A few days ago I stepped on a dip in the sidewalk and my ankle started to cave. I knew this feeling well and I waited for the inevitable collapse and meeting with the pavement. Instead of finding myself sprawled on the ground, my ankle wobbled back into its space. It didn’t give in to the ground. When I caught my balance and began to walk again I could feel the soreness creep in, the tendons slightly stretched and weakened.
I originally tore those tendons jumping on a trampoline at night, leaping around with too many other barely teenagers in the dark, giggles and laughter marking our rebellion at doing something slightly dangerous. For years after that first fall, painful sprains and and discomfort plagued me. Sometimes in the summer that foot still gets puffy and swells up around the spot of the initial injury and the ones that came after. Finally, after spending enough time limping around and enough trips to the emergency room with swelling and pain I saw a Dr. who prescribed Tylenol and several weeks of physical therapy.
I toughed out what I thought was both a silly and rigorous pattern of exercises for a chronically sprained ankle with a physical therapist. I stretched, built, and secured muscle around those weak and wobbling tendons. I wasn’t so sure it was helping. I left those appointments sore and shaky and would find my foot swollen for the next few days.
Despite those weeks of what I thought was unhelpful therapy, six years later when I step on a bad piece of sidewalk, or lose my balance in my new heeled boots, I recover much faster. I still remember stretches and I work them when it gets re-injured, even when it hurts so bad I’m shaking because I know that I don’t want to hobble around on crutches and end up with a weaker wobbly foot I’m afraid to put my weight on.
Tonight on the evening of a new and dangerous era I worry that the U.S. is much like my bad ankle. I am concerned, however, that we haven’t done the work, that we’ve not made it to all of our appointments, that we’ve not been doing the exercises at home. I am worried that the pavement is going to come up a lot quicker than we are prepared for.
Let me tell you what I mean.
Tomorrow a lot of people I love and care about, and thousands and thousands of others who feel a deep and meaningful conviction about what has been going on with the election of our president are jumping into a pool and starting a wave of push-back. They are kicking their legs and trying to create a whirlpool of solidarity. And whether that March likes it or not or whether they claim they are not looking to create an Anti-Trump agenda this action was born of his threat. The organizers only dove in after that movement forward. They did not jump on board this action six months ago, or a year ago, or 25 years ago when women of color were still at significant risk.
There are no bones about it, he is our president. We (especially white middle and upper class women) have to own that we have all contributed to this whether we voted for him or not. We have to own that we did not do enough, we did not have enough conversations, we did not call out our own, we did not dig into the meat of the problem because 53% of us STILL voted for a man who is assembling a cabinet and an agenda that especially puts marginalized people and us at risk.
Until we are willing to own our part in that, that we have contributed to a culture that elected him and by association the people that he is putting into power, I am concerned that we are as weak as an ankle with stretched and torn tendons and no muscle to hold it up. I am worried that while women all over are pounding the pavement tomorrow this anger and resistance is going to wobble and cave. I am concerned that we are re-injuring the people of color, trans-women, all those who identify as LGBTQIAA, who are already most at risk in this space.
I am asking you and I am asking myself, have we done the work? Have we really shown up? Have we done the reps with our muscles and pushed through the pain? Are we really ready? Or have we been on ice, getting through it because at the end of the day our white skin and economic safety nets have kept us from needing to feel that pain?
I am asking you these questions because I am asking them of myself, a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, middle class woman. I know that my muscles are not built up. I know that I have centered myself in the discussion and focused on myself when I should have been centering people of color, and those with disabilities, and those with any marginalized identity and building up my muscles and power and privilege around them. I have not always shown up to my appointments or done the exercises when I got home. I have asked women of color to do my work for me, to pedal the bicycle, to put extra weight on the leg press so I can go home feeling good and check off the numbers on my “good ally checklist.”
I’m not here to tell you not to march. Show up tomorrow. Whether it is locally or in D.C. pound the pavement. Get up early and ride on your bus, wave your signs, stand up and ride the high. Tomorrow is perhaps the bullet in the starting line gun. But tomorrow night when you are sore and aching and tired, ask yourself “Have I done the work?” “Am I ready to take this on full time” or “Do I need to go get on the exercise bike and build up my muscles?” “Do I need to put in some time listening to the people who are really at risk?”
I hope tomorrow night when your knees are wobbly and you feel like crawling into bed that you are ready to chug some coffee and start the real work. That the end of your resistance is not near. I hope that you and I are showing up at midnight January 22nd in our workout clothes ready to be put through our paces by the folks who have been doing this for years, because that is when the most serious work begins.