In his farewell address, President Obama proclaimed, “The work of democracy has always been hard. It has been contentious. Sometimes it has been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.” Obama disguised his critiques of President-elect Trump in a speech that professed his love for the spirit of the constitution and democracy. Although Obama has not publicly criticised Trump since the election, many others have not shared the same sentiment. In an attempt to protest Donald Trump’s victory and forthcoming inauguration, liberals and supporters of Hillary Clinton have echoed this desire for unity through signs, pins, and bumper stickers that read “Love Trumps Hate”. What is amiss amongst liberals is that their understandings of love, freedom, and democracy are predicated on histories of conquest, colonialism, and slavery.
When Obama says democracy is bloody, but the bloodshed is necessary to propel the American creed forward, he is not only referring to the ways in which war is necessary to combat “evil”, but he is also alluding to a worldview that is immensely a product of the colonial matrix of power, knowledge, and being (read: coloniality). Those of us most vulnerable to the danger (read: hate) of Trump’s revival of white nationhood know that what is imminent is not some anomaly in the matrix. Rather, the danger has always been lingering; it is at the heart of Western modernity – it first showed itself when it desecrated our sands in the Americas, in India and shackled our people on the shores of Africa. In their endeavours to “civilise” the world, the colonisers carried with them what they believed to be the universal truth, which at that time was the word of God. Today, we see a more secular approach to “civilising” in and through the spirit of the Constitution. It is out of the kindness of their Western hearts and morals that the world is civilised. The colonised at the helm of this “truth” serve as the Others who are subjected to varying scales of violence who consequently become apposite and vestibular to this “universal truth”. Obama is correct when he declared that the Constitution is “just a piece of parchment” that “has no power on its own” but is given power by “we the people”. But the people he is referring to are not the bodies, spaces, and knowledges that have been racially classified and mapped as condemned. The people he is referring to embrace the ideals of America and see it to be exceptional and universal. The people he is referring to have the capacity to tolerate difference and showcase their tolerance with “Love Trumps Hate” bumper stickers.
However, love is not the answer, or at least “love” as defined by bumper stickers. For this type of love “puts the onus on us to prove we are worthy of compassion and justice”. This love suggests an unaltered ethics of living, being, and relating with difference. To put more simply, we must now show compassion, kindness, and generosity towards those who are directly targeted by Trump’s racism, sexism, homo- and transphobia. However, Trump is not an anomaly in this colonial matrix of power, knowledge, and being. The ethics and politics of love narrated by the left are deeply marked by colonial systems of race, gender, and sexuality. As Keguro Macharia states in his article, this love establishes a hierarchy of lovability “imbuing dominant groups with the capacity to elicit, cultivate, and embody love while claiming that minoritized groups do not know how to love properly, if at all”. We need to reclaim love from this kind of policing of who is to be loved and who is not. We need to engage in a “decolonial love” as thinkers like Chela Sandoval and Frantz Fanon have come to express. We need a love that pushes us towards a radical acceptance of our vulnerability. A vulnerability that pushes us away from the love of Self towards thinking critically about how we relate to others, or as Lisa Cacho states in her article a love that “requires us to be overcome and transformed by the unfamiliar in what we already know, so that we are brave enough to drive down dangerous roads to places we have never wanted or always hoped to go”. We must radically redefine our ethics and politics of living, being, and relating with difference to be more than just tolerance or equality. This decolonial love dismantles the metaphysical and physical battle between the western-Self and the Other. It allows us to not just tolerate the Other, but to radically redefine ourselves as fundamentally constructed through the Other. That is, to engage in this kind of love is to engage in ethics and politics that radically destabilise the western-Self, and be reconstituted through the Other and its colonial, geographical, and racial being.
President Obama called for unity from the White House following the election of Donald Trump in November, “Everybody is sad when their side loses an election. But the day after, we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first; we’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country.” As we approach the inauguration of Donald Trump, I would like to leave the outgoing President with a few last words. This is may be an intramural scrimmage to you and your friends on the left. However, for centuries now, the losing team, not the Democrats or the left, but the condemned, the wretched of the earth, are not coming home. For those of us in the shadow, in the cuts, and in the breaks of the here and now, we must continue haunting, crying, screaming, and singing because ultimately the noises we make name their limits.