There’s a scene in the show “Scandal” where Olivia Pope looks Fitz in the eye and says, “I’m telling you that I’m Black,” and then makes it clear that her Blackness means that she is certain that the latest political hypothetical is not going to happen.
That pretty much sums up my response to the anticlimax of the Mueller investigation and the subsequent summary from Attorney General William P. Barr, which concluded that Trump didn’t collude with Russia in the 2016 election. While much of cis-het White America is still reeling from the news of this latest injustice and the disappointment that the president likely won’t face consequences for his actions, many of us in the Black and LGBTQ+ community aren’t shocked at all.
If someone asked me two weeks ago about what Barr’s summary of the Mueller report would say and who would be indicted, I would have replied, “Probably nothing worthwhile. Likely no one.” And when they said, “But look at all of this evidence! Doesn’t Russian meddling amount to treason, a criminal act or at least collusion?” I would have responded as Olivia Pope did: “I’m telling you that I’m Black and that’s not going to happen.”
Since the day Trump took the White House over popular vote winner Hilary Clinton, many White and majority-minded folks have been counting on Mueller’s report to take down Trump so that everything could “go back to normal.” But Black queer femmes like me knew that Mueller’s report was never going to save us, and that “normal” isn’t rainbows and unicorns. We’ve been fighting for survival and our human rights since 1619 by protesting, marching, organizing, speaking out, showing out, loving and finding joy and gratitude for one another since the day that many of my ancestors were brought to these shores on slave ships.
The Emancipation Proclamation established the legal end of slavery on January 1, 1863, but it wasn’t the pen of a White man that saved us. Black enslaved people protested in small and large ways, resisting the restrictions on their lives that not only stole their labor but barred them from getting married and took their children. They jumped brooms and made lasting commitments in times when our relationships weren’t seen as legitimate or necessary. For many Black folks in rural communities, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865—two years after the proclamation—that they even knew they were free. Even then, sharecropping and Jim Crow laws meant they still lived with financial bondage, indentured servitude, segregation and violence.
Even today, when we are all ostensibly equal in the eyes of the law, the law is unevenly applied. Justice is a rare occurrence for my community. After Trayvon Martin was shot and killed while walking home, his killer was exonerated by a stand your ground law that justifies shooting unarmed Black boys. Eric Garner was choked to death by a New York City police officer. Alexia Christian was fatally shot while she was handcuffed in the back of a police car. Meagan Hockaday was killed by police entering her home in response to a domestic disturbance. All of these deaths were deemed legal.
After all we’ve been through and all the systems that have failed us, why would Black folks, queer folks and feminists of color put our faith in the Mueller report? The problem before us is larger than Trump and it always has been. It’s times like these that is seems like only those of us with more marginalized experiences in this country recognize this reality and we need everyone to wake up to the truth.
We have a ton of work to do. Liberation is not an easy goal and the victories must be of our own making. I do have faith and hope that oppressive systems can be dismantled and that we will one day build communities in which we all not only survive, but thrive. Until then, we must remain focused and not get caught up in the latest political moment. We must continue to show up at the polls and vote in every election, for every office and on every ballot initiative. We must speak out and fight against the racism that is inherent to our American society and is the real reason Trump was elected. We must have radical conversations with one another about what liberation could really look like and how we are all accountable for achieving our goal—as Black women have been doing all along. If we had just listened to them, these systems would be, in the words of Olivia Pope, “handled.”
Candace Bond-Theriault is the policy counsel for reproductive rights, health and justice at the National LGBTQ Task Force where she primarily works to combine the reproductive rights community and the LGBTQ community to fight against religious refusals at the federal legislative level. Bond earned her LL.M. degree from the American University Washington College of Law, her J.D. degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law and her B.A. in Human Rights with a focus on race, gender and sexuality from the College of William and Mary. Follow her on Twitter @attorney_bond.