It was election night and I refused to watch the news. I was afraid that like four years ago, the results were going to be devastating for me, but most of all for my community and for all communities of color. A few days later I received a text message from my niece from Monterrey, Mexico: “Tia, Biden just won!”
I remember turning the TV on, watching the results and being cautious about getting too excited, and then I started crying. Crying because the nightmare was coming to an end; it was a fact, Biden won the 2020 presidential election and the most openly racist president in modern times was defeated.
Although I was full of joy for the results, I didn’t realize how I was feeling exactly until I saw CNN’s Van Jones break down on live TV after he learned Joe Biden had defeated President Trump.
“For a lot of people, it’s a good day,” Jones said on Saturday as he fought back tears, his voice breaking.
I related to every word Mr. Jones said. I felt exactly the same way, and again I cried feeling that connection to him and to most people of color. The experience of watching Van Jones made me think that as millions of people in this nation felt relief, the sense was beyond profound for people of color, immigrants and refugees. As Jones said, “We can breathe now.”
I knew Jones’ sentiment was shared, so I connected with friends and acquaintances to get their post-election reactions.
Rosa McRoy: “When you asked me to do this, the first thing I thought was, ‘Now I can breathe.’ It was though I didn’t realize I was holding my breath and waiting to exhale. My second thought was, now we can start putting ‘us,’ meaning this nation, back together.”
Umaru Balde, 41: “The election of Biden and Harris has given me and millions of others a feeling of a revived hope. As a Black Muslim, immigrant and father of two little kids, I feel a great relief because hopefully, even though racism and hate are still alive and well in this country, my kids and I won’t see or hear it from the President! For me, the greatest thing that has happened for America is the election of Kamala Harris as VP! She just represents so much, and this is like a dream come true for so many civil rights and freedom fighters who have been oppressed for centuries.”
Luisita Thompson, 46: “It was the moment everyone had been waiting for! America had spoken and Biden is the next President of the United States! It was the announcement in the background that made me turn off the stove so I could focus on the announcement shortly after yelling (maybe screaming) to my fiancé and telling him the good news as he was in the garage. I was blessed to have witnessed it live when they made the announcement Biden wining in Pennsylvania.
“Then Van Jones began talking with such deep emotion and you could feel a weight lifted for an entire marginalized community. I completely lost it, I cried like a baby! Tears of happiness ran down my face, it’s an indescribable feeling of joy and happiness! The first thing that came to my mind — the kids in the cages at the border … President-elect Biden will not allow that to happen again.
“On top of that, the realization that history was made where a woman of color is now going to hold the second-highest office in the country was surreal. As an immigrant and mother, I felt the immense pride, the same pride I know her mother would have felt in that moment. Women of color, especially Asian/Pacific Islander women of color during the COVID-era, have seen a different side of America, a side most of us fled from in our home countries (although not me being from the Philippines). Seeing a new era of history unfolding renews my hope in America.”
Berenice Nava Romero, 28, from Mexico: “As a DACA recipient and a mom, it is a huge relief to have Donald Trump out of office. Life as an immigrant can be difficult, but having Trump in office has been a nightmare. The constant attacks on refugees and immigrants have been draining. When my kids ask me about Donald Trump, I have to be careful on what I say because I don’t want them to be afraid or have hate in their heart. It is very hard to hide those feelings. I know the Biden-Harris presidency will not be magical, but at least I have more hope for our future.”
Shaimaa Aly, 39, Egyptian American: “Before I tell you how I feel about Biden’s win, let me tell you how it felt living in Trump’s America. To me, it was pretty much the Egypt I didn’t want to go back to; an incompetent president who lacks the ability to make sound decisions, a dictator who prosecutes journalists and went after protestors. A tyranny where there is no room for rational conversation nor reasonable debate. If you disagree or criticize, you will get bullied, harassed, fired, or even detained.
“I am an immigrant and a Muslim woman, and my nightmare started in 2015 when Trump ran for office and started his hateful rhetoric. Honestly, I am not celebrating Biden’s win as much as I am celebrating the end of Trump’s era, which revealed that we live in a divided nation with 70 million who have no issue with a racist president who didn’t condemn white supremacy.
“Before celebrating the Biden-Harris victory, let’s acknowledge how we reached this point and take responsibility of the magnificent work ahead of us, not only to bring our nations together but also to fix the root cause of the structured racism that enabled the election of a racist president in the first place.
“Today I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic about the future of our country. It is actually a relief to know that I will no longer wake up to a disturbing tweet from the highest office in the nation. No matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat, we all deserve better than the past four years.”
My heart is full after listening to the feelings of hope and solace from the folks I talked to. I also think we cannot assume that the new administration will make all the changes we wish for, that is not realistic nor reasonable. We must continue to actively push and fight for equity, for immigration reform, and for so many other rights that were taken away by the Trump Administration.
One thing is for sure, many of us, like Van Jones, feel that we can breathe for now.
By Claudia Thrane
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