Fun fact, I love rollercoasters. The topsy-turvy sensation of being tossed up and down at great speed is always such an adrenaline fix. There’s nothing quite like it – (unless we’re talking about orgasms, but that’s another conversation). This year’s US Election has left my emotions feeling as if they have experienced their own frenzied joy ride.
On Wednesday 4 November, I awoke with a serious bout of anxiety, my stomach cramped with so much dread, that I was too fearful to look at my phone. For the first half of the day I lived in an oblivious bliss that ignored the potential outcome of what could have taken place the night before.
By midday, my emotions had dipped into despair and tears of frustration poured as I tried to compile a work newsletter to be sent to over 125,000 Westminster residents. Ironically, its content was one of reassurance as England prepared to enter a national lockdown, whilst I watched CNN in anguish. By the early evening, my feelings had started to uplift similar to the slight hill rollercoasters climb, and for the next two days a long stretch of patience was required as the carriage ferried me and the world on a lengthy track of waiting. Then, on Saturday afternoon, the carriage rose to victory when Joseph R Biden was declared US president-elect.
These past four days have made me question why the outcome of this election gripped me so emotionally. For Barack Obama’s first presidential victory, I saw this as a turning point that finally proved that Black people can (and have always been able to) undertake leadership roles and that we exist more than for society’s entertainment or to be saved. This is something that Black communities across the world have always known, but everyone else seemed to finally understand and most importantly agreed upon by voting for the first Black president. For this election, my feelings were more than just hope, but one that knew the USA and the world can do better, and knows it should, but seemed hesitant to.
As a Black woman, I have participated in and watched global Black Lives Matter protests. For the first time in my lifetime, the UK has, finally, started to undergo honest conversations about race inequality and how to dismantle systemic racism. For me, a win for Trump would have symbolised that someone like me, should not and cannot progress. That I am stuck in a world that dictates my outcomes, regardless of my talent and hard work. That I should accept the status quo and be grateful for how far I have been allowed to come. But, I, along with so many have so much farther to go.
When I say this, I mean I should not fear my capabilities being judged by my race, gender or where I achieved my degree. That an individual’s brilliance is recognised and doors of opportunity are rightfully opened because they have worked hard and deserve it. No one wants a handout. Individuals want to feel (and know) their opinions are valued and considered.
This is something President Biden (I love writing that) already understands. In his first speech as US president-elect, he highlights his gratitude to the Latino and Native American communities and specifically thanks the African American community who came out in force to vote him into power. In return, President Biden must ensure his administration creates real paths of opportunity that change the lives of individuals from the mentioned communities.
Granted, progress isn’t a straight-forward line and it often includes regression, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. Yet, we can never take our eyes off the ambitious goals to destroy the walls of inequality of every kind.
That’s why the outcome of this year’s US election means so much. We know that those whose voices have been unheard, underrepresented and, at times, demonised deserve better. Where mothers, grandmothers and so many women (and men) before me could not tread, people are now using their votes to give those who are disadvantaged, due to reasons beyond their control, a fair chance to achieve social mobility now and in the future, and that is something worth getting emotional about.
**If you’re not convinced by my argument, then let former US President Barack Obama explain why it’s important to pick leaders who will fight against race inequality. Enjoy.