On December 19th, the members of the Electoral College will cast their ballots for the President of the United States. Although this vote is usually considered a formality, with the expectation being that the Electors will rubberstamp the outcome of the November election, this year it has taken on a new significance after the results in November sparked the biggest social conversation about the electoral college that I’ve seen in my lifetime. Many people didn’t seem to know prior to voting that Hillary winning the popular vote did not mean that she would win the presidency.
Another thing that most Americans didn’t know at the time of casting their vote was the fact that the American spy and law enforcement agencies had reason to believe, weeks before the presidential election took place, that Russia had allegedly made plans to have computer hackers interfere with the outcome. Problem was, they didn’t know precisely what the goal of the interference was or how it would be carried out.
Recently, the C.I.A. divulged their findings, stating that Russia had intervened to make Trump president. And although nobody knows why the C.I.A. didn’t divulge this information before the election, the news has left all of us dumbfounded, with many media outlets demanding that the December 19th Electoral vote be delayed until they get to the bottom of the confusion.
In the aftermath of Trump’s election, our country has seen a rise in hate crimes and public displays of racism. And amongst those affected by this ugliness the most, the overwhelming message has been to rise above it, to be the bigger person, to forgive. Forgiveness in the face of racial injustice is a familiar hallmark of the Black church’s influence on how Black people handle sociopolitical issues.
Even as recently as July 22, 2015, in the aftermath of the Charleston church massacre, while most of us were still trembling from outrage, the families of the victims as well as the church were expressing forgiveness for the murderer.
I understand that forgiveness is an important part of letting go of something painful. But at what point does the expectation to forgive become self suppression?
In the Black community, the damaging affects of self suppression show up time and time again. The expectation that a person will stay silent or quickly recover from something traumatic creates room for mental illness to thrive. It’s only been about 150 years since slavery ended in this country. The road Black people walk is very different from people who were never subject to institutionalized racism.
For this reason, it is important to remember that a person’s race and upbringing play a huge role in their mental health needs. This is why “culturally competent care,” which is the ability to provide care to people with diverse values, cultures, and beliefs, is so important for mental health. It’s something I never even thought about, until I needed help myself.
The Electoral College was founded 83 years before Black people got the right to vote. It was created as a way to deter the masses from electing a demagogue, which is a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.
Now, on December 19, the Electoral College is expected to vote in a man whose popularity is due, in part, to his tenure as a reality TV star. And although some electors have publicly stated that they will snub their state’s “faithless elector” laws that prohibit them from voting against their party, it is quite probable that Trump will be inaugurated and the emboldening of overt racists will continue.
I don’t know if Russia impacted the results of our election. I don’t know if it makes sense to hold Trump personally responsible for racists acting out on the streets. But what I do know is that it’s not healthy to pretend you’re okay with it if you’re not, all in the name of forgiveness.