To paraphrase Janie Starks in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Black women are “de mule uh de world.” We tote a heavy load and take beating after beating, but we keep moving because there’s always more work to be done.
Janie’s words came to mind when I saw the exit polls from the 2016 Election: 94% of Black women voted for Hillary Clinton. (Contrast that to 54% of white women who voted for the President-elect.) Black women reliably vote for what makes the most sense for themselves and their families, which ultimately translates into what would be best for this country. But even though we were by far Clinton’s biggest supporters, some news sites wagged their fingers at a so-called low minority voter turnout to blame for the upset.
Black women have been major players in every social justice movement in this country’s history, and that involvement and leadership will continue in the next four years and beyond, because, again, there’s always work to be done.
But we need to give ourselves space to voice our fears and concerns, for us to be vulnerable. Because as everyone starts to get a clearer picture of what this odious man intends to do once he’s in office, Black women are more terrified than any other group of what lies ahead. This isn’t maneuvering for a gold medal in the Oppression Olympics, it’s a fact: As the Washington Post reports, according to exit polls, 76% of Black women said they were “scared” of the President-elect’s presidency. Trailing behind were 56% of Black men, 34% of white women, and 26% of white men. “Just under half of Latinas and 40 percent of Latino men” voiced a fear, the Post reported.
What does that fear look like? And how are they finding hope in this not-so-new America? I spoke to six women about how they felt when they learned who this country’s new president is, and how it will (or already has) affected them, their families, and their communities.
How are you feeling? How have the election results affected your life? Please tell us in the comments.
“I Have To Stay Woke For My Children”
Trump’s win was a victory for white male privilege, bigotry, sexism, and bullies all over the world. We teach our kids to treat others as they would [want to] be treated, encourage them to be good sportsmen, help those in need, not judge others. Then a man who was openly endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan wins the job as leader of the free world. The burden of decency has shifted once again and now the rest of us are stuck having to explain why those rules do not apply to the Donald Trumps of the world. Obama never would have gotten away with that.
Donald Trump’s presidency means that I have to stay woke for my children who took up residence in my heart via the foster care system. It means that empathy is at an all-time low in this country, and that my job as an adoptive parent is to continue to advocate for narratives written by Black parents. Because when we learn about each other, tolerance and acceptance of others takes root.
I fear the loss of hard-won civil liberties for women, the poor, people of color, the middle class, and the LGBTQ community. And it turns my stomach to think that a conservative Supreme Court justice will potentially make us all witnesses the overturn of Roe v. Wade and further rollbacks of voting rights. The biggest challenge will be remaining encouraged. It is easy to descend into cynicism.
His presidency, even one term, will test the evolution of my son’s identity…
On election night, I had to calm my 9-year-old son down. He was very worried and nervous about a Trump win. Eventually, I had to make him go to bed and forgo watching the election results in real time together. I told him that no matter who won, life as he knew it would not change. He would still have to make his lunch and go to school in the morning. I explained that Hillary made great headway for a female president, but that she would never get that opportunity. We talked about how one of the candidates had to lose and that’s life.
What I didn’t say was that Trump’s win [means] that my Black children will have to be twice as good to be considered equal in a world that continues to undervalue their existence. My son and I have already had a variation of this conversation, but it is time for me to make that plain.
President Obama was there during his formative years and for eight years, I have praised Black-on-Black love, extolled the virtues of higher education, diplomacy, and the many obstacles our country’s first Black president endured without losing his cool. Far from perfect, Obama took responsibility for the nation’s successes and failures and that is a man for my son to emulate. Of what Trump has shown so far—prejudice, misogyny, disregard for others, and a win-at-all-costs mentality—his presidency, even one term, will test the evolution of my son’s identity as a citizen of the world and a Black man in America.
The morning after the election, I told him that Trump had won. I held him tight, then reminded him that he was safe. I let him watch Trump’s victory speech and pointed out how Trump actually sounded like a human being and that time would tell if he meant what he said. We also watched President Obama’s remarks. Though he may not have completely understood or caught the nuanced messages Obama imparted, I think his comments settled him more than mine.
