When Joe Biden was announced as the new president of the United States Saturday morning, CNN’s Van Jones spoke the words in the hearts of many Black families.
“This is vindication for a lot of people who really have suffered,” Jones said, fighting tears as he recalled George Floyd’s dying plea: I can’t breathe.
“ ‘I can’t breathe.’ That was not just George Floyd. There were a lot of people who felt like they couldn’t breathe.”
It was an emotional moment, sincere and raw, caught live on national TV. It touched me, as it did many around the nation.
“This is a big deal for us to get some peace and have a reset,” Jones said, adding that Biden’s victory would make it “easier to be a parent this morning … easier to tell your kids, ‘Character matters, being a good person matters. Being a good man matters.’”
The official call for Biden — which also means Kamala Harris will be the first Black and Asian VP — was not just a momentous occasion for African Americans, but a cathartic moment in American history.
Within hours, Americans of all races flooded city streets, honking their car horns in Detroit, dancing the Electric Slide in Atlanta and cheering outside the White House. There was jubilation — and for Black Americans, especially, an audible sigh of relief.
Goodbye to all that
President Trump divided this nation in a way we have not seen in decades. On his watch white supremacy was validated, and old racial strife re-appeared. Immigrant children were snatched from their parents. Muslim people were demonized and ostracized.
Journalists were vilified on an almost daily basis, with Black female reporters often bearing the brunt of Trump’s contempt.
Jones’ two-minute statement made plain what this moment meant for him, for African-Americans, and for many other communities of color. His words brought home the emotion that led people of all races to the streets in protest this summer when George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed by the police.
In my group chat with about 10 Black men, the election replaced sports as the focus of our discussions. Most of us are fathers, and on Election Night we remained online together until nearly 3.a.m., anxiously waiting to find out where the country our children will inherit was headed.
Over the next few days, we shared the vote counts from swing states as if they were basketball scores, taking hope as Biden surged — first in Nevada, then in Georgia, and finally in Pennsylvania.
By Friday night, we were impatient for networks to call the race, daring to believe a new normal might be at hand.
A return to seriousness
Biden’s election isn’t a magic wand that will end racism. But it’s a crucial start.
A record number of voters turned out to decide the country’s fate this go-round. About 74 million people voted for Biden, breaking the record set by Barack Obama in 2012.
For now, we’ll have to endure the law suits seeking to invalidate the election results and the president’s petulant tweets. But now there’s an endpoint in sight, a timeframe when America can begin to rebuild.
Biden’s focus on slowing the pandemic is especially welcome in view of the disproportionate toll COVID-19 has taken on the Black community, It’s time to take coronavirus seriously and minimize the losses still to come. A White House that issues as something more than a reality show will be welcomed by many who Jones’ sentiments.
“You get these tweets. You’re worried about your sister and if can she go to Walmart and get back in her car without somebody saying something to her,” Jones said. “You spent a whole lot of life energy just to hold it together. Character matters. Being a good person matters.”
All of those things do matter.
But it’s healing that matters the most.
Darren A. Nichols is a Detroit-based freelance writer and an award-winning city hall reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or his Twitter handle @dnick12.
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