The past day or two I have been upset. In some ways, I just couldn’t put my finger on it and in others, I knew exactly the reasons why. The tipping point came when, as I was settling into bed last night, I opened up my People.com app on my iPhone and the first story, which was accompanied by a photo of Donald Trump, was titled, “Donald Trump Says Harriet Tubman Shouldn’t Replace Andrew Jackson on $20 Bill, Suggests Putting Her On $2 Note.” My blood boiled and my visioned blurred as I almost lost the grip on my phone. In a moment, I had to control myself from hurling the phone across the room. I have never been so angry and afraid. He has been, as Charlie Sheen so eloquently puts it, “winning.” But I feel like we’re all losing as a result of this election’s theatrics.
I didn’t read the article. I refused to. Shakily I read the headline aloud to my husband, expressed my sheer frustration, closed out the app and then buried myself into my husband’s chest. No matter what the article might have said, I’ve had my fill of Trump. Gone are the days when I could accept and appreciate his showmanship on The Apprentice. It has been replaced with genuine disdain and occasional contempt. There is no avoiding him as he frustratingly gains more delegates and assuredly clinches the Republican Party nomination.
Earlier on in the Presidential race, I thought that cooler heads would prevail and that like Ben Carlson and the many others before him, Trump would be yesterday’s news, relegated to the bottom of a birdcage. Instead, all of my nightly shows must devote their precious time to again highlighting how much of an embarrassment this truly all is. Last night my anger also turned to fear, a feeling that I haven’t been able to shake off today. If so many people hold Trump and his bigotry in such high esteem, does this mean that America is still so racially divided? In a clip on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah one of the correspondents hit the streets to find out what people thought of Harriet Tubman being put on the $20 bill. The first couple that was interviewed said that it was essentially an abomination.
When I’d first heard the news about the change to the $20 bill I felt as though we were making some real progress. I was excited at the thought that there would be a woman and one with such important American historical significance to don the bill. And then I realized that there were so many people who had no idea who Harriet Tubman was. All they saw was color. As if we’re defined by the color of our skin. My mind drifted to dark places. I thought about people defiling the front of the bill, marking out the image, refusing to use the bill or publicly and thunderously denouncing the change. Add to that the fact that Andrew Jackson will still be on the back of the bill, I wonder, what is the point of it all? In these moments, I am not at all proud to be an American. I am hurt and honestly quite fearful.
There had been many times in my youth when I wished I were white. To be in the majority, to have beautiful hair, to not be in fear. That isn’t to say that being white meant that life would be better, I just thought that it would make things easier. I’ve long been “the only black person in the room.” However, because of my lighter skin tone, I could be accepted as “exotic.” I spoke proper English and had very few friends of color. In some ways, I was afraid to be in any way “black.” Being black carried with it a stigma of being uneducated, poor, undesirable. I didn’t want to be any of those things. No one does.
I too have had prejudices against people of color. After all, many stereotypes have some degree of truth to them. But no matter who we are, we have on some level, big or small, have prejudices towards something. We carry with us the baggage of the reality of the American Dream. Look closer at the picture of the picket fence, the house, the cars and in its place you see the reality of student and consumer loan debt, trying to make ends meet and of course, trying to make sense of the circus that is now the norm of American politics. It is honestly quite difficult to sleep easy at night when you’re racked with feelings of despair and woe.