**Felix Culpa translates to “happy fault” in Latin – or rather, something disastrous that turns into something positive. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.**
‘God’ and ‘damn’ are two words that shouldn’t be spoken together when you express your frustration, but that’s what comes tumbling out of my mouth that morning, the day after the election, the day after my country ‘tis of thee voted Donald Trump to be the 45th president.
Brandon is even more quiet than usual as he flips between the Today Show and ESPN. I too am quiet, feeling a dull anger as I dress for work. For some reason, I choose to dress in denim from head to toe, and pair it with cowboy boots and a purple bandanna that Greg L. brought me from Japan. Dressing like a Black American cowgirl feels like my body is holding its first press conference for the rest of the world. “You may not want me, America, but I’m here. So giddy up.”
I stop at the deli to purchase flowers for my colleague who is and was a mega-Clinton fan. I know she will be devastated about the election results, though for vastly different reasons than me. I think about her as I gently thumb the buttercup petals resting on my lap during the commute. As a White woman, she is feeling the agony of disappointment in society on a larger scale, and it is a first for her. She won’t soon forget this feeling. In fact, she will join 1 million other women on January 21st to march across every major city because she can’t accept what has happened. Welcome, sister. Welcome to what so many of us have felt before. You now belong to America’s worst after-school club: the Minorities.
“Goddammit,” I whisper, “what the fuck.” This is the second time I have cursed this way, but I’m reacting to what I see on social media this time around. My antenna has been up for the past two days, my paranoia level at an all-time high. I can’t bring myself to pray or to focus. For I know that at any given moment, people that we think we know on an intimate level will begin to proudly own their choices and won’t be able to resist joining the winning team. My heart sinks at what I am seeing.
One of our closest friends has begun to find and post articles showing Donald Trump to be a unifying figure, and goes a step further to say that his negative image has been fabricated by media outlets. Now it’s one thing to say that you voted for him despite his inflammatory aggrandizing —and it is entirely another to say that he never made any inflammatory statements to begin with. It is wrong, and it is dangerous to normalize this type of behavior. But more than anything, it is devastating because I thought you knew us; and I thought we knew you.
I go to Brandon right away and I am swallowing down huge swigs of red wine as I explain my position, self-medicating as my anxiety goes up and my confidence in his ability to properly address this issue dwindles. On a blank canvas, I try to sketch out what I think our responsibility to speak up and not stay silent will look like. He is apathetic and droopy about “taking action”, and I can see now that it was because he knew deep down inside what was coming all along. He agrees that this person’s viewpoint is quite troubling, but he shoves it down. And the more he pretends this isn’t happening, the angrier I become.
He knows that I am going to explode. He hears me crying constantly; in the bathroom, the kitchen, and in front of the television whether it’s on or off. So he thwarts it by sending an email to said friend, patiently explaining why her statements are offensive and nothing short. The response is unsatisfactory to him, so he follows up a second time. When my gentle, intelligent, and forever agreeable husband can’t get through to you on Round 1, there is a major problem.
We cannot get into the specifics of what happens next, for it’s not my desire to re-flame the catastrophe that follows. I will own my part and tell you that I delivered the hardest, messiest and most painful “How could you?” of my life to this person in a group setting. I sobbed and literally snorted from beginning to end. “You were our friends,” I wail. As the words escape from the screen of my phone where I have drafted them and out of my mouth, I know that this is the end. There is no remorse in the eyes, only defiance and anger for being called out in this manner.
If friendship is intimacy and trust – and intimacy depends upon being and feeling fully understood and fully known – then we are not friends when you support this madness. Because this madness threatens people that look like us. Our true friends understand that we cannot change being Black and would experience absolute terror if we attended a rally where the confederate flag was being flown. Our true friends want no part of this.
I cannot feel as though I belong to you, as though you deeply care for me and the entirety of my well-being, if you are casual about the racist rhetoric that has pained me during the post-election fallout. I cannot invite you to sit with me in the garden of my heart and trust you to tenderly pick out the weeds if you cannot empathize with my experience. And I cannot shrink how I feel to make YOU feel more comfortable.
When we return home with less friends than we began the day with, it is clear Brandon is no longer on my side. I look at him and he looks ashamed of me, but I can’t tell if it’s because my hair is nappy or because I threw a grenade into the center of our social activities. And for the first time ever, I’m not sure which it is. Am I too Black for you too?
I need support and reassurance, but Brandon offers none. His focus is on how to salvage this friendship, a friendship I am not sure I want any longer. We have the same argument over and over again – and it persists so long that before I know it Thanksgiving and then Christmas comes and still, we are barely speaking. We are each hurting, each of us is lonely and worst of all, we are isolated because there is no one to talk to about such things. We don’t have sex anymore; we don’t touch when we sit on the couch. The enemy has come into our camp because Brandon left the door wide open, and I keep forgetting to shut it.
The golden couple has officially been broken. There is nothing too out of reach for this election to stain.
The guilt from what I have done – the confronting of friends within a larger group of friends – is there, of course, but it’s mainly enlarged by Brandon’s disapproval. He pushes me to email the friend an apology because he worries that without it, this group of friends will fall apart. Other people rely on this group too, not just The Woods. I have jeopardized their friendships with one another. I have let God down. I have given in to anger, to emotional crap. I screwed up. I need therapy. Everyone, including my own husband, seems to hate me.
When I am finished emailing an apology, I can’t look at Brandon. He pressured me into doing this, and I’m not sure what I’m apologizing for. My delivery sucked and the setting sucked, yes. But the message would be the same whether it was told in public or private, whether it was wanted or not. I cannot look at him get dressed to go to his fancy job with their fancy kitchen and snacks, and their fancy elevators. Cannot stand to watch him pretend to be such a good husband when he pronounced me guilty of addressing racism, while chalking the original statements up to: “Well, you know they’re from the Midwest.” As if having a Middle America zip code on your birth certificate is a good defense for calling the struggle of minorities a lie.
The woman in the mirror (that’s me) has bags under her eyes, and she is fucking miserable – and she curses all the live long day. She is lost and confused and unsure of how to move forward. She is unsure about the future of the country and the future of her marriage. For weeks, she sleeps on an air mattress in the guest room because if she must fight alone, she will dream alone too. She hurts more than ever in her life, feels lonelier than before, feels the darkness of depression rolling in like fog.
But there is a tiny bit of fight left in her. Friends keep sending text messages at just the right moments to keep her from believing the tortuous thoughts keeping her awake at night. And one night she finds this quote written on a dirty post-it note in the subway, said by Angela Davis:
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. Instead, I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
And truly, truly, it saves her from caving all the way in.