Now more than ever, you don’t owe anyone an explanation
Words: Cayleigh Bright | Illustrations: Dale Scogings
The little things have started to sting, haven’t they? The little jokes about a Trump victory coming from those who won’t be affected feel unfunny. The people just playing devil’s advocate to defend Donald Trump’s words and actions can’t seem to see how they’re doing anything wrong, but while you stare at them dead-eyed you’re raging inside.
You’ve been looking into the faces of people who narrow their eyes slightly when you talk about street harassment and still say, “Is it really that bad though?” or try to tell you that those veiled threats are just compliments, that grab-them-by-the-pussy speak is all talk and no action. When you tell them about the men who’ve grabbed you just like that in clubs, on public transport and on the street, they backpedal and want to debate what counts as assault.
You’ve been dealing with derailment: if you make an argument for any social issue you’re told that another issue is bigger, worse, more deserving of your time. The person reminding you about this other issue doesn’t feel passionate about it, they just thought they’d remind you.
You’ve been explaining that yes, you’re aware that Hillary is not a candidate who would be good for PoC, but the one less likely to ruin their lives in unyielding and uncertain terms.
Your favourite shoes were a certain pair of sneakers, but this morning you saw that the brand believes that Trump was the right candidate for America.
You’re unsure where to stand with the problematic faves. Caitlyn Jenner looked like she was going to bring hope to the trans community, then she looked like maybe she was going to be a typical white feminist. Lil Wayne honestly believes that #BlackLivesMatter is a struggle far removed from his own life because he’s wealthy.
In South Africa, you’re sick of having a rapist for a president, and seeing another sexual abuser come to power in the US is making you nauseous.
You’ve been dealing with your harassers continuing to thrive in public life, and being told that you have a hidden vendetta against the rapper who you don’t want performing at your local parties after they tried to rape a woman and couldn’t bring themselves to apologise. He used to be your favourite too.
Someone just told you that things will continue “as normal”, and you’re wondering whether they’d provide that same consolation to the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown Jr and all of the unarmed black men and women killed by a racist police force. You don’t think it would be much good to the Muslim Americans being told to ‘go home’ or worse, the immigrant woman who had a bottle smashed in her face for speaking in her home language in a restaurant, or the women who know that their president does not care about their health or what public or private abuse they’ve endured.
So for now, stop explaining. This is not a suggestion that you keep silent, but that you learn to understand that it’s not your job to educate everyone. Pick your battles. There are people who are unwilling to understand. Know that there are always going to be people so invested in their privilege that this is all just entertainment for them. Keep in mind that Google is free and available to all with internet access.
Don’t feel like you’re losing your grip on reality because you’re feeling emotional about something happening in another country. A person telling you that they would have voted for Trump is also them telling you – if you are not white, not male, and not cisgender and heterosexual – that they do not care much for you, and that is something that hurts universally.
If you’ve made your way out into the world after a day peppered with institutional racism or casual sexism or transphobia, chosen something to wear that won’t get you slut-shamed as a woman or treated like a criminal if you’re a black man, made your way to the only party in town where you feel relatively safe from harassment or worse, where you expect to be surrounded by friends who feel the same way you do, you don’t have to explain yourself to the guy in the group who doesn’t think Trump is that bad.
Take heart from the small things: that if only millennials voted this would have been a landslide democratic victory. That more women of colour are senators than ever before. That this is a backlash, and that every bit of progress in history has been hit by an adverse response by those terrified of change. That you’re absolutely not alone in your fear, or in your fragile hope for a better result in four years’ time.
Save your strength. We’ve got a fight ahead.