Toni Morrison taught me early on that love is never any better than the lover. She warned us in the pages of The Bluest Eye that “wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly…” So when I see exasperated faces and secret Facebook groups lamenting that love failed to trump hate, I must ask: Whose? Whose love failed us?
The love of free people from the Movement for Black Lives to Justice for Palestine and everywhere in between was deemed too “radical” and their vision too “unattainable” to be supported. And yet, here we are wondering why weak ass love, violent ass love, thin ass love, wasn’t enough to trump hate.
Early on in the primaries, the President-elect was shunned. He was deemed too volatile, too inexperienced, too ridiculous; yet here we are, his detractors are now his protectors. It appears he’s done what womanism and black feminist theory has taught us to do—move from the margins to the center. Only his margins represented the lowest of all of our collective human consciousness. Whatever the reasoning people have given themselves to justify a vote for him, there is no doubt that he is buoyed by the fundamental violence and terror of angry white nationalists. He’s sought to fill his cabinet with those who represent the fringe, and in doing so, he moved the fringe to the center. And that is the wrong kind of dangerous.
Unless Democrats, liberals, progressives, Bernie-ites, and the rest start to inhabit the love of a free people, they will always be trumped and trounced by hate. Those who entered movement work under the guise of getting us back to what used to be center have already failed us. The object of tug of war isn’t to keep the knot dead center, it’s to drag that shit to the edge while watching the other side give way or topple. The middle will never trump the fringe.
Are we ready to submit to the guidance of women of color who have kept us all this time? Are we ready to do intersectional work? Are we free enough to love in a way that will actually trump hate?
The Democratic Party failed because they believed in their own weak, violent, love. It is the kind of love that can’t even commit to loving its most loyal supporters publicly. The same folk who are uncomfortable listening to the frustrations of Black trans women tired of being attacked, indigenous people tired of seeing the land exploited, and Muslims tired of watching their family abroad subjected to drone strikes, now want to take part in revolution. Do not come to revolution seeking comfort, revolution by nature is uncomfortable.
So no, your safety pins are not enough. And no your “every little bit” doesn’t count if your end goal is the center. And no, you don’t get to get a pat on the back for coming to the realization that the center is not enough. This type of love is thankless, dangerous, and often times lonely. Are you ready to do this work thanklessly and under persistent critique? If the answer is no, prepare for a long stretch of hate kicking your kind of love’s ass.
The biggest loss this election cycle will be our continual descent into normalizing overt white supremacy—look at how we’ve sustained its covert counterpart thus far. What will happen when we begin to celebrate shitty victories? We will be defeated every time. Make no mistake, there will be no victories coming from this administration. None. Accept that. Never forget: the president elect has a willing and complicit congress. Preserving the status quo will not move us toward liberation because there is a freshly reinforced, white supremacist status quo.
We must reach to the furthest edge of the margins and trust that the center will benefit. We must trust the vision enough to get out of its way. We must relinquish our addiction to progressive olive branch politics. I don’t see a way to success for a democratic party buoyed by Black and Brown voters that won’t center their interests. Those entering organizing post-election have to do so rooted in what Dr. King called a “dangerous unselfishness,” committing to help others as we would ourselves. It requires that we remove ourselves from every place where we make up the center in order to make room for those on the margins. That principle cannot be compromised, not even in the name of “coming together” for the “greater good.”
If you insist on loving weakly, we are indeed doomed. If you fear freedom of press being compromised in the future, you can’t ignore freedom of assembly being obliterated as water protectors are assaulted in the present. If you are concerned about repeating mistakes of the past, you can’t allow the only required reading in your congregation to be the Bible, or in your school to be the horn book. You don’t get to uphold your sanitized version of Dr. King’s dream without realizing that he was ready to die for it. We have so many who have given their lives to push us toward liberation—far past left- we owe them more than a mediocre middle. Do not come to revolution to seek refuge at the expense of those who need it most. We can no longer rely on love trumping hate without committing to be better lovers. How are you prepared to love moving forward?