If you had told younger me that in 2016 a woman would be running for president, I would have said, “Duh.” I was raised by strong, talented, amazing women, and if you think at any point they ever let me believe there was something a woman couldn’t do, then you’re a goddamn idiot and this piece isn’t for you.
I was raised by my mother and her mother. I spent my summers with my father’s mother. I was joined by my aunt for Christmas. My every moment from birth, to the present has been lined by incredible women. Women who did more than they ever thought they could. Women who told me I could always do more, earn more, be more. Women who never stopped, despite all odds being against them.
If I haven’t said it already, let me say it now – I come from a long line of badass women. So imagine my utter destruction when I watched someone as disgusting as Donald Trump become the president-elect. A man who not only says, but does, “grab em by the pussy,” his words not mine. A man who calls women fat and says he’d be deeply upset if he got home and dinner wasn’t ready. A man who has shown complete disrespect and disregard for women.
Imagine the pressure in my chest as my soul was crushed when Donald Trump became the president-elect. A man who seems to think “blacks” and “inner cities” are synonymous. A man who supports racially charged policies like Stop and Frisk. A man who is actively supported by and surrounds himself with white supremacists.
Imagine the fear in my voice when I called home to those bad ass women. The women, who maybe for the first time in my existence, felt the same fear I did. The women who bravely told me to be strong and reminded me of our lineage. The women who so boldly told me we’d get through this, as their voices quivered for the first time ever. Imagine the fear when I said, “I’m scared,” and they said, “I know.”
In that moment, we collectively felt the grief and the struggle and the pain and the hurt of our lineage of bad ass women. In that moment we each gave ourselves permission to stop being strong for the sake of being strong. We gave ourselves permission to feel, to hurt, to cry, to worry. In that moment we were human.
While on the phone with my mom I told her, “I thought we already did this.” I grew up hearing stories of the women in my family standing up to injustice. My mother was arrested at sit ins. My grandmother led integration efforts in the schools. My great-grandmother provided a safe haven for the children of the neighborhood so their mothers and fathers could work and provide. I thought we had already been here and done this. I thought we were ready to really move forward. Racism was being fought on a micro and systemic level, not in a blatant and obvious, day to day way. I thought we had already done this.
And just like that, without missing a beat, my mother checked my privilege. “I have, but you haven’t.” I had been told story after story of strong women overcoming adversity, fighting injustice, and lifting each other up and over barriers but I didn’t have my own.
I want to take a moment to say I am in no way minimizing my own personal struggles and obstacles. While it might have taken me quite a bit of time and work, I fully acknowledge that I have, and at times still do, battle my own demons.
That being said, I didn’t live during Jim Crowe, the Civil Rights Movement, or Roe v Wade. They did. My mother was not diminishing my over-comings. She was giving me an invitation. Inviting me to join the ranks of the bad ass women before me. An invitation to fight for what I believe in. Each one of them found their way to “take down the man.” Now, it’s my turn.
In that moment, my mother challenged me. She passed the baton and challenged me to find my own way to speak up and fight. She challenged me to channel my pain and hurt into change. Change for myself. Change for my peers. Change for my future daughter/niece/god daughter/bad ass woman in training.
And with that, I challenge each and every one of you of all identities and genders, to find your path to change. As my ancestors sang, well before me, we shall overcome…by any means necessary.