Van Jones’ comments on how to talk to your children about the election was like a port in a storm. Following his example, I will continue to preach that love trumps hate and model tolerance for people and ideas that do not jive with mine. I trust that everything is in divine order and will call on the ancestors, who overcame more than this, for support.
Nefertiti Austin is a U.S. History college instructor and a certified PS-MAPP trainer who co-leads classes for adoptive and foster parents. She blogs about adoption at Mommie Jonesing, and is currently working on a memoir about adopting as a single woman of color. Austin lives with her two children in Los Angeles.
“We Feel Like Our Family Is Under Attack”
At 10 p.m. on election night, my stomach began to quiver. There were states I thought she would win, but she was still behind in votes, and the votes yet to come in were from conservative counties.
At 10 p.m. I had a sinking feeling that it wasn’t going to go our way. Over the next few days and even this morning, I feel grief. I have lost people close to me before and I have lost a pregnancy, and the feeling I have is similar. My emotions are all over the place. One minute I’m angry, the next minute I have tears in my eyes. Sometimes I am depressed, sometimes I am in denial—pretty much all of the stages of grief (except acceptance). I do not think of it as him winning—my feelings are around loss and the meaning that Hillary Clinton’s loss has and will have on the equality we as a society have been working so hard to achieve.
His presidency reinforces and confirms our suspicion that many and perhaps the majority of white people in America do not value those who are not white and those who are female. They see us as subordinate to them and not worthy of equal rights—even other women devalue women since almost half of white women did not support Clinton. Having a president in this era who is proud to say he devalues so many groups that comprise our country is demoralizing. At the same time I feel angry and determined to continue to stand up for our collective rights and to do my part in our collective struggle for freedom. But I worry about the world coming to an end and my children not having an opportunity to grow up.
My children are 3 and almost 4. My 3-year-old son Ryan has been unaware of current events. My 4-year-old daughter Joie has been closely following my emotional response to the election, to the news, and the discussions my wife and I have throughout the day and night about racial and gender inequality in society.
We will not bow down and we will not back down…
Given the young age of my children, it was important that I not share my anxieties and anger because it is critical that they feel safe and protected during this time. So I followed the advice of my colleague Jane Ward, who recommended age-appropriate scripts for how to discuss the election with your children. I told her, “Sometimes grown-ups are so silly! A lot of grown-ups voted for a meanie. They are soooo silly! We’ll have to make sure they vote for someone better next time. Now go pick out a book you’d like me to read.”
My wife Elaine Harley has very strong ideas about racial and gender inequality. I mean, I have very strong ideas, but she is absolutely unwavering and resolute in her admonition to politicians and lawmakers that they defend the ideals of equality that are part of our constitution. So she says she refuses to accept him as her president. I agree. We will no longer call ourselves African American. We are only Black.
We feel like our family is under attack because this president has vowed to take away our right to be married. His administration is not only hostile to LGBT people, but would like to see all of our rights taken away and will actively work to do that. We discuss how angry this makes us, which brings us back to how upset we are with anyone who voted for him. We will not be friends with any people who supported Trump—we do not want anyone in our lives who purposefully voted to take away our rights.
And we discuss, on a daily basis, what this presidency will mean to Black and Brown people who are economically struggling. The poor. The homeless. The mentally ill. Children in foster care. Families who need social services. LGBTQ youth. We are very worried about how these groups will fare and we believe they will have a very tough road ahead. And we as Black people will have a difficult climb in fighting against racism. It will be harder to use the law to protect against racist policies in employment, housing, education. So we talk about strategies for empowerment. About the possibilities of different coalitions. About what a revolution would look like.
