I was sitting in the kitchen indulging in my favorite unguilty pleasure - Black Ink Crew Chicago. It was the season finale and Don and the rest of Black Ink were living it up in the D.R. the night before Don’s wedding. There were strippers, tequila shots, naked ladies and no one on the screen had a frown on their face.
They looked to be completely in bliss and I was happy for them. You see, I’m Black. I’m also a Black womxn. Being a Black womxn in America is kinda hard (harder now considering Trump is a president) and if the cops aren’t trying to kill you, then men are trying to rape you. Let’s also not forget the thousands of slurs, microagressions, and bouts of stupidity that are thrown at us on a daily. With that in mind, I love watching shows where Black people can be as free and ratchet and wild as they want. I like to see it as a form of self-care. Kind of like experiencing second hand joy.
It’s hard to experience firsthand joy nowadays.
I never watched Black Ink Crew, which is literally like the abyss of reality television along with Bad Girls Club and Real Housewives of whatever the hell, until 2016. 2016 was the year where all morale, common sense, and all things that would make you stop and think for a second went out of the window.
2016 was the year we elected a fucking deep-fried carrot man into a presidency. And no I’m not talking about the renowned and slightly terrifying comedian, Carrot Top. However, considering America’s choice, he would’ve been a better elect.
Unsurprised Black Girl
Unlike my other friends and the rest of the world, I wasn’t surprised by Trump’s presidential election. Sickened? Yes. Pissed off? Yes. Surprised? No. My reaction was more of an “oh shit” rather than an “OH SHIT!!!” You feel me?
And I guess that’s because I grew up with a family that placed no faith in the system (and, by extension, white people) and America onto me. From a young age I loved Malcolm X and I checked out Ruby Bridges books from the library. I even went to a black as hell church. No joke, there were literally floor to ceiling pictures of benevolent Black Jesus all over the place. Even the crucifixes had little brown Jesuses on them. The first Jesus I knew had dark skin, a goatee and hair nappier than mine.
My dad always taught me to be black and proud and my grandpops, who lived through the Civil Rights and dealt with the KKK in Virginia as a kid, always went on and on about the white man and his devilish tendencies. Clearly now I don’t think white people are the devil. If they were all devils then people like Justin Trudeau and Joe Biden wouldn’t exist.
However, I think the election revealed to the world a side of white people, white inadequacy, white superiority complexes, and white hatred that a lot of people did not know about. And I don’t blame them.
My grandmother always tells me that “the devil was the most beautiful angel” and “the devil knows the Bible too” to remind me that evil isn’t this terrible black, all consuming mass. Evil can literally be the Mr. Rogers in your neighborhood. Evil can be the quietest kid in your class. Sometimes evil can be your own family members.
That’s a hard pill to swallow. Trump forced that on people.
As much as I like to say that I love ripping the blindfold off of people, that I love exposing and calling out, that I love being Petti Labelle ― don’t get me wrong I do ― but no one deserves to have their hopes and belief systems shattered the way it was during this election. No one deserves to have the rug pulled out from under them after having a year of memes and shit shows just for it all to culminate into having a rich, reality tv show Cheeto for president.
If you’re reading this, then it’s too late. Trump is a president and the privileged powers’ bubbles have been popped and no one knows how the hell this happened....well except for the Russians.
Apathy and Complacency aka What the FUCK happened America?
“The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.” - Charles de Montesquieu
The leading question in all the post-election news was just a simple “Why and how did we mess this up?” As per usual, we always forget our past and we always forget that time is an ocean and we are always shifting and confronting ourselves through history.
In his New York Times editorial, Ross Douthat says “something like this happened once before: In the 1960s and 1970s, the culture shifted decisively leftward, but American voters shifted to the right and answered a cultural revolution with a political Thermidor”. Douthat is very correct. The 60’s and 70’s housed some of the most revolutionary movements and leaders ― the Civil Rights movement, the peak and ultimate death of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, the rise of the Black Panther Party, and the rise of Second-wave feminism. Culture became liberal and “left,” but somehow American voters shut that shit down with the 1981 election of a yuck-mouthed Hollywood star ― Ronald Reagan
Back then the same question was, again, “How and why did this happen?”
As Malcolm X said in a premonitory interview, the people became complacent and therefore, when their hopes and dreams were dashed, they became apathetic. Complacency is a feeling of absolute comfort in your current being and apathy is the un-interest and unconcern of that being. They are twin demons. You can’t have one without another. They usually manifest themselves in “Well I’m fine right now and this doesn’t affect me so I’m not gonna get involved with that.”
The years after Barack Obama swooped in like a Black superman and became president, we became complacent. He gave us safety in the Affordable Care Act. He gave us safety in a better economy. He gave us safety in the death of Osama Bin Laden. He gave us safety in bringing our troops back home. He gave us safety in the Amnesty Program. He gave us safety in universal marriage equality. He gave us, and by us I mean people of color, safety in being a black man in power. Obama made us feel safe and in that safety we forgot that that man and his beautiful family were only temporary.
