- Donald Trump is the Perfect Man for the Job
I hesitated some about whether to cancel my class the morning after Donald Trump was elected president. I actually had not finished watching the results roll in the night before. The cold that had been brewing in my body took full shape at the same moment that the café full of white people in Seattle where I had been watching took in a series of sharp, collective breaths at the realization that Hillary Clinton might not win this. I slept quietly and woke up exhausted.
Several of my colleagues teaching in colleges and universities across the nation cancelled classes, and talks and colloquiums were cancelled or postponed for reasons that ranged from self-care to crippling devastation. I wanted to cancel class because I was tired and ill, but also because my lack of surprise that white America would elect Trump had tipped over into complete, if critical, apathy.1 This was surely a coping mechanism, a gathering of emotional resources for the coming onslaught of disbelief by masses of people who had fooled themselves into believing that liberalism and “good” or “sane” voting choices happen by proxy: that their neighbors, colleagues, friends of friends, family members, bosses, students, teachers, grocers, and postal workers were surely Clinton supporters because they themselves were. My apathy was of course rooted in my own self-protection as a black queer woman whose community was going to be deeply affected by the coming regime; an inability to process that those most [End Page 56] proximate to me, including family members, may have (and did) cast their votes against me.
More than anything, I considered cancelling class because I was unsure that I could be an objective guide for the tight-knit group of students in my Black Feminist Geographies class—a group composed primarily of black, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Latinx, Middle Eastern, immigrant, international, queer, transgender, genderqueer, and veteran students—who were likely processing feelings of devastating loss after, what was for most, their first time voting. Belying my apathy and exhausted from obsessively refreshing websites hoping for news that might draw me out of the darkness, I went off to teach my class.
The impromptu workshop I ran once I arrived came out of this mix of exhaustion, critical apathy, and a fundamental need to be around other people. It emerged out of the students’ burgeoning grounding in black feminist and black queer studies, complementing the deconstructive tendencies of (white) queer studies with a steadied awareness of how the material realities of race, gender, class, and sexuality always determine the forms, functions, and limits of national belonging. I began the class by opening space for students to acknowledge their feelings about the election as real, valid, and critically informed, allowing them to reflect on what it felt like to have their seemingly collective decision undercut by something so arcane as the electoral college, and what it feels like to be continually denied the voice the law purports to guarantee you. But what do rights, lawfulness, and voting do for a room of young QPOC people! The workshop subsequently strove to connect students’ personal feelings of responsibility as voters to the actually existing forms and functions of governance; to make them aware that, yes, they are given great power with their voting rights, but also to be highly suspicious of that which the state seemingly benevolently “grants” us. As the workshop evolved to help students consider how feelings become politics, I intended to give them an actual tool to wield when faced with the seemingly illogical machinations of political rhetoric that is steeped in, depends on, and itself wields feelings as politics. In times like those ahead of us, this workshop can and should be further tinkered with so that students can work towards an understanding that the realm of the rhetorical/discursive is as critical a terrain of resistance as marching, legislative advocacy, or even slacktivism.
I began the workshop by giving students several minutes to articulate their visceral thoughts and feelings as they’d developed over the previous 12 hours. After everyone had the opportunity to share, I turned...