For anyone hoping for a clear and unyielding repudiation of U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration — or, at the very least, political punishment for the administration's abject failure to properly handle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — the 2020 presidential election is nothing short of a disappointment. As November 3 turned into November 4, voters watched Florida go from blue to red to blue before Trump secured its 29 electoral votes — the byproduct of Democrats treating the Latinx vote as a monolithic throwaway. Texas stayed red; Senator Lindsey Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell secured re-election. And now, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, Georgia, and Michigan are all too close to call.
Simply put, the so-called “Blue Wave” many hoped would wash away the last four years of this nation's political history has not yet come.
In response to another painful reminder that the U.S. relies on the systematic disenfranchisement of Black and brown people to thrive, many righteously angry voters took to Twitter to call for a national reckoning. “America deserves to burn,” some said. “The United States has some reckoning to do with itself,” others claimed.
And while dismantling the systems of oppression that can carry less-than-mediocre abusers like Donald Trump all the way to the White House is essential to the vitality of this nations’ democracy, any “reckoning” that comes as the result of either a Donald Trump re-election — or a narrow and sure-to-be-legally contested Joe Biden victory — will come at the expense of Black people, brown people, poor people, LGBTQ+ people, and immigrants. Those who need to learn the lessons borne out of the 2016 and 2020 elections won’t. And if they do, it will be far too late.
It was too late for the over 230,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 — the majority of whom are Black, Latinx, and living in communities that lack access to adequate health care. While white voters prioritize the economy over public safety, Black and brown people make up the majority of essential workers. And while white parents protest school mask mandates, Black and brown parents are fearful of sending their children to school due to the disproportional rate COVID is ravaging their communities.
I can’t glean a single lesson from the reality that over 5,400 immigrant children were forcefully separated from their parents at the border. Lawyers appointed by a federal judge still cannot find over 500 parents of children the government took from them. Some of these children are infants. What “lesson” is worth these babies never knowing their parents?
What should we tell the immigrant women who were forcefully sterilized at ICE detention centers? Should this electorate lay “coerced hysterectomies” on the altar of woke white people and call it an even trade? Why wasn’t this nation’s long history of sterilizing Black and brown women against their will — including Indigenous women, Puerto Rican women, and Black women who were experimented on sans anesthesia in the name of “gynecological advancement” — enough to unequivocally condemned these barbaric practices and ensure they never happen again, let alone in the year 2020 and, perhaps, regardless of who wins the presidency, in the years to come?
LGBTQ+ people shouldn’t have to lose their constitutional right to marry — a possibility given legislative nods made by Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito that marriage quality should be overturned at the beginning of the Court’s legislative session. The appointment of Trump's third conservative Supreme Court Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, only furthers that narrative.
Trans people should not be denied access to health care, housing, and other Title IX protections so that people who are too uncomfortable confronting their racist, transphobic, and/or bigoted parents at Thanksgiving dinner can feel better about being “civil” and “kind” and “kumbaya-esque” during family gatherings and contentious Facebook debates.
And it won’t be the white, Catholic, “pro-life” woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant that will have a hard time accessing abortion care should Roe v Wade fall. While she is statistically just as likely to access abortion care as anyone else, it will be the Black, brown, young, and poor people living in rural areas that will no longer be able to access the abortion care they need. It will be those living in the 10 states with trigger laws —laws that will automatically make abortion illegal should Roe fall — that will be forced to find child care, lodging, travel, and the funds to acquire a legal abortion in one state, two states, perhaps four states over.
Does America need to reckon with its racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic history that has permeated every fiber of our political landscape? Absolutely. But before we enthusiastically call for the empire to burn and the nation to “learn its lesson,” we need to stop and consider who stands to endure the most harm in the name of privileged people’s ongoing education.