I remember the exact words.
"So glad we avoided making the biggest mistake in history lol."
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed in the wake of Hillary Clinton's presidential win, and it was a parade of relief, excitement, and overall good vibes. It was also a dream.
I must have fallen asleep refreshing my Facebook feed for the thousandth time, and when I woke up, I wasn't ready to face reality. Half asleep, I grappled for my phone and desperately opened the Facebook app, even as I started to realize that what I was experiencing was merely remnant strands of euphoria left over from a dream. It was the nightmare that was real.
Last night, Donald Trump won the presidency. A scenario that I'd literally had nightmares about over the last few months became reality as I, like many others, watched helplessly. And unlike what your mom probably told you as a kid, it didn't look better in the morning.
As a young black woman, I've watched the tension and intolerance in this country grow and spread with an ever-deepening sense of unease. Over the last few years, xenophobia, rampant sexism, blatant racism, and just plain hatred has become a running theme in all of our lives, but a part of me truly believed that things would get better. I wanted to believe that we had seen the worst and we were all going to band together and move forward into a better future.
[Photo: Getty Images]
But this morning I woke up and I had to face that that's just...not the case. To know the people who hate you and want you gone are growing in number and gaining power? To know now, without a doubt, that they are waking up with a celebratory smile on their face and going out into a world that's even more theirs and less yours than ever before? It makes me physically ill, and not for the first time after a blow like this, I wanted to "call in black" to work and instead just remain in the solitude of my bedroom and never interact with anyone outside of my circle of safety.
Having to face the knowledge, yet again, that your country doesn't care about you or anyone like you - and is done pretending otherwise, at that - feels like a punch in the gut. It shouldn't anymore, not by this point, but it does. And it's hard to sit with. Try and climb out of bed with that weight on your chest. Try to get your children up for school. Try to keep on living. If you manage it, tell me your secret, because as a person of color - as someone who has too much to lose to make jokes about just moving to Canada and who has too much at stake besides being looked at internationally as an "embarrassment" - I'm still stuck mentally lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and battling the desire to just give up completely.
Mixed up in all the disappointment and fear and grief, I keep thinking of one of the first times I ever encountered racism. I was on my way to my first ever sleepover, and when I got to my (white) friend's house, a white man I'd never seen before caught sight of me while I was still in the backseat of my friend's mom's car. He was drunk and wanted to scare me, wanted me to know exactly what he thought of someone like me daring to step foot in his neighborhood. I was 9-years-old, and it was terrifying.
I keep thinking of that afternoon, and all the moments that came after it, all the times when people made an effort to let me know that they felt I didn't deserve the space I was taking up, just because of who I am. I keep thinking of all the violence we - people of color, women, immigrants, basically all the groups Trump and his supporters hate - have had to deal with, and the people who celebrated our pain every step of the way. To know that last night, they won - however temporarily - makes me sick to my stomach.
[Photo: Getty Images]
And now, here we are. This is the morning after, and this is what it feels like. Like everything good in my life, no matter how big or small - that show I was excited to watch, that new relationship, my plans for the weekend - has all been stripped of its shine. It's longing to be too young to feel the full weight of this dark turn we've taken, and wishing that my mom was here to hug me and make it all OK somehow. It's knowing that so many of us still aren't safe, and that this fear is all by design.
But in spite of everything - in spite of myself, even - I can feel hope growing somewhere deep inside of me, without my permission. Those of us who have the most to lose, we've always had to fight. The rights that we have now were never just given to us; to be who we are and to live our lives freely was hard-won, and I know it's in me, in all of us, to keep pushing forward. We may have been mistaken in thinking that maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't have to fight so hard anymore, but we can come back from this. We've come too far, and no one - not one angry, hateful man nor his followers - can keep us down. We can't allow that.
So today, let yourself be sad if that's how you feel. Cry. Stay in bed. Get angry. I get it. Do whatever you have to do to feel ok again and don't shame yourself for the length of time it takes you to get there. This is no small blow, after all. But I will ask just this one thing of you. Make the decision that at some point - maybe not today or even tomorrow - but some day soon, you will find it in you to stand up again. Push past the desire to do what's easy and stop caring and instead, join the fight. You're valued, your life is important, and we need you.
[Photo: Getty Images]