“Let folk celebrate people power winning some sh*t yesterday. And if you have a critique, our people deserve for our critiques to be fully investigated and to be offered a clear alternative that is worth their labor and sacrifices.” --adrienne maree brown
On November 7th, Joe Biden became our 46th President-Elect and Kamala Harris became Madame Vice President-Elect. When I heard the news, I texted everyone I knew. The biggest emotion I felt was relief. I don’t think I realized how much stress I was holding until Pennsylvania called the vote for Biden -- that’s when I felt something that I had been holding tight within me finally start to release. When I called my sister, she was crying because we now have the first U.S. Vice President who is a woman, a daughter of immigrants, Black, and Indian. I realized that I hadn’t even grasped the significance of this moment -- how HUGE it is to see a woman that looks like me who is now the second highest ranking position in the nation because I had been living in such fear and stress. Once my sister said it out loud, I realized that I could finally feel hope for the future, for my children. Hope that things can change, as evident by Vice President Elect Harris’ win. And as Vice President Elect said, while she is the first woman of color to hold the position, she most definitely will not be the last.
I hope we all took time to celebrate. The Associated Press stated that voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election hit a 50 year high, exceeding the record set in 2008 with the election of President Obama. Even with this high voter turnout AND the fact that our Vice President is a woman of color, we know that nothing is perfect:
- There were (and still are) on-going efforts to disenfranchise voters from Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) communities.
- We’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. Countries are shutting down as the coronavirus spikes again.
- Climate change continues at a rapid pace, huge swaths of California were on fire for the third year in a row.
- 70 million people still voted for Donald Trump.
A vote for Biden / Harris isn’t going to change any of these realities overnight. But I hope we can take a pause to reward ourselves, to acknowledge that yes, we did make a difference. So often we (myself included) rush to critique. We don’t let ourselves sit and say, “wow, we really did that!” Millions of people across the nation, including you and me, decided that we didn’t want 4 more years of Donald Trump, and we didn’t want to see two white men run the country. So we showed up at the polls. We had faith in a system that hasn’t worked for people who look like me, and on November 7th, we saw a change in leadership. What does that tell me? We can make a difference. Women of color can shatter those glass ceilings. And that’s good because there’s so much that needs to be done.
While votes are still being counted, we know the following:
- Voters passed Proposition 22, which would allow companies like Uber and Lyft to exempt their drivers from state labor laws.
- 24 years after banning affirmative action, voters rejected affirmative action again. If passed, it would have allowed diversity to be considered in public sector hiring and college admissions.
- Early results show that Proposition 15, which would have closed a loophole from Proposition 13 by raising taxes on commercial and industrial landowners to provide more money for schools and local governments, is not on track to pass.
The status of these propositions is hard -- having huge multinational corporations continue to operate in ways that continue to harm communities and exacerbate racial and wealth inequality is challenging to say the least. And as we grapple with racial justice, to see affirmative action continue to be banned in California, feels like rubbing salt in an open wound.
And while I’m happy that we’re finally talking about equity at joint meetings with the California Air Resources Board, California Transportation Commission, and Housing and Community Development -- we are still working closely with our partners to address (and dismantle) land use and transportation policies and structures that continue to accelerate climate climate change and oppress BIPOC and underserved communities.
The reason why I said it’s so important to celebrate victories like the presidential election is because tackling the issues that I’ve shared above require so much of us, in terms of our time, our energy, and our commitment. We are constantly pushing against a system that does not want to change, and does not want to acknowledge the hurt and trauma it has caused. Most importantly, we are pushing against a culture of white supremacy that operates in visible and invisible ways. This is exhausting on so many fronts -- even when you have a strong community of advocates and allies!
So my ask (to myself) and all of you as we do this hard, yet important work is to:
- Celebrate whatever small (and big) victories are present.
- Rest when you need to (and even if you feel like you don’t need to). And rest can look like a lot of things -- focus on what makes you feel rested and energized.
- Dream up what you want to see done or as my colleague Nailah says, “ask yourself, what does justice look like?”
- Build a strong community to help manifest that vision and support you when you need it.