We do not have any concrete plans right now. Economically we will be fine. Our concern is with other African Americans, LGBT folks, with our Muslim friends and South Asian friends, with folks who are already struggling to make ends meet, with people we know who are living with HIV—Pence has said he will redirect funds from HIV services to other areas. As we continue to learn more about his plans, my feelings of dread grow.
Despite everything that has happened and will happen, we use the following mantra: “Still standing, head high!” We will not bow down and we will not back down and we will continue pressing for our liberation. I also pray and have faith in God. I believe God will keep us during the trials and tribulations our country is about to experience. By faith I believe we will be victorious.
“Be Present With A Purpose”
I was honestly at a loss for words. I remember watching the count of the electoral votes for Trump continuously climb thinking that I was dreaming. Feeling defeated, I turned off the television before I heard the official announcement. I woke up the next morning with what had to be over 100 text messages of shared feelings from friends and family of numbness and a sense of disbelief.
His presidency impacts me in many ways as a mother, a woman, and a minority. As I sat in stillness the morning after, I couldn’t help but feel frustration and anger. But along with those emotions I also felt fear as I realized that on some level we will lose the growth that we as a country have gained, but more importantly what we as minorities have gained.
Initially I felt defeated, but I have a strong spiritual relationship with my Heavenly Father. Each day I throw myself into prayer and I realize that we as a people have endured so much and we will get through this. Now more than ever we have to move as one and not allow this election to intimidate us from pushing beyond this. Believe it or not, we have more power than we realize, but unfortunately at times we give the power to the opposition before we give it to ourselves. I have faith that will indeed change.
The morning after was tough in the Parker household. My husband already left for work so it was up to me to break the news to my 5 year old. I’ve had some tough conversations in my life, but this was completely new. Through tears I explained who our new President was and what that meant for her as a little Black girl. The tough part was explaining how some people may treat her differently. My daughter goes to a predominantly white school so you can imagine that my level of anxiety and fear was insane.
As my daughter watched me cry, she simply said “Tomorrow will be a better day,” and she is right! I did not go into much detail because she is still 5 years old and I will not take away all the innocence she has, but I will make her aware. I gave her examples of the words she may hear as well as the situations she may witness and the posture she should take. We raise our girls to have strong character, but when something like this happens, it’s difficult to explain that not everyone is built the same. We cannot be held accountable for the actions of others, but we can be of our own.
As my daughter watched me cry, she simply said “Tomorrow will be a better day…”
My baby girl should not have to fear that a classmate may treat her differently. Or that school faculty may have a nasty disposition towards her. While there are many issues with the upcoming President, one of the biggest ones are race and discrimination. Telling a 5 year old that some people may not like who she is because of her culture or that there are people in the world who are very mean for no reason is tough. The only major issues our children should have to deal with are what toys to put on their Christmas lists or the latest dance craze.
My daughter could not understand why who you love, the color of your skin, or where your ancestors are from should matter. Before taking her to school we prayed and did our positive affirmation for the day, but that day was different. On that day we emphasized who she is as a young Black queen and all that she is capable of accomplishing, because now more than ever our children need us in their corner keeping them focused.
[Moving forward,] being completely aware of local and national political changes is key along with understanding my rights. Without this we have nothing. I feel that it is very important to not only be present but to be present with a purpose. For me, understanding my purpose and continuing to push forward is what will help me to survive. I cannot allow this moment in history to defeat me or my family. But honestly, prayer and maintaining a strong relationship with God is what will allow me to survive in this negative space we are in.
Whitney Alana Parker is a 30-year-old visual merchandiser who also works with the Grass Roots Marketing for adidas. She is also the creative director for kid33 creative, a creative marketing agency with a target on children. Aside from her career, Parker makes domestic mission work a priority in her household, serving those in need across multiple states as a family. Parker currently lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and two daughters.
“WHAT?! Mommy, Donald Trump won?”
Defeated and deflated are words that first come to mind. I think I’m still in shock. This is mostly because Donald Trump has done such egregious things prior to his campaign and during that it seemed so clear to me why voting for him was NOT an option. I’ve refused to watch the news or have deep discussions about the results.
