Election 2020: why “healing” is not enough, and the social justice work must not stop

This year was one of awakening for many of us. We realized that America is not built for all of us, never was and never will be unless we start the difficult process of rethinking this society. I think about redlining and the vestiges which still haunt urban communities via poverty, heat, vulnerability and invisibility as much now as it did in the 60's. Reading the “Gathering for Justice” (https://www.gatheringforjustice.org/familyseparation) recitation of the history of family separations, starting at slavery and then go through ‘Native American’ boarding schools and the Obama-era photos of thousands of unaccompanied children at our border. That he still holds the record of “most deportations of any President” is particularly troublesome. It is also a reminder of my main point, a comforting face and good messaging is not enough.

The coming Presidential election, as they tend to do, proffers a binary choice of how we should proceed. Another Donald Trump term for some means destruction and the usual threats of celebrity migration to Canada. A Joe Biden presidency will surely usher in a period of proposed healing and the possibility of a woman of color ascending to the role.

What about the choices in between? And I don’t mean the variety of political choices held in local, state and federal mid-term elections. I mean the choices about how and for what we will hold any of these people responsible for meeting the needs of all the American people.

Should Joe Biden prevail, under what circumstances should the protests for racial justice stop for Joe Biden? Both he and Kamala Harris have long records upon which they should be called to reflect and the people a right to examine. Each has a history of programs and decisions that are in turn better or worse for people of color and the marginalized. While Biden has backed away from “tough on crime” rhetoric, his campaign has not articulated a clear response to the #DefundThePolice movement. Though not race baiting as is the current norm, his talk of healing somehow sounds more like silencing.

This is especially true when news of his cabinet preferences reflect the voices of those calling for change (https://www.politico.com/news/2020/10/20/biden-transition-republican-cabinet-429972). It is difficult to imagine some of the names being floated will embody the radical thinking required to reframe policing, criminal justice and the various systems of racial and gender inequity in this country. Thus it is up to the people to force him to bring those voices to the table as fellow architects of a new way of thinking about race and equity in this country. Without diverse participation, authenticity and intention the way forward could end up being halted in the name of healing disguised as comfort. Vote as we must, without losing focus on the cause.

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Monica Sanders

Monica Sanders

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monicacsanders.com; Professor at Georgetown;Senior Fellow, Tulane Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy; Activist-Scholar