What Do We Do Now?

I think we can all agree that 2020 was a year we want to but can’t forget. It has brought with it pain and chaos, both for my family and for our nation. But, one positive thing that came from it was, it caused those who were previously disengaged to become involved in politics, whether it be locally or in the Presidential campaign. First I will be transparent and say I worked for the Biden campaign during the South Carolina primary and then worked for the South Carolina Voter Protection Unit.

When Joe Biden was declared the winner on November 7th, I remember feeling a sense of joy and optimism I hadn’t felt in some time. But a sense of sobriety soon overcame that. Of course, I was happy we won, but I soon looked to the future. We are still living in a country where 74 million Americans deem Trump’s message of fear and hate acceptable. That told me we have a long way to go.

We can’t forget that we still live in a nation where police kill Black men and women with no regard. We can’t forget we live in a nation rife with inequality, discrimination, and poverty. From the coasts to the heartland, from the city to our rural communities, many are living beneath the quality of life promised to us in the Preamble. During this pandemic, too many Americans are living in a recurring nightmare.

I don’t say these things to scare people or to wave a white flag of surrender. But people should not become complacent. Too many Americans are just satisfied with November’s result and assume they have done their part. If it took 400 years to build these systems, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it will take a long commitment to revolutionize them.

You may ask what can be done? This is a two-fold question. The American people are in a symbiotic relationship with the government, as one cannot do without the other. That means we must take personal responsibility for our nation’s future. As individuals we must continue the marching, protesting, boycotting, and voting that we engaged in this year. We must keep pressuring our government from the local level to the federal. Those in power will only bend if we pressure them. One way to use your power today is to volunteer or donate to help send Rev. Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the Senate from the great state of Georgia. The 2022 midterms are also essential as GOP Senate seats are up for grabs in purple states. We could take control of both chambers of Congress and along with the Biden administration, pass much-needed bills on issues such as criminal justice and climate change.

One thing that has helped me personally when it comes to activism is my faith. I realize that the right has perverted the Gospel and twisted it to represent greed and white supremacy. What motivates me is that I know if I truly want to follow Jesus’ teachings, I have to strive to be a giver and to love as he would. Even if you aren’t a Christian, I believe that our movement should always follow the principles of justice, charity, and fighting for the marginalized and disadvantaged.

Our government and party must also commit themselves to protect our people. We knew the Trump administration never committed to protecting us, and that is why Joe Biden is our President-Elect. It is now on our party and government to not become complacent, but to take our nation to places it’s never been. This means committing to changing our systems. This means turning our attention to overlooked communities like Black and brown people or the disabled. We have the mandate and power to push this nation forward. The government must not just pay with lip service but must follow through with bold, transformative actions.

We have to fight against not only despair but turning on each other amid our struggle. The Civil Rights Movement needed both the voices of Dr. King and Brother Malcolm. In our fight against bigotry and intolerance, we must keep our big tent together. Our movement can’t get caught up in the semantics of this time. Moderates and progressives, politicians and activists, strategic wisdom, and courageous passion are all needed to further our gains. We must turn our attention to delivering what we promised our communities, but so often failed to do. We’re obligated to hear the voices crying out from the most neglected of our communities, those who are often used in elections only to be ignored later.

This is the time. This is our time. We can’t and will never go back to what was. I do not want us caught in a vicious cycle maintained by a false sense of unity. Where there are bondage and injustice, there is no unity. We must commit to leaving indifferent contentment and fight against the influences of bigotry, white supremacy, inequality, and poverty. If you are reading this now and think “I have done enough”, you haven’t. The forces against us are fighting non-stop to make sure they keep the status quo of the past 400 years. As Dr. King said, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Our fight will never stop.

We need not make politics a purity test, nor can we be guided by focus groups or the fear of losing. I am convinced that our principles and causes are just, and as long as we commit to doing what’s right every time, we won’t lose.

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Joel Pulliam

Millennial, campaign/Voter Protection Unit alum. Passionate about civil rights, politics, music, and comics.