His presidency is a regression in the milestones made by the Obama presidency. This was our first time voting in a presidential election, and I first felt like my vote didn’t count, which was disappointing. We’re from the U.S. Virgin Islands and I previously worked in Congress for our delegate, so [I] only voted back home to be able to vote for my boss and stay connected to those politics.
My biggest fears include:
[the] undoing of policies critical to women’s rights and other policies that have worked to level the playing field for minorities,
his cabinet and SCOTUS appointees who may leave legacies difficult to undo,
a colossal failure [of] international politics and diplomacy,
the disappointment of the highest office in the land being occupied by a bigot sexist who serves as no role model for my sons,
[and] a regression in political and social awareness. A tear in the fabric of what makes us. A blow to respect.
This election is a reminder for people of color not to get too comfortable.
I picked up my 4 year old from school on 11/8 and saw he had a hand made sticker saying “I voted.”
When he got in the car, he asked me out of the blue whether I wanted him to vote for Hillary Clinton. A serious convo facilitated by him then ensued; in his toddler way [he let] me know that Donald Trump is bad and says mean things, but that Hillary Clinton says good things. And that he voted for her. He also shared that some of his friends voted for Donald Trump because he was a boy.
In that moment, I was super surprised and proud of his awareness of the world around him. We listen to the news on the way to school and apparently [he] had also watched some things at his Dad’s house, but [I] hadn’t realized that he was processing it. It also made me sad because this election felt like such a burden. [So much] stress as the country chose between Hillary and Donald that I wished he didn’t have to face this along with us. Especially at 4.
I’m sure you could understand my frustration the next morning when having to share with him that the bad man won. I was frustrated trying to come up with reasoning as to why I constantly disciplined my son on his behavior and not to do or say mean things, but [had to] share that we live in a country where millions of people had written him a blank check, turned a blind eye, and effectively said, “It’s ok. We’ll reward you, we’ll let you win any way.”
His first response was “WHAT?! Mommy, Donald Trump won?” The best I could come up with was to tell him that sometimes, even when you do bad things, people give you a second chance. But with that second chance, you have to do your very, very best job and secretly hope for the best.
Prayer [is how I plan on surviving and thriving during the next four years].
This election is a reminder for people of color not to get too comfortable. With Obama’s presidency, many in various communities felt it signaled a political and social awakening and transition. The extreme police brutality in the last few months and lack of justice has shown us otherwise. Trump being elected is further proof never to turn a blind eye to the systematic and pervasive oppression that exists in this country.
It also means that we have to work not to rely on government as we know that this administration in particular will not be putting forth policies that favor my partner, sons, brothers, uncles, and friends.
There is also extreme caution and fear with not knowing the heart of those around us. One thing that [my partner] mentioned was that you don’t know who is racist, but Trump’s election showed that many more people that we realized are racist and prejudiced. Because of this it has made him more aware just in daily activities like walking to work or getting to his car.
Now more than ever, we have to be as resilient as ever. For me, this means doing the best that I can for my family. Supporting all the Black males I care about especially, and doing whatever I can to be there for those that I care about.
Makeda Okolo, 32, is originally from St. Croix and currently resides in Washington, DC. Okolo works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Congressional Affairs and is mom to Che (4) and Jasir (4 month). She is also member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
“One Man Can Not Take Away Your Pride Or Evoke Fear”
Honestly I was not in shock. I had been following the race for awhile and unfortunately I work in systems where these messages are often reinforced. But I will say I was in pain for my children, and the community of children I advocate for who also watched the process and I knew would be devastated.
For me this election endorses that we still have a lot to overcome as a community of people. It also endorses that so many people are ignorant and have no factual base for their arguments. It validates for me that it is not the people in power we need to convince. It’s the new generation that will lead our future that we need to prepare to be more conscious.
