I fell asleep before the election was called on Tuesday night. And Mets fan that I am, always believing there is a shot to pull out a win even with only one out left and down by a seemingly insurmountable number of runs, I fell asleep hoping that Clinton might still put out a squeaker. Then I woke up to the news on Wednesday morning and my immediate response was a string of expletives accompanied by a significant amount of tears. Because like so many right now, the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency has left me overwhelmed by competing emotions. Right now I feel genuinely scared, both for myself as a Jew, but more importantly for my many friends and colleagues who are more immediate targets right now due to their gender, sexuality, race, religion or visible disability. And at the same time I feel inexpressibly sad and angry at this turn of events and all it might entail for myself and so many people I love.
As a scholar working at the intersection of race, gender, and disability in American culture I had no illusions about just what this nation has been, but I had sincerely hoped that we could continue to try to be better than we were. However, the election of a candidate whose expression of white supremacist beliefs won him an endorsement by the KKK, whose misogyny oozes from his every orange pore and emboldens the already toxic masculinity of so many American men, whose mockery of people with disabilities is merciless, and whose campaign managed to revive anti-Semitic tropes that had long since passed out of publicly acceptable discourse—well let’s just say that has severely damaged my hopes for a better America.
Honestly, just how broken I feel in the wake of this week’s turn of events might not necessarily be immediately apparent to those around me. After almost two decades of experience hiding my constant chronic joint pain and “passing” for healthy, hiding my pain of any kind has honestly become instinct. But like many, I am hurting right now.
The only thing that has really kept me going these last few days amidst all this fear, sadness, anger and hopelessness has been immersing myself even more deeply into my dissertation completion fellowship, which I’ve honestly found to be a source of great satisfaction this semester. For those who aren’t aware, this year I am the Woodruff Library/Emory Center for Digital Scholarship Fellow in Digital Humanities and my fellowship has taken the form of serving as Associate Editor for the open access and multidisciplinary digital publication Atlanta Studies under the direction of Jesse P. Karlsberg. Thus far my position has entailed a satisfyingly wide-ranging set of responsibilities: I have done everything from developing publication strategies and soliciting articles/blog posts from potential contributors to editing submissions, procuring and generating complementary media for pieces (which thus far has involved both trawling through digital photo collections to find illustrative images as well as generating custom maps), laying out pieces, evaluating readership trends, and even conducting some interviews. All of which is to say that I have plenty of ways to keep myself busy and keep my mind occupied during the week while I am working on my fellowship up at the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship. In fact, I spent eight straight hours on Wednesday in attendance at and dedicatedly live-tweeting the amazing symposium Atlanta Studies had co-sponsored, entitled Still The ‘Black Mecca’?: Race, Social Inequality, and Urban Displacement in 21st Century Atlanta which might well have been the only thing that allowed me to keep it together for the rest of that day, because as I have long known, there is honestly no better place to be when things go down than a room of primarily black scholars and activists.
But when I first wake up each morning and remember what has happened anew, or when I lay on my couch at night with only the glow of my television for company, or now today, on the first day when I have had nowhere to immediately go to but the café down the street from my home to try and work on my dissertation—then I find myself unable to concentrate, overwhelmed once more and grasping for an answer. And not an answer to what happened because we know what happened: white supremacy, the founding logic of this nation, reasserted itself with a vengeance. No, the answer I am searching for is to the question of what I, and we, do next.
One place I’ve begun my search, as I begin many of my quests for knowledge and understanding, is in the words of others. From the eloquent statuses of many of my facebook friends to the powerful op-eds that have been circulating in recent days, like “The Audacity of Hopelessness” by Roxanne Gay I have read much the last few days and found myself comforted in knowing that I am at least far from alone in feeling as I do and in also desiring to find an answer for the difficult question of what we might do next.
While we are all still far from answering that question right now, the fact that many of us are asking the question together is at least a start. I will be writing more in the days to come as I continue reading more things and processing what has happened and what I personally might do, but for now I want to close by reiterating something I said over on facebook a few days ago that clarifies my commitments moving forward:
" . . . once I have gathered myself I promise to - in the words of Roxanne Gay - "fight hard" for all who will be
most vulnerable in the coming years. I will leverage every ounce of my white privilege (or what is left for me
of it now that this Jew-baiting "man" is President-elect), my male privilege, my heterosexual privilege, my
able-bodied passing privilege, etc., to protect everyone I can and fight by your side and on your behalf. And
as the Talmud reminds me (“It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty
to desist from it." Pirkei Avot 2:21) I might not be able to complete the work of this fight in my lifetime, but
I will never be at liberty to desist from it.”