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Roxane Gay on the audacity of hopelessness


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The New York Times asked a few writers about their thoughts on the election soon after results poured in. My favorite is from the author Roxane Gay, who so often has reassuring thoughts for women and people of color. She writes on the “audacity of hopelessness,” a pun on Obama’s memoir “The Audacity of Hope.” An excerpt:

Throughout this election cycle I was confident of a Hillary Clinton victory because she is eminently qualified for the presidency and she ran a strong campaign. As I watch the election results come in, I am stunned. I was confident, not only because of who Mrs. Clinton is. I was confident because I thought there were more Americans who believe in progress and equality than there were Americans who were racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic. This is a generalization, but it’s hard to feel otherwise.

As I’ve watched the pundits try to contextualize Mr. Trump’s performance Tuesday, they have talked about how a postindustrial reality was a big part of his success. I understand why “economic anxiety” is part of the story — working-class families who have seen jobs disappear are looking for real change in Washington. They are hoping that somehow, a political “outsider” will create the kind of change that will, in turn, bring back well-paying jobs. I understand this hope. I want to see the American economy thrive for everyone, but I do not think Mr. Trump can revitalize the economy.

A bigger part of tonight’s story is that millions and millions of Americans are willing to vote for a candidate who has been endorsed by the Klan. They are willing to vote for a candidate who has displayed open contempt for women. They are willing to vote for a candidate whose base is openly hostile to people of color, immigrants and Muslims. We cannot ignore the hate that Mr. Trump both encourages and allows to flourish. I am terrified that the more virulent of Mr. Trump’s base will see his election as permission to act on hatred.

On Monday night, I was hopeful and excited. I thought Nov. 8 would be an amazing day. I thought we would finally see a woman president after 44 men held the office. To see the highest glass ceiling of all cracked, the idea of that meant so much to me. Now I wonder, will I see a woman president in my lifetime?

I feel hopeless right now. I am incredibly disappointed, but I cannot wallow in these feelings for long. I will not. The world will not end because of a Trump presidency. Tomorrow, the sun will rise and the day will be a lot less joyful than I imagined, but I’ll get through it. We all will.

But I also know that the most vulnerable among us will now be even more vulnerable because there are now too few checks and balances to executive power, given the Republican-controlled legislature.

Where do we go from here? That is the question many of us will be trying to answer for the next while. For now, we need to breathe, stand tall and adjust to this new reality as best we can. We need — through writing, through protest, through voting in 2018 and 2020 — to be the checks and balances our government lacks so that we can protect the most defenseless among us, so that we can preserve the more perfect union America has long held as the ideal. We have to fight hard, though I do not yet know what that fight looks like.

Roxane Gay (@rgay) is an associate professor at Purdue University, the author of “Bad Feminist” and the forthcoming “Hunger,” and a contributing opinion writer.