In our complacency, we had no fear of a puffed Dorito becoming president. We joked about it. We created memes. Drumpf 2020. And in that complacency, we bred apathy. We stopped caring about the election when our dream Jew, Bernie Sanders, lost the primaries. We concocted a bubble of having no choice by demonizing Hillary Clinton in our thoughts while still ignoring the imminent threat of Trump’s popularity. We forced ourselves to stop caring about the election and in that we 1) expected Hillary Clinton to win despite the fact that we did not support her and 2) gave Harambe, a dead fucking gorilla, 11,000 votes. Tits out for Harambe.
We played ourselves as a nation and now we’re here.
The Coatlicue State
In one of her final pieces before her death, Now Let Us Shift, Gloria Anzaldua talks about the Coatlicue State in “The Journey: Path of Conocimiento.” It is a state of pain and rebirth. A state of contradictions. A state that invokes art that comes from conquering your desconocimientos, your ignorances, with conocimiento, knowledge. It is a state that can only occur when one is at their deepest pit of misery and weakness. It is a state of losing and finding. A state whose namesake is the Aztec goddess, Coatlicue, the goddess that represents conflicting identities and mothers who die in childbirth.
As a nation, we are in a coatlicue state. We were ignorant. We underestimated our evils. We had too much faith in a system that didn’t have faith in us. And now we’re here.
“Tormented by self-contempt, you reproach yourself constantly and despair. Guilt and bitterness gnaw your insides and, blocked by your own grand expectations, you’re unable to function” (Anzaldua, 550).
America the great and beautiful is now America the broken and ugly. It has been for sometime. Complacency and apathy have brought us here. The days after Trump’s win, the backwashed taste of stale disappointment and regret filled our mouths. We were filled with what-if’s and shoulda-coulda-woulda’s. We were disappointed in a country that, despite all its shortcomings, some still thought had an ounce of good left. Days after the election we were left unable to function. Unable to articulate our anger, our pain in ways outside of protesting and tears.
America is in a mourning state. We’re mourning the death of a concept we created. Mourning the death of a bubble that protected us. Cocooned us. The death of the haughty thoughts of “well we could never live under an oppressive regime” just to get slapped in the face with an actual oppressive regime.
This is the first time in a long time that “regular” Americans have entered the coatlicue state with those of us who’ve been living in it for decades and centuries. The last time I can remember where the majority of America was in coatlicue was during the Great Depression ― a time where privileged forces got to have a taste of what it was like to be marginalized.
We had too much faith in a system that didn’t have faith in us. And now we’re here.
On SNL, a black comedian made a joke about the election and, as per usual, an angry white liberal bashed him for joking about a “serious matter.” We as POC, LGBTQ+, and womxn folk shouldn’t have to coddle the privileged masses now that they’ve entered the hell of coatlicue with us. We joke about it because we’ve been in the mourning period, the angry period, the overcoming desconocimientos period for so long that it’s laughable. We use jokes as a coping mechanism to deal with the centuries old giant, oppression, that resides on our shoulders ― a giant that just keeps eating and eating and eating, getting heavier and heavier, gorging itself on tyranny and despotism, waiting for us to break.
The blindfold has been ripped off. The carpet has been stolen from beneath your feet. You have been led from Plato’s cave. I’m sorry it was so violent and so jarring, but I’m not sorry for the reveal happening. We cannot stay in the coatlicue state any longer. We had the privilege of having our desconocimientos ripped from us in the descent to coatlicue. We have the conocimientos and we must use it.
Anzaldua cites the next state after coatlicue as being “the call...el compromiso” (Anzaldua, 554). This is the state where you start to engage and commit to yourself and converting into your new self. This is the state where you must confront your own inner inadequacies and hatreds. This is the state where we must recognize our own complacency and our own fuck ups that led us to coatlicue.
As much as we love to blame it on the cousin-fucking hillbillies and the superiority complexed white men that hate all aspects of blackness outside of the one that warms their beds at night, we must realize our own fault in the election of a Cheez Doodle for president. Privileged America now must realize that they weren’t so attuned to the yells of help and beware from the unprivileged masses. Privileged America now must realize and commit to realizing its own faults so we can dig ourselves out of this hell hole.
El Compromiso also speaks of the call. The call is the call to action. It is the call to put out your art and your writings and to release your newly realized conocimientos. Creatives must hear the call and follow it. Generation X-ers must hear the call and forgive their internal guilt. I know you think you could’ve done something to stop this but no matter what you shoulda-coulda-woulda did, it would have only just prolonged the inevitable. The coatlicue state does not disappear when you leave it. It’s always there, waiting to confront you again, waiting for its turn in the cycle of life and spirituality again. It is always there waiting for history to repeat itself again.
And I know that sounds so far off as we are only in the realizing desconocimientos and creative output part of the coatlicue state but I know we will realize and follow the call when it comes. We have no choice. We can’t live in a hell of apathy and misery for the next four years. We can’t whine about having an angry H.R. Pufnstuf for president. Take this as a call to action of sorts. 2016 was a shit show and we cannot allow for the rest of the years to end up like this one because if we lose one more damn legend, I’m creating the DeLorean and going back to 2008 when I could proudly say