Mom of four. You know what that means? That every single day I spend hours in my soccer mom van (but I assure you that none of my kids play the sport) driving across town dropping off and picking up teens and tweens of various ages. When I’m not being forced to listen to their music ranging from rap, K-Pop, alternative, among others, I regularly tune in to talk radio, usually NPR.
Earlier this week was no different and as I made my way across town school hopping, a statement made by a reporter on NPR, a name I can’t even remember, said something that left me with a feeling that I am certain was the opposite of the effect they were trying to achieve.
It went something like this, “Stacey Abrams, the first Black woman to give the response to the President’s State of the Union Address.” Said in a tone intended to leave most Americans with a sense of utmost pride.
Yes, that fact is correct. Stacey Abrams the first Black woman chosen by the establishment to respond on our behalf and despite the calculated and flawed attempt by commentators to pre-establish an ‘awkward moment’ for her as in the case of Mark Rubio and the famous drink of water, Abrams thoroughly represented and subsequently joined the ranks of so many other firsts we’ve recently witnessed.
Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim congresswomen.
Sharice Davids, the first openly gay Native American congresswoman.
Deb Haaland. The first Native American woman elected to congress from New Mexico. That one in particular hitting close to home given that New Mexico has been the space I’ve lived in for the past two decades. New Mexico, home to 23 tribes who were the original Peoples of this land pre-Conquest and colonization, but yet 2019 is the first year for a Native American woman to represent our state in the US Congress.
Although I am happy, even ecstatic that these beautiful, powerful faces are now among the ranks of those who hold such powerful positions in our country, there’s an aspect that doesn’t sit well within my being and that I must address.
Every time I am bombarded by the continuous reminders of “The Firsts” by well-intended reporters and journalists, my body cannot contain the impulse and I cringe a bit deeper in my seat.
Why? Because these “firsts” continuously touted are a reminder to my brown Xicana body of a racist past, present, and future. I ask myself, why is it that we are facing so many firsts of this sort across the nation? Why is it that these firsts took more than 200 years to happen? When one takes a moment to reflect on the question posed there is only one logical conclusion. It is because this society had not allowed it. Society and its racially and socially structured hierarchies have excelled in the regulation of bodies of color, especially within and across politics. These firsts, although continuously posed in such a positive light, are also a painful reminder of where we’ve been as a society and of where we’re still not.
I want to firmly believe that these firsts signal a major change and that is a possibility, but, for many People of Color, there will continue to reside a deep-rooted mistrust and even skepticism. Could it possibly be that there is finally true racial acceptance and transformation? Or, could it be that the system is once again using our bodies as its tool to prove a point to a tyrannical and demented President?
The history of the United States is clear and speaks of a violence and of abuse committed against bodies of color. Our bodies acting as sites of others’ savagery, insecurities, and need for utmost control. Spatial and political regulation is far from over, even with “The Firsts.”
So please understand that every time “The Firsts” are mentioned, the thorn still stuck in the side digs just a bit deeper.
Don’t get me wrong and believe me when I say that I, along with so many of the People, feel absolute pride when I see the names of all the firsts plastered across social media and news outlets still dominated by faces not ours. But, what I have to say is that every time we hear remarks and commentaries of The Firsts, we cannot witness them as if they exist in some type of ahistorical vacuum devoid of a racist past and present. These firsts took so long to happen because the political system (among all others in society) continues to be led and dominated by the white male heterosexual abled body.
Despite my involuntary reaction to the mentioning of these powerful women as The Firsts, I remain hopeful that their names and faces will set off a much needed revolution across all political and social systems. What The Firsts boldly state for the rest of us, is “We’re here, always have been, and we’re not leaving.”