My older daughter Kennedy, 9, was extremely invested in this election. She goes to a predominately white school that had very strong opinions about who they wanted to win. She had heard some of the racist and sexist comments from conversations between her father and I, [and on the] news and radio. So that night she was very anxious.
When she woke up that morning, which was a school day, I said to her “Kennedy, he won.” She literally just stood still. For a moment I thought she was still sleeping. I could just see the disappointment in her face. So in that moment I just let her get ready, shower, and we said nothing. We just stayed in our feelings. We then got in the car for our 20 minute, one-on-one car ride, and I said “Kennedy, let’s talk.”
I was in pain for my children, and the community of children I advocate for…
I turned off the radio and I said, “You know you’re a Queen, right?” I reminded her of the Power of God, the lack of power of one man, and how it has no bearing on her achievements.
I tell her every car ride how valuable she is. She already knew she was great, and has already faced tribulations. She looked at me and was like, “Mom, it’s cool. We been through way worst.” [sic]
My heart literally smiled in that moment because it reminded me of our strength and resiliency, but also her innocence. She’s still a child and for her she believes we can get through anything. And for me I was like, Damn, I guess we can…
As a childhood mental health therapist I do tons of activities regarding cultural diversity, understanding feelings, and building self-esteem. I immediately did a feeling activity with all my students and daughter that was a explorative way of understanding how we wear our feelings on our bodies. Me and both my children made DIY Orbeez stress balls to help decrease anxiety and fear. But most importantly—and as far as my long-term plan as a parent—I am just being present. Allowing her to have open dialogue, ask questions, and just be a ear to listen. I’ll continue to do everything I was doing before this election. Building her up, raising her strong, and feeding her facts!
[A] message for our children:
Hold your head high. Our ancestors have fought to move mountains. We will continue to soar through the peaks and valleys. One man can not take away your pride or evoke fear. You will stand tall like the Kings and Queens you are. Who is president doesn’t validate your greatness; your achievements and resiliency show who you are. Keep pushing, that is what builds strength. Keep fighting, that’s what builds hope. And continue to love because that’s what truly keeps you free.
“My Biggest Fears Have Already Started Happening”
[I was] stunned. I stayed up as long as possible and watched the percentages come in from the rural areas in various states. I actually cried around 12:30 a.m. and decided to turn off the TV and just pray that what I saw would change in the morning. It didn’t. My 3 year old came to my room around 5:30 a.m. and I just hugged on her extra tight.
A Donald Trump presidency means the hatred [and] acts of violence against people of color and any minority group will be amplified 100 fold. It’s already happening. My biggest fears have already started happening. I can’t help but wonder when the hatred will be directed towards me, my children, or my husband. My whole family actually. [The] biggest challenge would be my worry for my children. Their future, their education, them being judged even at their young ages because of the color of their skin.
My 3 year old asked if Hillary Clinton was our president now. I told her “no” and left it at that. She’s too young to understand all the words I would have to use to describe Trump. How could I tell her that a man who glorifies sexual assault, bigotry, and hatred is now our president? How can I explain even the first part to her as I myself being a sexual assault survivor can’t wrap my mind around it. So I’m letting her be innocent while her dad and I figure things out.
You can’t skip over all the hateful things he said and has done to get here.
The conversation with my husband was simple: “I want to leave.” That’s what I said. For many reasons we can’t, but that’s what I said. We have not discussed much else right now. We are both still processing.
To survive and thrive, I’m continuing [my] entrepreneurial journey with my husband’s support. I’m also continuing to teach the values we stand for to our children. I’m teaching them about compassion, kindness, equality, and love. And I’m praying!
As a mother, women of color, abuse survivor, and a person who comes from a Caribbean background, I find it hard to see how anyone who truly believes we all have equal rights [could vote] for Trump. People are saying things like “he was misquoted or he needs an etiquette class” or that they want a change from big government. Nope, I’m not buying that. You can’t skip over all the hateful things he said and has done to get here. You can’t.
—MJ of FAB Haute Mama