I’ll never forget the day I made perhaps what is arguably the most important discovery of my personal Trumpian era. It was November 24, 2019, the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered a formal impeachment inquiry into President (in my house, this is still under dispute) Donald J. Trump. And on that day, in the haze of anticipatory Twitter memes and excited group chat GIFs, I discovered that spelling out “I-M-P-E-A-C-H-M-E-N-T” fit perfectly to the melody of hood prophet Lil Webby’s classic rap anthem “Independent.” I spent the day happily singing the tune around my house, in the key of Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters from California.
The esteemed Auntie has been among the earliest and most vocal critics of Trump, calling for his impeachment without apology. She demanded, along with millions of Americans, that a 73-year-old man finally, for once, be held accountable for his actions, especially as they have endangered our welfare and national security (you know, just those minor details about conspiring with Ukraine to mess with our 2020 election).
But being the one courageous enough to warn of impending danger early and often is not a safe exercise. Such is often the fate of Black women in politics willing to tell the truth out loud and in public, the most essential form of protest.
For her honesty, Congresswoman Waters got ridiculed on cable news. For her unyielding questioning of Trump’s co-conspirators, former presidential candidate Kamala Harris got sidelined by a racist disinformation campaign that helped upend her recent (but hopefully, not only) run for the White House. For having the unmitigated gall to demand that her Trump-parroting opponent Brian Kemp not be allowed to set the rules of his own election (yeah, that actually happened) and for fighting voter suppression, Governor (in my house, this is not under dispute) Stacey Abrams has been lampooned nationwide.
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The polling is as indisputable as these Twitter streets: Only 3 percent of black women voted for Trump
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Make no mistake: This crisis of democracy has existed for far longer than Trump has been a name, a brand or a president. And for as long as the crisis has existed, Black people have acted as the conscience of a country unwilling to reckon with itself. Black women have saved democracy for generations: We voted overwhelmingly to keep accused sexual predator Roy Moore out of the Senate when he ran for an Alabama seat in 2017. We helped extend the franchise to everyone, fighting for the vote for another 40 years after the Suffragettes left us out. We have been the backbone of civil rights, inclusive feminism, and environmental justice even as we’ve been unduly erased.This is not a new narrative, but a long unheard one which thus, bears repeating.
But now that you’ve heard it again, what are you going to do with it? I’m not here to demand you tell us thank you, donate to our campaigns, or even vote for Black women candidates (although these are things I’ve requested before and are actions you should seriously consider).
I’m here to demand that you do more than take a finite action for which you congratulate yourself for doing exactly once. I’m here to provoke you to embody the truth-telling spirit of Black women every day. Team Trump will not just accept his impeachment. Accountability feels like an attack when all you’ve ever known are excuses. So for the opposition, it is irresponsible to be lukewarm about truth. (Looking at you, Tulsi.) We have to choose the uncomfortable right thing over the comfortable wrong thing every chance we get in order to build the habit of justice.
This is what the 42 swing district Freshmen House Democrats, including Black women like Lucy McBath and Lauren Underwood, did when they courageously voted for impeachment knowing their reelection might hang in the balance. This is what Senate jurors must do in the investigation to follow. This is what informed citizens do. We vet candidates and ask hard questions in the primary, so we can get to the right outcome together. We protect courageous congresspeople in swing seats. This is what we can all do as we forge ahead into the valley of 2020, singing the tune of Congresswoman Maxine Waters.