afford not to be.