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Reflections – The Struggle Continues… By Sherry Cannon

Sherry-Cannon-photo1November could not have been a more consequential month for me and my family.  On November 8th, Election Day, I was traveling by train to bury the second of two younger sisters in five months. Being the self-appointed family matriarch, trying to prepare myself for this second goodnight to my sister Becky, so quickly on the heels of saying goodnight to my sister Joy in June, was weighing heavily on my heart.

As my daughter and I traveled throughout the night to Hope, Arkansas, I tried without success to find a livestream to watch the returns come in. I was left with asking friends via text and Facebook for updates on the status of the presidential race. Around 3 a.m. I was forced to accept that Hillary Clinton was not going to be the 45th President of the United States.

We reached our destination after a 13-hour train ride. For the next few days, I was completely engrossed with family, where we reminisced about my sisters gone too soon. We laughed, we cried and we ate a lot.  The Millennials in the family even had us doing the “Mannequin Challenge.”

Our family gathered and talked that Friday before we left to return home, for several hours.  We talked about things that were important to us… family, our mortality, our legacy. We talked about education being critical to the health of the family.  We acknowledged how blessed our family has been and the responsibility we had to our respective communities.

Finally, we talked about the election, going from having a President Obama to having a President Trump; what would a Trump Administration look like; and more importantly how would it affect us.

My nieces and nephews in the room represented several honorable careers, from education, health care, and social work to career military. However, their college kids, who were there with us, did not vote in this election.  They didn’t like either candidate, didn’t believe their vote mattered, nor could they see how the outcome would affect their lives.

Once we boarded the train, I began to grapple within myself, what could I do? It’s one thing to pontificate on an intellectual level, but what now?  Where do I go from here?  How do I, and how will we, respond to a Donald Trump administration?

Many people are saying to give him a chance and stop trying to predict how he will govern. The problem for me, and much of Black America, 83% exactly who voted for Hillary Clinton, the idea of Trump doing what he said he would do during the campaign is appalling. To date, there is no one being selected to serve in his administration that looks like me, stands for what I believe in, or I dare to say even cares about me.

I see this election, where many of those who voted for Trump, are seeking to reclaim their privilege and power. The stature and intelligence of President Obama was threatening to them and they are not willing to accept a permanent shift in power. However, the fact that less than 50% of the country voted, we must OWN our culpability in the results of this election as well.

I challenge the Black Churches, who for too long have been silent as our civil rights has been systematically stripped; as unarmed Brown and Black men have been killed by police officers; as mass incarceration continues to dismantle Black families; that a man like Donald Trump could ever be elected to the highest office of the land.

I challenge the White Evangelical Churches, who were willing to give a pass on the misogynist, racist, and ignorance of Donald Trump; his rhetoric exposed the hatred and fear that found its voice in this overwhelming vote by White America and the White Church.

I challenge the political apathy of the Millennial Generation, who chose not to bother to vote at all and those who couldn’t see beyond personalities, the Bernie or bust crowd. I hope they recognize that they abdicated their responsibility by not voting. A right that people fought and suffered for and one that many people, in this very election were denied.

Many of us will be far less affected by the policies of the next four years. But others will be even more oppressed. How we respond to this administration will speak volumes about who we really are. We cannot afford to sit in our places of privilege and not be concerned about the repeal of health care or the building of a wall, or a registry for Muslims, or the re-instating of stop and frisk, or increased voter suppression because it doesn’t affect us. As Christians, or at the least, people of conscience, we have the responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves.

Remember the words of Martin Niemoller, a Protestant Pastor who spoke out against Adolf Hitler.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionist, and I did not speak out–

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–

because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

As the Millennials, would say, Stay Woke!