By Oscar Mancinas
As time drags us to the next presidency, and resistance to the same, I think of words James Baldwin said to himself while visiting the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in Chicago. In The Fire Next Time, when asked about his relationship to white people Baldwin thinks, but doesn’t say out loud: “I love a few people and they love me and some of them are white, and isn’t love more important than color?”
Publication after publication has been trying to cobble together some kind of palatable explanation for the results of November’s presidential election. Unsurprisingly, several writers have tagged intra-communal fracturing as the culprit. Basically, they say, those of us who were anti-Trump failed to unify. Those who did unify were victorious. Though it seems like (mostly) white liberals are wagging a paternalistic finger, muttering “identity politics” like it’s some new-fangled slang their kids—who consume other cultures—are throwing around, recently I saw an opinion piece at Latino Rebels arguing fracturing and internal disagreement was uniquely bad among Latinxs.
In fact, I’d argue the opposite and say the progress made toward coalition-building across age, nationality, class, ability, religion, sexuality, region, gender, and race has been nothing short of amazing. One need not look further than the term “Latinx” and it’s breakthrough into mainstream consciousness. We have our differences, of course, but that’s because we are different. We shouldn’t try to front like we aren’t; to manufacture such an essential identity doesn’t unify, it silences.
I understand disagreement feels like it’s the absolute cause to the worse-case-scenario-now-turned-reality. Never mind the many, many, many other issues at work in the election. Let’s self-flagellate. Somehow, it hurts less this way; pain can feel empowering if we rationalize it as self-inflicted and, maybe, preventable.
During the most recent holidays, I was in México, in a city near the US Border, listening to family members attempt to rationalize Trump, to try to give themselves a little more agency moving forward. When you live outside the empire’s walls, especially directly outside of them, like most Latin Americans, you are at the mercy of the superpower neighbor. Yet, I can’t front like my family and I agree in our critiques of social, political, and economic ills. We diverge on where the solution begins, but we know from where the troubles come and know, deep down, we can’t do a whole lot to change it on our own.
To that end, I’m grateful for the people and publications, which, rather than spill ink over newly perceived divisions instead seek to complicate and to discern past complicit behavior that telegraphed the terrifying present. Indeed, we’re here for more reasons than I can explain—I suspect such a task will take years and unbelievable energy to put into adequate perspective.
A starting point, because that’s all we have at the moment, is self-reflection. Acknowledging shortcomings and complicity might mean constant recognition that individual ascension comes at the expense of community—both physical and cultural. This, however, is how we’ve typically measured progress and success. But for those of us whose home communities are multitudinal and fractured—you know, like the country itself—we carry them with us when as we ascend and our lives change.
(I had to try to make y’all laugh a little)
Still, we do nothing alone, despite intense feeling and mythos to the contrary. Nor, I should stress, do we do things on behalf of entire populations, societies, and chronicles. As time drags us inevitably to the confrontation between the powerful and the many, I think, we need keep close those “few people” we love who love us back. Our intimate others, whom we must join in the struggle to regain voter enfranchisement, healthcare, and even the most basic recognition of humanity. All of this through uncivil means, if need be. Uncivil, often messy, sometimes painful, imperfect, ever-revaluating means. I believe we do this not because History calls upon us, but because, as Baldwin later defends those few he loves who love him back: “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”