Joe Biden is going to be the 46th President of the United States. This is happening. It was pretty clear on Tuesday night, as the landscape of mail-in ballots started to take shape and Trump went on the first of his rants about a rigged election.
Still, Wednesday morning felt more like a wake than a celebration. When I imagined this moment four years ago, of a Trump-less presidency, it didn’t feel like this. This feels like winning a fight that was unnecessary, full of pointless, permanent scars. But another realization swept over the country like the blue wave that never came: Trumpism is here to stay in America. When all the votes are counted, Donald Trump will end up with somewhere around 70 million votes. Over half of all White people in this country, knowing exactly who he is, decided to re-up. And now we know that this is the very best White Americans have to offer us.
This year handed us a pandemic that disproportionately killed Black and Brown people, an economic catastrophe that wiped away almost half of the small Black businesses in the country, the killing of George Floyd, and the police state’s response to the protests that followed. This is the year of Breonna Taylor, countless others, and endless videos and protests for Black lives.
We’ve also experienced the most unhinged version of a White supremacist president we’ve seen in our lifetime.
At some point this year, we felt like we had allies. We had a summer of White people requesting book suggestions, trying to Cash App us money, and marching in the streets by our sides. This is the most they had to give. And it still resulted in the majority of White folks choosing to keep Donald Trump in office.
I tend to side with the pundits who are skeptical of the exit polling this election, especially since so many people voted by mail, skewing the actual voting demographics.
But I do know this: Joe Biden is going to be president because Black women organized in Georgia. Joe Biden is going to be president because Black folks in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Detroit voted in droves, Latino voters in Arizona and Nevada came out; and voters in the Navajo Nation helped flip Arizona. Despite all of the feverish White allyship this year, it still took Black and Brown folks pulling this country out of the pit of fascism to combat the fact that White people saw the terror Trump inflicted on all of us.
This is the White allyship ceiling. In our most dire times, the best they have for us is a situation in which a minority of White people do the bare minimum of voting against Donald Trump while the rest of us transform America. For some, this is disheartening. For others, this is simply confirmation of what we knew all along. For everyone, this is a benchmark for the limits of what we can hope for from whiteness.
We are saving ourselves and the way that racism and oppression works in America, the rest of the country reaps the benefits. We know we saved the country, but we also know that we shouldn’t have to. Votes from the marginalized among us should be exclamation points on a unified rejection of White supremacy.
We’re being thanked for our work with this election. No, thank you. That’s a very American tradition of patting Black folks on the back for labor without returning any favors or making any tangible efforts to give anything back.
The 2016 and 2020 elections showed us the same reality about America and what lays ahead of us. We are on our own. And the paltry allyship we received in 2020 will only dissipate from here. Without a galvanizing monster in the White House, White America can go back to pretending. They can go back to the willful ignorance of being saved from themselves without acknowledging the people saving them.
But now we know with precision exactly what this country has to offer us on its best day. And it’s not nearly good enough. It’s alright though. We’ve done more with less.