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  • Joia

Post-Election rhaps I, II, III, & IV

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

[I was still in the States for the 2016 presidential election. Black friends were not prepared for hordes of white folk suddenly feeling frightened and dispossessed. They went ballistic over safety pins. White people wearing them were happily telling newly arrived Muslims in grocery stores how to prepare Thanksgiving turkeys, ignorant of the problem. No one appeared to remember that Dutch and Norwegian citizens wore safety pins under their collars during the Nazi occupation to communicate safety and friendship. On the other hand, everyone was seething about The 53%. Monsters were everywhere, gloating and intolerant.]

I. On Equality

We are all rounded up that day

Yellow stars

Green and purple stars

Pink triangles

Black triangles

Scarlet letters

Blue law breaking

Females and males

Cut and uncut

Crying with fear

Hunger and anger freezing

Our hands, now

Strapped tightly

Against bloody

Backs, the Mark of

Cain still

Smoldering on

Forehead flesh, the

Grease and filth

Of hate

Rubbed into what

Is left of our


Heaved into

Windowless boxes

We are transplanted

To chilling chambers

Where our screams

Vacuum up the

Stale air and the

Minutest symbol of

Our shattered

Identities is

Stripped from our

Shaking frames and

What we

Know of our



To a tiny



Small, it


Deep inside




And our Black



Brown eyes


Our eyes can finally meet

Ah, we breathe

As poison fills our lungs


At last

17 November 2016

II. On the matter of safety pins

The key here is "safe," as in, "I don't feel safe after this election." Safety cuts across classes, ethnicities, queer identities, religious devotees, generations, genders and transgenders. I thought this was about ME saying I don’t feel safe? And if you don’t feel safe now, either, I am saying that you are not alone?

No, I get that it’s not that simple. In any case, I may or may not wear a safety pin and even if I do, I may or may not wear one all the time. You don’t know if I forgot to put it on or decided not to wear it that day. For that matter, you don’t know if I have a semicolon tattoo, or if it’s covered up, or if I belong to or just support those who wear it to symbolize the agonizing decision to extend rather than end their “life sentences,” razor blade in hand. You don’t know, looking at me, if I am fearful every single day that the wrong cop will stop the wrong car at the wrong time in the wrong place and my child will be in that car, my child will be shot dead because that cop cannot see my child, that cop can only see skin color. Looking at me, you don’t know if I was stranger-raped or acquaintance-raped, or if ER doctors nearly sterilized a naked brutalized girl on the operating table, you don’t know if my family disowned me for the violence that destroyed a hymen-intact virgin. You don’t know, looking at me, if I am gay or straight, a professor or poet or violinist, a citizen of this country or a different one, or of both. You don’t know. And I don’t know these things, looking at you.

But what I do know is that people wearing safety pins since last Tuesday night ARE the same people who grieve for Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Sam Dubose, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray. They ARE the same people who grieve for Matthew Shepard, for Orlando, for people the world over brutally executed for falling in love. They ARE the same people who grieve for the millions of girls who bleed and scream when hands hold them down and slice off their genitals with broken pieces of dirty glass. They ARE the same people who grieve for the viciously raped and discarded bodies of women overpowered, maimed, mutilated, and murdered, who grieve for those sold into the unspeakable terror of slavery and trafficking. They ARE the same people who grieve the horrific slaughter and continual desecration of native peoples and peaceful cultures. They ARE the same people who grieve the loss of voice in this democracy, who grieve the existence of a welcoming and nurturing country and the respectful admiration of other nations. They ARE the same people who grieve the burning crosses, the graffiti of hate and swastikas, who grieve the theft of jobs and promotions lost, who grieve the vulgar interruptions of the mean-spirited and the careless violence bullies inflict on the innocent, who tire of the perpetual need to educate and forgive the ignorant and small-minded.

And the need to educate and forgive is no longer a mere exercise in self-dignity: those who require the most clarity of wisdom and the brightest light of understanding are now in the dangerous position of being able to cause more pain, more grief, more torture, more hurt, more death, to more people on this earth than ever before.

That does not mean that safety pin wearers judge oppression in a different light than before. They have not changed. Events changed around their hearts and minds, around the compassionate nature of their souls.

But the hands that reach across our splintered identities to find a new unity will no longer be given to us by the leaders we looked to for redemption—they are OUR hands. We must now keep each other safe.

III. On the 53%

So the morning after the election I ran into the [white, female] owner of my neighborhood coffee shop, walking her dog. She was walking her dog. I was shuffling my way around the block feeling like Gilead had crept up around me overnight and I had very stupidly not noticed and now it was too late. Anyway, she asked me what was wrong. I looked up surprised because, seriously, today, what’s wrong? But she seemed to be genuinely asking about my health so of course I immediately thought, shit, the 53%, she’s one of them. But then shuffling through more leaves I remembered the 58%. And the 37%. It’s not 53% of white women who voted for him, it’s 53% of the 37% of the white women among the 58% of all eligible voters who actually voted. So it’s something like 15-18% of US white women. This very rational rationalization did not help the overall nausea of waking up in a world where the improbable suddenly outshone the contingently possible, but it helped me not look at people suspiciously. At least in my neighborhood.

IV. On Being Woke

My Caucasian skin felt worse than ever before, worse than when I youthfully rejected a heritage of Nazis and slaveowners, worse than when the Wells Fargo security guard went for his gun at the sight of me and my brown baby, across the street from the university where I had just been hired as assistant professor of philosophy. This was worse, though still only the tiniest fraction of what my black friends go through daily and what my daughter would go through as she got older when her head reached the car window and we would get stopped for idiotic reasons and store clerks would follow her around the aisles before kicking her (and my credit card) out to the street. So I decided to speak to a minister friend. She’s a Methodist minister. African American.

Am I the enemy now. No, of course not, you’re woke, nobody thinks that, everybody knows you’re woke. But am I? Was I ever?

Don't matter how woke

I am

In my


State of



Lack of race

My Euro-mongrel face


Mirrors of conquered


Don't matter how woke

I am

How much I


White feminist


Navy suit-wearing

Paid labor

My office sign

In initials

To throw off the

Gender police

I was a man

In drag

Monday through Friday

The Second


Waiting for me

In the


Parking lot

Don't matter how woke

I am

Climbing stairs

In this four-story

La Jolla


Hiding from those

Averted eyes


Fingers locking doors

Bodies hurrying across

The street

Safe inside now I’m

Climbing stairs


Diaper bags and the

Briefcase full of

Logic exams and the

Groceries and a

Jug of water

My little brown baby


Holding on

To me

Don't matter how woke

I am

In this



Former republic of

Disunited states

Where democracy has

Never breathed for my

Black and

Brown sisters

Where freedom

Barely rings

For them


28 November 2016


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