The New Face of American Democracy
Tehreem Fatima | Toronto, Canada
Nearly twelve years ago, Barack Hussein Obama, America's first African American President, addressed a hopeful crowd at Grant Park in Chicago following his historic win. He began his victory speech addressing the skeptics, declaring proudly - for anyone questioning the power of American democracy, "this is your answer."
That evening twelve years ago, still staggering out of its long history of anti-blackness and straddling one of the worst economies in its history, for America, President-elect Obama was a symbol of progress. A personification of a promise to deliver the true vision of freedom and justice Americans had embroidered into their dreams. The first Black President. A President for not only blue states or red states - as Americans love to say - but the United States of America. Yesterday, his opening message appealed to a hope many Americans had abandoned since Donald Trump took office. As noon-time struck the hope of a new President was embraced by hesitant Americans as trusty New York Times and CNN reporters announced their final projections and Pennsylvania declared itself blue; ending nearly a week-long wait for results.
Overjoyed at the reclaiming of their country, Americans around the world flooded their streets with pots and pans, instruments, radios, and BIDEN-HARRIS signs.
Photos From Unsplash and the New York Times
I watched on Instagram as Manhattan roared, on news channels as citizens wept and thanked Black women for their extraordinary leadership. Soon, my social media feed filled with pictures of little girls staring wide-eyed at their screens.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris took to the stage as America's first woman, first Black-American, and first Indian-American elected to that office. She spoke of hope, of shattered glass ceilings, and the women who had come before her. She looked towards a crowd of proud Black women thanking them for being the backbone of the fight, for the skeptics of American democracy had once again received their answer loud and clear.
As the Vice President-elect and President-elect made their remarks and began the necessary work of healing America's divided and bruising state, the activists and organizers who made their victory possible watched on knowing their victory was bittersweet.
The United States of America in 2020 was anything but United. Under the Trump Presidency, partisan lines were deepened and as obvious as ever. The right-wing became the extreme right as the world awoke to a new heartbreaking and mind-baffling headline every day. Sometimes from the news sources now branded "fake news" other times from the egregious President's Twitter feed. Congratulatory messages sent to my American friends were immediately met with statements of disapproval. What is obvious is that a Biden-Harris administration is but a small step towards the deep-cleansing American activists, feminists, and abolitionists are prepared to execute.
As confetti fills the air and Miley Cyrus' "Party In the U.S.A." makes a welcome comeback, the streets of America are still haunted by the phantom of police brutality and national guard soldiers that, only a few days ago, were lined up against ordinary citizens.
Shops are still boarded with wood in anticipation of riots. The cry for justice - the echoing of Black Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter, Close the Camps, and a multitude of other justice movements Americans have committed themselves to remain. America today is broken and bleeding. A country that once stood with its chest jutted outwards and chin up, faces international humiliation as the incumbent President refuses to accept a fair defeat. Today, America stands divided on mass-graves that hold victims of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it lives on the memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and a never-ending list of stolen lives.
This election was America at a crossroads. A clear fork in the road with one leg leading to progress and normalcy and the other leading to extremist doom. Although a majority of the people chose to step forward, nearly 71 million chose otherwise. And although the new year will see new leadership in the White House, the saving of America's democracy will not come in the form of President Biden and Vice President Harris; justice will not be delivered in a Democrat-branded envelope.
In his victory address, President Obama famously spoke of bending the arc of history towards the hope of a better day. He said that his election was proof that change had come to America.
Yesterday, hope of a better day returned to America intertwined with a lust for genuine, system shattering change. It's conscious and understanding of American democracy going beyond the facade of the occupancy of the White House and deep into the roots of America. It has already begun to bloom in the hearts of ordinary citizens who cannot fathom another life lost to police brutality, American imperialism, or systemic oppression.
Twelve years later, hope has returned to America in the most formidable and unwavering form of American democracy; the good-intentioned will of the American people.