If there is one lesson to take away from 2020, it is that our democracy is fragile. This year has taught us much about this fact—and exposed who we really are as a country. We can no longer hide behind the false promises of an American democracy that has never been fully achieved. We can no longer trick ourselves into believing that American exceptionalism is real, because we have failed in every area where our most vulnerable citizens need us most. Politically, 2020 can be viewed through three lenses: Pressure, protest and power.
Pressure: Democracy is failing us because the Constitution hasn’t pro- tected the people. We need stronger protections to ensure that we truly have a democracy. Instead, what we’re seeing is a president who is abusing his power without consequence and using the justice system for personal gain, while the Supreme Court is over-politicized.
As a powerful and committed voting bloc, many Black women advocated hard for Senator Kamala Harris, and this year we made history when she became the first Black woman on a major party ticket for vice president of the United States. We showed up and demanded change, ensuring that our voice was heard and that we had a seat at the decision-making table.
Protest: In May, Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd as onlookers screamed for Derek Chauvin to remove his knee from the man’s neck. The four officers involved assumed they would be protected, even though they were filmed stealing away this unarmed man’s breath. But outraged citizens poured into the streets, and the officers were soon arrested.
Similarly, three white men in Glynn County, Georgia, who pursued and fatally shot 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging, were arrested and charged only because of the efforts and calls to action of grassroots organizations and protests. But in Louisville, Kentucky, after police broke into Breonna Taylor’s home while she was resting in her bed and shot her six times, ending her life, a grand jury failed to indict any of the officers. The fight for justice for Breonna Taylor continues.
These examples, and countless others, prove that the justice system in the U.S. is far from just. We must raise our voices loudly to insist that it be replaced.
Power: In addition to racial injustice, political upheaval, and health and safety concerns due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our communities are facing wide scale and blatant voter suppression. More than 33 million people have been dropped from the voter rolls since 2014. Voter suppression tactics are meant to disenfranchise our community and decrease the power of the Black vote. But we’re not deterred. We are ready to use our power at the polls. And we will.
We know that pressure, protests and people-power can be effective tools for change. Now we need to turn the pain of 2020 into new promises and possibilities. Regardless of who the next president is, we must continue to demand that every system in the U.S. be radically reimagined, replaced and improved.
If America is ever to live up to its ideals, we must have the courage to build a new nation: one where all citizens are accorded their full rights and are able to realize their full potential. Until then, the revolution will be live—and in color.
LATOSHA BROWN is the Co-Founder of Black Voters Matter Fund, an organization dedicated to expanding Black voter engagement and increasing progressive power through movement building. She is also the 2020-2021 American Democracy Fellow at Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History.