Tomorrow (January 20) Joe Biden will be sworn-in as the 46th President of the United States and Kamala Harris as the 47th Vice President. The moment is historic for a number of reasons but also is one with underlined anxiety. The coronavirus pandemic and white supremacist threats to national security has reduced the usual celebratory public moment to a virtual event. The outgoing president will make history again by refusing to attend the ceremony and his most violent and anti-democratic followers have openly expressed plans to disrupt the moment and instigate chaos.
But with all the conflated angst and excitement the inauguration of the Biden administration brings to the week, the question for millions of Americans, specifically the historically disenfranchised, is what happens after the smoke clears from the ceremonial procedures?
The incoming administration is inheriting a catastrophic public health crisis that is projected to claim a half-million American lives by mid-February. Vaccination efforts have been stunted and millions of Americans have resumed normal activity with no concern of the ongoing transmission (and mutation) of the virus. Biden’s administration has promised to act aggressively in prioritizing its mitigation of coronavirus, but it is far from the only problem void of resolve.
2020 saw a horrid display of state-sanctioned violence by American police amid a pandemic. Activists and civil rights attorneys have called on the Biden administration to enact sweeping police reform to change the culture of police violence that disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities. The incoming administration has already seemingly placed the outcry of the social justice community towards the bottom of its priority list, even though the year 2020 could have been defined by two primary headlines: COVID-19 and police violence.
So, what does life after January 20, 2021, look like for an American public crippled by a pandemic, under the persistent threat of domestic terrorism and polarized by the same racial caste system/systemic racism that has remained an active part of the nation’s narrative?
Donald Trump’s departure from the White House will elicit a collective exhale for tens of millions of Americans but after the jubilation subsides, what does the most vulnerable of the nation really have to look forward to in Biden/Harris? America has seen some of its darkest days in the past four years, however, those days were preceded by centuries of inequity and white supremacist/patriarchal governance.
Trump was an exacerbation, not the founder of American oppression. If there was any lesson to take away from 1980s era gory horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th or Child’s Play it’s that just because the monster appeared to die before the closing credits did not mean it was not gearing up to reinvent itself.
Many of us have seen the script of an American nightmare revise itself from inauguration to inauguration. If we seem skeptical about what will follow the ceremony, it’s because we recognize that changing characters does not change the storyline.
And I’m not sure when or if the plot will ever be totally rewritten in my lifetime.
About the Author
Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate, and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be
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