I will no longer argue with anyone who shames me for not voting, and you shouldn’t either
We do not have to be gaslit. We do not have to justify ourselves and our decisions ad infinitum.
I am the reason Donald Trump was elected. I woke up early the morning of November 8th, 2016, took my sweet ass time in the shower like I always do (a nigga doesn’t like to feel dirty, okay?!), walked to the train, found myself in the churchy spirit so I turned on Chance’s Coloring Book on my way to work through the swarming hive we call the subway. Then I came home, and never once bothered to stand in the line that wrapped around the corner to cast a vote for the only alternative, Hillary Clinton. But I did notice that lined featured more white Harlemnites than I had ever seen in the neighborhood before, a perfect representation of the quickly growing boa constrictor of gentrification that had already began squeezing the air out of this community long before Trump ever arrived in the White House.
I had other things to do. I had a book proposal to write. I had to call my mother, because I hadn’t talked to her in over a month, and she wasn’t feeling so well. I had to straighten up my apartment before the guy I was seeing came over later. And, most importantly, I had to keep my hands clean of supporting another white supremacist imperialist gaining (even more) power. Like I said, a nigga doesn’t like to feel dirty.
I won’t spend too much time going over the reasons why I didn’t feel compelled to vote for Hillary Clinton. You all already know about how she envisions many of my friends, family and loved ones as superpredator animals in need of putting down. You know about how she assisted with her husband’s relentless push to lock as many of us up as possible for political gain, her tacit support of his sexual violence against other women, and you may or may not know about how she helped destabilize a whole region of Black and Brown communities too.
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Some of you know all of this and don’t care. Many of you know this and held your nose to support her anyway. She was the lesser of two evils. Trump would be worse, and if you couldn’t eliminate harm, you would at least try to reduce it (which usually meant only reducing it for the people you empathized with, not the many people who would not gain even a bit of relief under Clinton either, but using the generalized term “harm-reduction” meant you didn’t have to think about that).
But some of you stayed home just like me. We all said we were searching for new answers and better solutions, but after 2 years I still find myself in the same old conversations, defending the same old decisions to people who make the same old choice to support the same old type of anti-Black liberal candidate, all while they continue to blame me for what I did on November 8th, 2016, and what I plan to do again in 2020. How could I ever get to new and better answers doing that?
I spent way too much of the last two years justifying my decision not to vote. I wrote article after article to prove just how much I’d thought out the choice to abstain, that it wasn’t just a spur of the moment decision made without considering the consequences. I wasn’t just a callous, careless, stupid child who doesn’t know about politics. I knew the issues. I knew the candidates. I knew their platforms. My decision was informed, and it was just as legitimate as anyone else’s.
But my meticulous political analyses never stopped me from being blamed for Donald Trump, and honestly I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care if anyone thinks operating from a position that refuses to leave the most marginalized behind for incremental gains for myself is naive. I don’t care if others won’t admit that guilting oppressed people for someone else choosing to oppress them is victim-blaming—it still is. I don’t care if Trump is elected again in 2020, and I don’t care if I could magically do anything to stop it by filling out one little bubble once every four years.
And I don’t care to soften my stance by constantly reiterating that other people might have good reasons for choosing to vote, or that I’m not trying to discourage anyone else by not voting myself. Honestly, from what I’ve heard many voters don’t have good reasons, and the more I can get folks to join me in looking for new, better solutions the better.
Their reasons usually involve a commitment to the same liberalism that ensures Black people will always be harmed. Their reasons usually revolve around a lack of regard for anyone but them and theirs, which is why they are so quick to gaslight and shame and abuse us as if we aren’t people worthy of their concern. This is the same lack of regard behind supporting a candidate who pledges to continue supporting violent regimes and policies that criminalize the poorest Black people and calling that “harm reduction” just because a person’s affirmative action might be a little safer.
I care about affirmative action too, but I care about those it has never benefited even more. I care about those who still don’t have access to health care even after Obamacare, and whom Obamacare was never meant to assist. I care about the reality that liberation never trickles down, and the fact that so many people seem to have given up on it entirely.
I care about those of us still trying to find new and better solutions, and who aren’t interested in shaming and abusing each other in the process. I care about actually building those new and better solutions, which means being in conversation with other people who have abstained, not remaining in an endless cycle of defending myself against anyone else.
I care about implementing abolitionist practices in my own life, about giving more support to the elders in my community than to any white supremacist politician. That call to my mother was worth more than any other thing that could have happened that day. I care about spending my time materially and measurably helping those in need in my rapidly gentrifying community which is currently being cleared of Black folk by a “progressive” mayor and a “progressive” governor, and who would not gain even a bit of relief under a “progressive” president’s foot either.
I care about my mother, who, just a few months after I talked to her that November 8th, found out she had a potentially fatal illness. I care about how she told me she ain’t vote for either of those abusers either, and how proud she was of me for staying true to my beliefs. I care about whether she feels guilted about staying true to hers, and how I would fight anyone who might make her.
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We do not have to be gaslit. We do not have to justify ourselves and our decisions ad infinitum. We do not have to make those who would harm us the center of our attention all the time, and ignore the needs of one another in the process. We deserve care and support along this back breaking journey of trying to get free.
None of us are callous, careless, stupid children, and children don’t deserve to be dismissed either. We need each other, and our children need us too. I want every Black kid to grow up knowing that nothing they have ever done is the reason this world wants to kill them. To do this I need to also know that nothing I have ever done, except support this world’s violence in either GOP or Democratic clothing, is the reason it tries to kill me either. Trump, or any other white supremacist, is not any Black person’s fault and never has been.
I want to show Black children that there isn’t a limit to their imagination, that there can always be a world beyond two evil, binary choices, and to show them this I have to live it. To show them, I have to believe in my imaginings of liberation as well, and believe in yours, too. To believe this, I can’t always feel so threatened as to defend it.
So if anyone thinks I am the reason Donald Trump was elected, that’s alright. My words are not meant to bargain with those who manipulate, gaslight, or abuse Black people in any other way any more than my vote was. I’m not writing to try and change anyone’s mind any longer. I am writing to try and free them.