Resetting Fractures in a Broken Democracy Run by Racists
Psalm 34:20 hits different when you’re sitting in recovery after you’ve had major surgery to repair fractured bones. “He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.”
There I was lying in my mom’s spare bedroom. A room that had been previously occupied by my baby brother. It was littered with all of his high school trophies, ribbons, and plaques. And there I lay in the middle of it all, my most significant achievement to date being sloppily falling down at the nail salon and breaking multiple bones. My trophy was the bedpan that my mom had to regularly check and change. I couldn’t help but wonder how my life had gotten flip turned upside down.
Our country is having its own “bedpan” moment. Our lives have felt broken during the Trump presidency. An administration that has proudly and firmly rooted itself in anti-Blackness, xenophobia, transphobia, aporophobia (hatred of the poor), etc. Trump and his advisors’ policies and rhetoric have been violent in countless ways to many Americans, with COVID-19 serving as the apex of their complete and total disregard.
Americans have voted in record numbers via early voting and mail-in ballots as a civic response to this administration. As we process how to move forward in the days ahead, I think about my own lessons regarding healing.
We’ve got to be honest about the breaks. Most of white America will try to frame Trump’s presidency as an anomaly. Black folks know that Trump isn’t the exception; he’s the rule. If we are to collectively move forward, we must recognize Trump is more than just a symptom; he is the manifestation of America’s racist roots. White America didn’t have on a pair of beer goggles in 2016 and just now decide to sober up (what a hangover). This is who white America is.
We must remember the smallest of fractures create life-long impacts. In the first winter after my surgery, I became one of “those people” who complain about acute pain somewhere in their body and predict that “a storm’s a-commin.’” The titanium screws in my foot respond to atmospheric changes, a post-surgery effect I will have to live with.
Likewise, there will be changes in our society that will remain in a post-Trump world. In fact, some pundits have argued that Trumpism will outlive the Trump presidency. We will have to deal with the aftermath of his legacy, regardless of whether he is re-elected. This means that Black people will have to deal with the violence and trauma caused by this administration for years to come…if not the rest of our lives.
We have to recognize the possibility of relapse. Before my surgery, the orthopedic doctor made it very clear that my corrective surgery could result in bone deterioration. A Biden win may create a short-term euphoria. It may even finally inspire what First Lady Melania could never do: help Americans “be best.” Don’t expect it to last. Systemic violence is embedded in our society, and folks will likely keep on keepin’ on Re: antiblackness, racism, homophobia, etc.
Healing takes time. If Trump loses, I believe that many of our white Christian siblings will want to act like the Trump era was an “entanglement” and won’t want to talk about it again—unless, of course, it is to tell Black folks that we should “take heart and move on,” because nothing kills the entanglement vibe more than somebody bringing up something that you would rather they forget (see also: August Alsina).
I also imagine that several of Trump’s co-conspirators and handlers will be like “new phone, who dis” when the Trump presidency ends.
And of course, liberals will try to frame a Biden win like they did something when all they did was re-establish the status quo.
When Trump is out of office—whether it’s in 2020 or later—Black folks have to do the work to make sure our grievances receive proper redress. We can’t afford to buy into the idea that we should “move on” just because it is convenient for other people. Like I said—healing takes time. It’s fluid and dynamic, like most of our human processes. Whether we start the process of healing from Trump this fall or four years from now, we must recognize it will be a long road until we all can proclaim the words of Solomon, “Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones” (Pr 15:30).