“We've learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
- Joseph R. Biden, 46th President of the United States
The world watched this morning as Donald Trump departed the White House for his final time as the 45th President of the United States, leaving in his wake a reactionary political body fueled by racism, sexism, and white supremacy. With his departure comes the hope that the Biden Administration’s “Build Back Better” directive will propel us into a future of democracy, equity, and justice. And while we celebrate this historic moment, we must also reckon with the legacy of systemic racism — a term President Biden used in his remarks today — that ignited and sustained Trumpism.
At every step of his political career, Donald Trump mobilized and weaponized vitriolic rhetoric: from mocking a differently-abled reporter at the outset of his campaign, to calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” in his farewell speech with no recognition of the more than 400,000 American lives lost due to his catastrophic pandemic response. He called #BlackLivesMatter a symbol of hate and named its protestors a “bunch of thugs” while praising white insurrectionists as “very special people.” He attempted to undermine the core of our democracy by declaring victory in the wake of the November elections and asserting that the Vice President had the power to block electoral certifications — two lies out of more than 30,000 documented falsehoods told during his presidency.
Undoing Trump’s legacy will be an arduous task. Even as our country embraces the hope this new administration brings, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to shedding light on the intersectional dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Black police violence, and the myriad social and political crises that continue in America.
In Biden’s inaugural address, he articulated a renewed commitment to “write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division. Of light, not darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness.” Remarking on the historic occasion and the significance of the Capitol site where thousands stormed the seat of government, President Biden soberly assessed the fragility of the struggle for democracy, and recounted the dangers of systemic racism and political divisions that are yet to be overcome. And although he did not mention Trump by name, his speech clearly recognized the outgoing president’s “damage” to democracy, and the need to repair the country: “We'll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore…”
Descending the Capitol steps clad in purple and channeling the legacy of Shirley Chisolm — the first Black woman to run for president and a pioneer for Black women’s political power — Kamala Harris takes office as the first Black and South Asian woman to become the Vice President of the United States. In another historic moment, she was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor — the Court’s first and only Puerto Rican/LatinX justice — using the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall's bible. Long the wheels of the Democratic bus, Black women are finally getting near the driver’s seat.
As we work to hold this new administration accountable to the Black women to whom they owe their victory, we must assess the current state of Black women in the U.S. and analyze the contemporary political landscape. We invite you to join us tomorrow, January 21st, at 12:30pm ET (9:30am PT) for our 22nd episode of Under the Blacklight, titled: “From the Base to the Face of the Democratic Party: And Still We Fight.” Executive Director Kimberlé Crenshaw will be joined by Barbara Arnwine, Dr. Joia Crear Perry, Kim Foxx, and Kirsten West Savali to theorize and strategize about what it means to center Black women in our political agenda and what comes next in this era of both profound discord and distinct opportunity.
Please join us!