A Letter to the People

Posted at: 11/2/2020

To hear a reading of this instead, click here

There is nothing more that a writer wants in life than to have the right words at just the right time. As I type this, I’m frustrated because I know my words will fall short right out the gate. To even try and capture the myriad of ways we are all feeling right now is a herculean task. Anxiousness is the most common feeling, but so is anger, frustration, exhaustion, fear, and whatever feeling calling in Black is. For me, all of those feelings have come together into some hellish new flavor that this year has forced me to become accustomed to. And on top of all of that, there’s a sickening inevitability to all this, particularly amongst Black people and other marginalized groups who saw this writing on the wall for a long, long time.

But now we are here and we are left with the most annoying part of all - we have to wait. Wait and see how exactly everything will fall apart. Even the least politically involved amongst us are worried about who our president will be for the next four years, which isn't exactly a minor concern. And for those of us who have been actively resisting the machine that brought us to this moment, we see all the ways this machine will go awry beyond whoever is elected. There is a parallel between Presidents 44 and 45 that not enough pundits take all the way to its natural conclusion. They both represent a desperation amongst the populace for something different. For an outsider to come and promise more than civility and business as usual. We can analyze the platitudinous nature of hope and chance and making America great again, but what we should focus on first is the desperation that seeks such saccine answers in the first place.

As a writer, this is the point where I ask myself if I really needed to use “platitudinous” to make the point I’m leading to.

I’m so desperate for the right words right now, y’all.

This letter is to a very wide audience of people and as such I worry that I won’t address everyone if I don’t go line by line with all the possible groups who may come across this - the anarchists, the leftists , the Very Good Liberals who don’t understand why leftists have no patience for them, the liberals who do understand, the moderates, the conservatives, and the trolls. But as I sit here trying to bring all of this together, the only thread that ties us in whatever we are all feeling right now is the truth of it all - none of us opted in to this system, this overwhelming machinery. This was the system we are all born into, one built without most of us or our needs in mind. Where you fall politically directly relates to how well this system works for your needs, your desire for something more sustainable and how empowered you feel to push for those changes. The desperation that brought us to this moment was born out of the way this system doesn’t actually support any of us, whether we know it or not.

For some of us, guilt plays a huge role in all of this. Even the most radical amongst us worries they haven’t done enough to stop this inevitability. But we must keep in mind that this system, the machine, American brand of politics, was not made to be accessible. It was made this complex on purpose. It was made to feel like a behemoth to take on. It was made best for citizens who don’t mind being asleep at this particular wheel, and for those who want to wake up to feel like it is impossible to do. The intimidation, the inaccessibility, the futility of promised progress from our public servants - that is all by design and typically isn’t something enough public servants are genuinely interested in addressing.

All of that leads me to this - we can build something better.

I know that sounds real hope and change-y (and that some of you are fine with that) but what was appealing about that slogan is what’s appealing about most political slogans - there’s some truth in it. The “how” is where such slogans fall short. BSC is dedicated to finding the answers, specifically as it relates to public safety. And there are already enough posts, speeches, campaigns, and Instagram infographics to cover what we mean by that.

As it relates to our lives after Tuesday, what I mean is this: all this shit is made up. All of it. Every law, every requirement, every rule, every cog in the machine. It was all designed by people with no more education than we all have, no more intelligence, no more bravery or foresight. A group of people got together and designed this political machine exactly how they wanted it to operate and then people who mirror the power and privilege the originators had just kept adding to it, kept reinforcing it. The machine is overheated, outdated, needlessly complex, and can be barely said to do the job as assigned, let alone do it well. These obvious faults are culturally considered acceptable and even necessary by some of us.

But we can just as simply make up something better.

We will need to work together, which is why groups like ours and our partners harp on the importance of grassroots organizing. There will be some on-ramping we all need in order to catch up. Whether it’s learning about how so many of us have been systematically oppressed for so long and in so many intricate ways or if it’s just needing to know your local officials better, we could all stand to receive some additional education on how exactly this system is failing us.

We will need to recontextualize how we care about one another. Mutual aid isn’t something we are taught in school, but we all instinctively understand the importance of coming together in times of need. And we can all see that “times of need” are assuredly ahead of us. We’ll need to work through our prejudices around this kind of care, including our own pride and deeply ingrained “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality (a mentality by the way that was coined originally as satire, because it is literally impossible to pick yourself up off the ground by your bootstraps. The writer in me had to make sure I mentioned that).

We will need to try out new systems, new candidates, and new rules around all of this. Not in the half cocked, megalomaniac way that got us Trump and et al, but in a way that addresses all of our needs, especially those of us regularly kept out of this conversation. We also need to accept that we will get this wrong sometimes. We will make new systems that will fall short and we will need to go back to the drawing board again and again. But the key is to try something. To take that tangible step forward. Right now we keep building this perfect and fully inclusive system in theory and have been too afraid to collectively put it into practice. Now is that time to try.

While this all feels daunting, let me make it absolutely clear that a lot of this is already in progress. We at BSC would love for you to feel inspired and ready to sign up with us, but for us it’s far more important that you get on board somewhere in all of this. There are a plethora of groups in this city that are doing the exact kind of work laid out here. The blessing of the internet is that learning where you can find this work is far easier than ever before. Your time, resources, and skills can be plugged in somewhere today. And if you have needs, they can be met far faster as we strengthen this community connection.

Regardless of where this election will take us, Black Spring Cleveland will continue to do this work. We will continue to push for what is truly needed for all of us to feel safe. We will do it without compromising the necessity for Black leadership, leadership that includes all marginalized genders, disabilities, and economic standings. We will continue to work alongside our partners in this city who are on this same wave. We will continue to care and build and protect.

In writing this, I see the appeal of promising the world in the form of simple platitudes and catchy slogans. I wish I could give you The Answer™. But there isn’t a simple quick answer. That’s the sad, anxiety-inducing fact of what we are all feeling. There is, however, a far better answer at our fingertips and the space between it and us is not nearly as wide as we've been led to believe.

With Love, Jasmine A. Golphin on behalf of BSC Leadership