Again, millions of non-white people crouched over their mobile screens. We crouched just as earlier generations of Black people crouched below window panes, wondering if they managed to outrun conservative white mobs. Mobs that the popular media, then as now, apologised for and referred to as aggrieved.
Again, we peered into our screens as if they were a rural town’s night, watching for early signs of trouble. To see if the preferred candidate of the vehicle-ramming white nationalists had won or if we had been snatched to safety by the other one. The one who shoos us away from window-breaking and tells us to behave ourselves until we can be escorted peaceably back to the promised land of police reforms.
Millions of us waited on election results to see if we had, in fact, yet again, eked out a survival, jumping from the fire back into the frying pan. And now that it is over, now that Joe Biden has won, we are asked to unify with the shouting men and women still holding signs that the movement for our right to life is a communist conspiracy.
Pundits continue to peddle the same false equivalency: there is fear on both sides. But our fears, like everything else, are unequal. Racists do not fear being dragged off in cattle cars. They do not fear having their wombs stolen or being snatched off a street in broad daylight for saying their lives matter. They fear that the three strokes in the “E” on Biden campaign posters represent communism, or whatever the latest QAnon YouTube influencer suggests that they fear.
Notwithstanding what the racist-coddling press would have us believe, their “economic anxieties” are no greater than the countless Sandra Blands collapsing under the harness of traffic and court appeal fees, starvation wages and healthcare costs that their conservative candidates work tirelessly to unload onto poor peoples’ backs.
Minutes after projecting Biden’s win, presenters on major US news networks waxed poetic about the “genius” of the American system. It is like a ship, one said, that tacks left and tacks right but always moves forward despite the choppy waters. But left and right are not two equal destinations. The state is less like a ship than it is like a rope in a tug of war where one side makes every effort to draw us into concentration camps while the other tries to draw everyone towards universal health care.
After this election, we should not come together. It is not a beautiful thing when the arrestor embraces the arrested. It is not good when the exploited is lured into the belief that they are one with their exploiters. That is the triumph of oppression – not of peace.
There is no virtue in waiting to see if the next election – in a colony that has proven its willingness to elect a white nationalist administration in the 21st century – will carry us off one more time onto the brink, huddled over mobile phones, wondering which liberal institutions might withstand the darker machinations of the next white nationalist autocrat’s heart. It is unwise to share the confidence of that part of society not directly targeted by white supremacist power that decency and fairness have at long last been restored and America has been set back onto the track of light and progress. The stakes are not the same.
We may be certain that whatever the Trump administration had in store for non-white people over the next four years of unrestricted far-right rule would make the forced hysterectomies, child-stealing and the pardon of war criminals pale in comparison.
We may be certain, also, that white supremacists who never imagined electoral victory was possible for the openly racist post the 1965 Voting Rights Act have been slicking their hair back, straightening their ties and practising mouthing “fake news!” in the mirror. The id of the confederacy is now rushing to the fore, ready to take every political office and enact as much anti-Black state violence as it can get away with.
The onslaught of openly racist politicians is coming. Double-crossed fingers are no defence. Instead of heeding the call to jump out of our shelters and unify with that side of the country that supports our tear gassing, we may just as well keep our distance.
It makes little sense to allow ourselves to continue to be flung back and forth between survival and catastrophe. It may be better to slide off that mechanical bull, lay the cowboy hat down and say, respectfully: thank you, but we have had enough.
Time might be better spent learning about and reorienting ourselves to other spaces of power outside of the US state, other internationalisms or subaltern collectivities. Instead of believing the pundit talk about Biden’s win being an opportunity for a “reset” and racial reconciliation, we might instead set ourselves to the difficult work of convincing ourselves that our interests and – if we must have them – affections must lie elsewhere.
In the end, it may turn out to be a better investment to have had marshalled our resources, intellectual and otherwise, to contribute to the development of other non-US forms of social organisation rather than continuing to make offerings to the colony in the hopes that it may one day rid itself of its baton wielders and remove the confederate flags from its heart.
Seeking community apart from the record-setting 72 million Americans who decided that racism was not a deal breaker will be understood as prematurely abandoning one’s faith in the promise of America. As Barack Obama puts it in his new memoir, “What I can say for certain is that I’m not yet ready to abandon the possibility of America … the world watches America, the only great power in history made up of people from every corner of the planet, comprising every race and faith and cultural practice to see if our experiment in democracy can work, to see if we can do what no other nation has ever done, to see if we can actually live up to the meaning of our creed. The jury is still out.”
The problem with the “experiment,” of course, is that the hypothesis cannot be disproven. The proposition that America will one day become adequately non-white supremacist is unfalsifiable. No matter how many cases show that the experiment has failed, no matter how many bodies are strewn about, no matter how incessant white supremacist terrorist murder continues to be, no matter how the ghettos and prisons unwaveringly resemble slave quarters, one may always say perhaps tomorrow will be different. The jury is not just out; it simply does not exist.
Biden has won. People are shouting from the rooftops that it is a new day in America, that the American people rejected racism and division and that the national healing can begin. Such claims have about the same validity as the ones which were shouted 12 years ago – that we have moved into the post-racial era with Obama’s election.
Biden is not the first politician to call for national unity and healing. Similar calls were made at Obama’s inauguration, during the Vietnam war, during World War II and as far back as the early days of Reconstruction after the 1861–65 civil war. None of these calls have proved so persuasive as to stop white supremacists from their charge – hooded atop horse or in suit and tie atop policy.
Black people have been mauled by dogs, beaten, shot while retreating, or kept captive at every hour of this colony’s existence. No campaign of racial reconciliation has so far proven capable of dissuading this country from pursuing the most unshakable of its anti-Black traditions. Repeated violence and promises to heal is abuser schtick. If the country shows you what it is, believe it the first time.
Unification is not a good, in and of itself. What matters is who is being united and to what end. Similarly, division is not necessarily bad. It is good to be divided from those who have your annihilation at heart.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.