Terese Mailhot

Where the Election Went Wrong, For Me

My son was in tears. He asked me if his grandmother would be deported (she’s a citizen born in Mexico). He’s eleven and a better, kinder person than I am. I told him that she wouldn’t be deported, and that we can afford lawyers, and then I named all the friends and family we knew who would defend the rights of the most vulnerable in America. A bully won the election. Where did we go wrong?

Apparently Clinton didn’t appeal to white women. Apparently Clinton didn’t appeal to people of color. Many Indigenous people felt lukewarm about Clinton, or voted for a third party candidate, or were ostensibly incapable of human empathy or rationality.

RELATED: I Am Not Alone in the Wilderness of Native Trump Supporters

I want to say Clinton ruined herself. She made limp remarks about Water Protectors at Standing Rock, and she was too late in taking accountability concerning mass incarceration, and calling humans ‘super predators’ wasn’t a good look. She didn’t pull people of color in, and, Hillary supporters, you didn’t help with your various white feminist posts that excluded people of color.

You really didn’t help when you became apologists for Hillary’s transgressions, and you definitely didn’t win my favor when you refused to acknowledge women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault. Those women are human, just like the women who accused Trump. It’s not Hillary’s fault, and maybe she’s further victimized by their stories, but I expected victim advocacy from my feminist peers on the left, and was surprised at the silence.

Your joyous celebrations of white feminism were grating for people of color, because we know how excluded we were from that movement. I saw tons of Susan B. Anthony quotes and pictures of her gravestone with long reflective conclusions splattered all over my social media.

The suffragette’s movement and women’s voting rights aren’t connected to Asian, Black, Latino, and Native voting rights.

Many Native people weren’t citizens until 1924, and even after the Indian Citizenship Act, some Natives could not vote until 1957 because the right to vote was governed by state law. Native people in South Dakota didn’t have the right to vote or hold office until the 1940s, and then the state prohibited Native people there from voting in counties that were ‘unorganized,’ AKA Indian, until as late as 1975. In some counties Natives couldn’t hold office until 1980.

Native people currently deal with voter suppression, voting rights violations, voting ID laws that prevent us from voting, and some polling stations seem strategically placed to inconvenience Native voters.

I celebrated your white pantsuits and enthusiasm for Hillary to a degree, but it mostly was a reminder of how long Indigenous people had to wait.

We are constantly waiting, or resisting. Whether we resist or wait our turn, we usually end up hurt and disenfranchised.

My mother was good enough to raise me in an environment where ‘feminism’ was already intersectional. I was raised to think feminism is inclusive and anything less is not feminism at all. She raised me to think being liberal minded meant dedicated to fight for the most vulnerable members in our communities. Solidarity isn’t supposed to be easy going, or comfortable, or joyous. First we have to talk. Then we have a lot of work to do together. Next time, we can be real allies. Next time speak to the people in your community and beyond. Don’t limit yourself and listen.

I watched my son cry and I didn’t feel helpless. I felt like it was time to boss up and do work. It’s disappointing that the onus to protect the land and humanity typically rests on people of color. We always have to do the work, but it seemed like this election taught me that white mobility on the left was ineffective. Hillary didn’t reach out to me, and I’m hoping next election we have someone who wants to take up our burden and do work for the people.

Right now I’m dealing with a lot of white tears as my friends and family are crying about this elected threat to our country. I don’t have the time or energy to console them. I just hope that when they’re done mourning they mobilize and become stronger allies.

Terese Marie Mailhot is from Seabird Island Band. She’s Saturday Editor and The Rumpus. Her work has been featured in The Offing, Feminist Wire, Yellow Medicine Review, and Carve Magazine.

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