When it became apparent that Trump would win the election, I immediately called my parents to tell them. I was in disbelief, I was angry, and I was frightened by what the future might look like for people of color in America. But when I called my parents they seemed to have none of the same concern. “It’s disappointing,” My mother said. “But what can you do. You just have to keep going.” The next day, after Hillary had given her concession speech and President Obama had assured us that the the sun would continue to rise, I called my grandmother only to hear the same thing. “We’ll deal with it the best we can.”
Their reactions were puzzling and seemed to suggest a clear generational gap between how my peers and my elders would perceive the outcome of this election. The devastation of Trump’s win was universally felt by my friends of color, with whom I mourned and seethed and speculated on what a Donald Trump presidency might portend for us. Almost fifty percent of our fellow voting Americans had been, at the very least, willing to eschew the vile, hate-filled rhetoric that fueled Trump’s campaign to help him ascend to the Presidency. Simply stated, those attitudes terrified us.
By Wednesday, my friends and I were strategizing about how to protect people of color from Trump policies and, more immediately, from Trump supporters. They were protesting in front of Trump Towers, crying in Hillary Headquarters, and reaching out to each other for support and guidance, but my family’s perspective remained the same. “Deal with it.” I didn’t understand how they could give up so easily.
But then I remembered that my parents and grandparents lived through the Jim Crow South. They went to segregated schools, they watched the march to Selma on television and watched LBJ sign the Civil Rights Act. They lived through the Republicans’ Southern Strategy and "Welfare queens" and Harvey Gantt. They know what it's like to live in a world where people feel emboldened enough to call them "niggers" to their face, in public, without any repercussions, social or otherwise. My grandmother knows what it’s like to be forced to give birth in the basement of a hospital because there were no beds for Blacks. My mother's generation knows what it’s like to be driving through Mississippi at night, to be pulled over by a cop, and be told not to stop again until they leave the state. My family knows what it’s like to see your leaders killed off one by one. They know what it’s like to see decades of progress yanked back by racism disguised as law and order and trickle down economics. But they’ve also seen that backlash subside, giving way to the landslide election of a Black man whose middle name is Hussein.
So it’s not surprising that their reaction to Trump’s win was one of disappointment rather than shock and disbelief. They might be angry and they might also be scared. Perhaps they hid those emotions to comfort me. But they’ve seen the tide of racial justice roll in and roll back out again time and time again, and this time is no different. “We’ll just have to deal with it the best we can,” is not a concession, but a mantra, for the continued struggle that faces people of color in this country, particularly women of color. It is a call to the resilience and, dare I say, stamina, that remains a necessary tool of survival for Black women in America. “Dealing with it,” is continuing to fight, no matter how many times the tide of white supremacy pushes you back.
For younger generations, Donald Trump's election feels like the world is turning upside down, but for people of color who have lived through the last fifty years, this is just a return to a reality they know all too well. People of color are always fighting for their lives, and sometimes the fight gets harder. It could take us decades to recover not only from Trump's policies but from the racist, xenophobic, islamaphobic attitudes that he's re-legitimized in mainstream political discourse. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my family, it’s that we’ve done it before and we’ll do it again, we’ve just got to “deal with it.”