It is known. This is the most consequential presidential election in a generation. Every single one of the critical issues that affect our lives as African Americans in this country will be impacted by the decisions that voters (and non-voters with their silence) make this election cycle.
Healthcare, the environment, education, fair housing, access to capital, employment, justice reform…you name it, it is on the ballot. And those that care about these issues will take the time to make their opinions known through exercising their franchise.
Regardless of the results in November—this year’s or any other—we must remember that Election Day is both an end and a beginning. While one era will end, a new era begins. And this is true even if incumbents win; time, season, and circumstance will give them new opportunities for legislative and policy decisions that can positively (or negatively) impact our communities. And we, the people, will gain new chances for engagement, analysis, and action as we consider and advocate for policies and principles that best advantage our families and our communities.
After the election is over, our work continues: raising our voices, pressing for just policies, and holding our elected officials accountable is the next—and ongoing—phase of our work. On Election Day, we will hire (or rehire) people to represent us. We will effectively put them on our taxpayer-funded payroll. They will become our employees. We must do our due diligence as good employers to provide them with feedback that will help them perform their jobs. Make sure they know who the boss is. Be clear about what you want. Set clear deadlines. Check in regularly. Tell them how they are doing. And if they prove they cannot do the job, fire them at the next possible opportunity aka Election Day.
Our journey toward equality and freedom has been long and will surely continue into the future. And as exhausting as that reality may be, it is perhaps to be expected. After all, the eradication of racism, sexism, and classism requires radical change in both hearts and institutional structures. One we can legislate; the other we cannot. Changing policy and institutions, as complex and complicated as that might be, is in many ways simpler and more easily accomplished that changing the hearts and minds of people. There is no sure way, no one antidote to erasing the fear, the anger, and the desperation that drives and nurtures racist and sexist attitudes. This is the harder work.
And yet, despite the towering challenges, we press on. Not because we see victory, but because we believe victory is possible. This is called hope.
This is the hope that drives us, that fuels us, that inspires us, and that encourages us. To start businesses when we know loans are hard to come by. To write books when we do not have a publisher. To love and raise our children even though we know they will face towering obstacles. To vote when we know this system does not always work for us. To build though we are not always sure about our allies or our coalitions. To run the race even though we cannot see the finish line. To get out of bed. To keep going. To keep moving. To keep living.
We still believe. We still hope. And this hope springs not out of possibility, but out of certainty. Not because we can see the good end, but because we believe that this good end exists.
This goes against the grain. We like finish lines, bright yellow tape, balloons, and victory laps. We like crossing things off our task sheet and declaring our to-do list done. But freedom does not work like that. As Mrs. Coretta Scott King taught us: “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.”
And so, we take the long view, understanding that hope pushes us and pulls us forward, a never-ending, ever flowing fountain that fuels our faith and our imaginations. Hope has no end. It is always a journey, never a destination. The work of hope is the imagining of freedom. The fulfillment of hope is manifested in our righteous, tireless struggle to see our freedom made real.