Anti-Racism Culture Feminism Gender Identity Jessica Havens Race and Oppression Spirit

A Love Letter to the Left

In the afternath of the recent U.S. Presidential election, we are encouraging our essayists to write and share their own pain, and to also remind us all of our responsibility to be restorative and loving in how we respond to people who wished for the outcome we are seeing. This is the first in the series. 

In the aftermath of the recent U.S. Presidential election, we are encouraging our essayists to write and share their own pain and to also remind us all of our responsibility to be restorative and loving in how we respond to people who wished for the outcome we are seeing. This is the first in the series. 

Let us not forget to simultaneously go within, shining light on our own spiritual shadows so that we do not replicate that which we decry

by Jessica Havens

Cir Crop SCLadyReading through my FB feed in the aftermath of the election for president of the United States, I have felt a sense of solidarity in reading post after post expressing outrage, anger, and surprise over the results. Many have used this moment to voice their opinions and worldview, and I too feel compelled to speak.

I must preface this letter by clarifying that my critical lens was not immaculately born from some unique awesomeness of my being, but from much study and self-reflection inspired profoundly by the work of Black, White and Brown feminists committed to collective liberation.

I am wary of the singular analysis that patriarchy and sexism were the only evils at work in this election, with Hillary as some sort of representation of our collective liberation

In this moment, I do not fear the hatemongers the most, perhaps because the violence and beliefs they espouse sadly do not feel any different than they felt last week or last year. In this moment, I confess that I fear for the ways in which this moment will further fracture conscious communities; that those of us on the left don’t see how we too have been socialized inside these systems and believing ourselves to be “the enlightened ones”, rely on simplistic and one-dimensional explanations of humanity and our world. Identity politics has been empowering for so many of us because it gives us the language to understand and name the ways our lives and worldview have been shaped by our social identities and in turn, how systemic oppression and privilege function. But, identity politics can also obscure that intersecting space of the Venn diagram of our lives. It consolidates the multitude of our stories and draws borders and boundaries that can create a false knowing of who constitutes the “us” and the “them”.

I am wary of the singular analysis that patriarchy and sexism were the only evils at work in this election, with Hillary as some sort of representation of our collective liberation. I am wary of the analysis that white supremacy and racism are solely to blame for the outcome, with white women being the bitter bad word spouting from our mouths in disgust. I am wary of the singular analysis that capitalism is the only evil at work, naming race and gender as mere pawns in a larger war. Everything is connected.

When I see posts calling for unity amongst marginalized groups (queer, immigrant, POC, women, disabled, poor) or for affinity spaces where people from the same marginalized identity can gather and heal with one another, I agree. We most definitely need emotional armor to fend off energy that does not feed our highest selves. When I see calls for ACTION, I am also in agreement. I find all of these visions and ideas to be powerful and important. But they are not the whole story. The other part of the story feels much harder.

I am wary of the singular analysis that capitalism is the only evil at work, naming race and gender as mere pawns in a larger war

If we are committed to building a collective consciousness and movement, we must resist the urge to believe in our separateness. There are men and straight people and documented people and cis people and white people and middle-class people all over this country who see collective liberation as a deeply ingrained part of their work and life. This is not about applause or accolades; this is just about stating facts. Even if those groups are small in number, let’s break down the general population stats from the election. Less than 60% of the country actually voted. Take that in. Of those who voted, half voted for Trump. The math here is that only about 30% of the population voted him. While we should be concerned about that 30%, and white people clearly have a lot of work to do with other white people, let us not forget about the 70% of this country from all walks of life who did not for a myriad of reasons.

I return over and over and over again to the wisdom of Audre Lorde and her entreaty that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

We too are affected by ego.

We too are affected by the desire to pinpoint blame on
“the other”.


We too are affected by cultural nationalism and unconscious beliefs that another group is inherently more flawed, more savage.


We too can be Internet trolls, motivated by ego and righteousness in the name of feminism or racial justice or queer liberation.


We too can be infected by hate and resentment.


We too were raised in a national culture that teaches us that personal power is derived through domination, even when that fact may be covered up by buttons and t-shirts and slogans that convey otherwise.


We too have internalized our disconnection from the other, believing that our fate is somehow separate.


We too believe that if only that group of people over there would change, that it would automatically alleviate our personal suffering, rather than seeing how we too are implicated in our own suffering, healing and powerful resurrection.

Please do not misunderstand my words. This is not a call for uncritically joining together or erasing real differences in the possibilities and trajectories of our lives. This is not a call to erase the diversity of our responses, mourning, and outrage. And this is most certainly not a naïve claim that “everything’s gonna be alright”. Rather, this is a call for a spiritual awakening that requires uncomfortable self-reflection and committing ourselves to love in its most radical form, wrestling with King and hooks’ in the most personal of ways.

Everything is connected

There is clearly a global movement underway that wishes to cling to the old vestiges of European and male power, a consciousness born of fear, isolation, and domination. But, I do not believe that all is lost. There is also a collective consciousness that is building and we must believe in it to give it life and remind each other of its existence. Yes, we must change external oppressive structures through organizing and legislation, but let us not forget to simultaneously go within, shining a light on our own spiritual shadows so that we do not replicate that which we decry.


ABOUT THE ESSAYIST

Jessica Havens
is a Denver based
essayist for
Stories Connect


Photos by Noah Dobin-Bernstein. Sermon copyright by Julian DeShazier

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