What a difference two years can make. I turned in the full manuscript for this book on October 15, 2015.
When I set out to write I'm Judging You, I wanted to create something that was both timely and timeless. But I didn't know how timely this book would be until we, the people of the United States, elected a walking Cheeto to the highest office in the land on November 8, 2016. Back then, I didn't think I'd need to fight the air every time I heard the President's name, and I didn't wake up in cold sweats wondering what war we've been tweeted into.
"I have NO LOVE for those who consider themselves 'good people' but stand idly by as the world crumbles around them."
When I wrote the chapters "Racism Is for Assholes" and "The Privilege Principle," I had no clue that Nazis were gonna make a surging comeback and take to the streets of Charlottesville holding tiki torches. That's so Germany 1938. But that's what happens when a squirrel wig–wearing, subpar White dudebro ends up in the most powerful position in the country and spends his entire time in campaign and in office sending racist dog whistles to his base of deplorables. Habañero Hitler has ushered in an era when members of the KKK are feeling confident enough to leave their robes and hoods at home.
When I wrote the chapter on "Dumbed-Down News," I surely wasn't privy to how the spread of fake news as fact would help, in such a concrete way, to elect the Fanta Fascist into office. The people who voted for him did so having read untrue things about his accomplishments. And he adopted "FAKE NEWS" as a random call to arms whenever he disagrees with someone or something. JUST BECAUSE YOU YELL "FAKE NEWS" DOES NOT MEAN IT'S NOT REAL, MOPBUCKET. Gahtdambit, I'm mad that happened and that we have a whole country of people with no discernment.
I have NO LOVE for those who consider themselves "good people" but stand idly by as the world crumbles around them. It's not enough to personally not do damage. If you're present as someone else destroys what's around you and you do nothing, you helped them. Everyone lets themselves off the hook by saying, "Well, it wasn't me who did it." BUT YOU WERE THERE. What did you do to stop it?!? You sleep better at night knowing it wasn't you who made those racist/homophobic/Islamophobic jokes. But you were there when they happened.
I wanted this book to be timely, but I wish it wasn't so relevant, because it means that we are failing on massive scales.
But this dumpster fire we find ourselves in feels wholly unnecessary. It feels like it could have been avoided. But maybe not. Maybe it is necessary. This feels like a reckoning.
This feature originally appeared in the Dec/Jan 2017 Issue of ESSENCE Magazine. Excerpted from the brand-new hardcover version of 'I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual' by Luvvie Ajayi.