Strides aren’t enough; we need to hold out for leaps

Dear President Biden,

I’m rather in a funk today. It’s not a big deal at all – it’s just what happens when I need to buckle down and start drafting a paper that doesn’t feel straightforward to frame. I spent much of the day picking through Google Scholar trying to get a better handle on the issues at hand and ended up just feeling simultaneously over- and underwhelmed. There’s both way too much material that’s sort of, kind of relevant out there and not enough material that feels like it’s useful in setting up the arguments. But I shall persist.

There are two other funk-drivers for me that have to do with your speech last night. First, there’s the handmaidenesque feel of Harris and Pelosy wearing their complementary (colored) pastel jackets – faint peachy peach and the lightest blue gray – while they looked adoringly at you. Christine Emba summed it up really well:

“….And yet, for their troubles, there the women stood in their nonthreatening pastels: cheering Joe on from the back, masked and silent while he spoke.”

I know their presence up there on the dais signals progress and that you did something incredibly radical in asking Harris to be your running mate/VP, but it still feels icky. And just for the record, in 59 presidential elections (over the course of about 236 years) we’ve still not ever elected a woman president. Not one. And we’ve only ever elected someone who is not a White man one frigging time. Seeing them up there like they were your cheerleaders made me feel tired and sad.

The second funk-driver related to your big speech is how baldly the GOP used Tim Scott and his (apparent) willingness to be used like that. I couldn’t bring myself to watch his rebuttal but the quotes pertaining to the supposition that America is not a racist country also made me feel tired and sad – and angry.

What’s worse, though, is that Harris felt compelled to essentially agree with Scott that America is not a racist country. I know she tagged in:

“But we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.”

How can America not be a racist country and yet the history of racism in our country and its existence today are something we have to speak the truth about? So what’s the truth here? It doesn’t make sense and basically feels like she suddenly found herself on very thin ice that started cracking so she scrambled to come up with a save when she should have just been forthright about the fact that our country has been and continues to be racist.

We all misspeak. We all mess up. I’m not going to cancel her for this, but dang do I want you and Harris to get this stuff right. And dang do we need to not let up on reckoning with the realities of systemic racism and sexism and actively addressing them, actively dismantling them. It’s well past time.

May we all be safe to speak the truth.
May we all be willing to be real and stop trying to placate entitled White people.
May we be truly healthy and strong.
May we accept that making strides isn’t enough; we need to hold out for leaps.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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