The past four years have been needlessly cruel and violent in ways that many of us expected and in ways that even our nightmares could not have revealed. While I wanted the inauguration day to feel fresh and new and solemn, I was frightened for the most part. Coupled with his inhumane politics, where cruelty was really the only point, Donald Trump inspired a sharp rise in hate crimes, a surge in militia groups, and an uncontrolled surge in violence by white supremacists, culminating in an attempted coup on The Capitol in four years Nation just weeks before inauguration. Trump has a way of tainting everything he touches, and although he was absent from the inauguration, I sensed his presence and feared the violence of his supporters.
When you look at our nation’s violent origins and our continuing unforgivable shortcomings, there is little to be said about Trump and the terrorism he sparked. But it is also true that our nation has seen a unique mess in the past four years. As a journalist on gender, work, and immigration, there is no real way to get across the alarm I felt every time Trump went to Twitter, or I got a breaking news notification on my phone because I knew it meant that something would change the living conditions of the people I report on fundamentally – and almost never for the better.
I understand the relief people express at this moment, and I hear them when they say they just want things to get “normal” again. I understand that they want a president who is not an international catastrophe and embarrassment; They want a functioning adult, a president who is not a tearful, cruel and petty despot. I can empathize with these feelings and the optimism many Americans express for the Biden-Harris administration. But I learned a long time ago not to trust politicians.
During President Biden’s inaugural address, I was delighted with his strong commitment to racial justice. I am moved by his promise to give 11 million undocumented immigrants a route to citizenship and to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour. These are things my President should want, but I know none of these would be on the table if it weren’t for the blood, sweat and tears of countless people on the ground and in grassroots movements across generations who have fought for all we have – no matter who is in office – because they believed we deserved so much more and better than any legislator was ever ready to give us. These are the people I thank today and these are the people to whom we owe our democracy. Thanks to them, so many of us can live worthy lives.
I also think of the people who have not seen a more empathetic president who could perhaps be moved to act. I think of the essential workers gasping for breath and saying goodbye to their families on an iPad. I think of the blacks who have been robbed of decades of life when they were shot dead by homicide cops or otherwise slowly knocked down by the ubiquitous nature and ferocity of white supremacy. I think of them Father who died by suicide after he was separated from his family at the border and the countless people who had disappeared while waiting for asylum or were otherwise deported to their deaths.
We’re not getting these people back. We’re not getting back the past four years. We have lost so much and it will take time to get a full account of what we just endured. The weeks ahead may not be easy as we live among the millions of people who starved for bile and racism after another four years. If you are happy today, enjoy it. When you’re relieved, breathe it in. If you’re feeling something else – a nervousness and a discomfort difficult to describe – like me, you might just be ready for the impact. Please comfort yourself with the knowledge that we are protecting one another, as we have always done and how we will continue to do so. The only difference is that our churches now have more opportunities to fight.
Tina Vasquez is a senior reporter for Prisma. She deals with gender equality, labor rights and immigration. Follow her on Twitter @TheTinaVasquez.
Prism is a nonprofit news agency, run by BIPOC, that puts the spotlight on the people, places and topics that our national media currently does not cover. Through our original reporting, analysis and commentary, we challenge dominant, toxic narratives that are immortalized by the mainstream press, and work to create a complete and accurate record of what is happening in our democracy. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.