Biden and Harris' win is a huge victory – but there's still more to do

The US presidential election results had me on the edge of my seat. 

My TV was stuck on CNN, and ‘Breaking News’ got me every time. It shouldn’t have been so nail-biting, but I am thankful that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have emerged victorious and will take office in January, and that the Trump administration will be over. 

Kamala Harris’ historic achievement means that she will become the first-ever woman – and the first woman of colour – to hold the position of Vice President of the United States. It made me feel proud – then it felt personal. 

Kamala’s win highlights just how important it is to acknowledge progress. It has forced me to reflect on the overwhelming sense of responsibility I felt to represent my country when I became the first-ever elected African-Caribbean woman to speak at the House of Commons despatch box as a government minister in 2009. 

That moment filled me with pride, too – so much so that I added it to my Twitter bio that very day. 

But the most valuable player of the US election has got to be Stacey Abrams, the lawyer, activist and former Democratic Party leader of the state of Georgia’s House of Representatives. I have been fascinated by Stacey ever since I went to Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, to take part in her campaign bid to become the city’s governor two years ago. 

There, I witnessed voter suppression on a mammoth scale. Predominantly Black areas had too few voting machines, and people had to queue for up to eight hours to vote, while predominantly white areas had way too many machines and shorter queues.

Stacey lost to Republican candidate Brian Kemp by fewer than 55,000 votes amid yet more reports that Kemp’s office allegedly held back over 50,000 voter registrations, the majority of which were from Black applicants. Kemp rebuffed the claim, tweeting: ‘The 53,000 Georgians on our “pending” list can vote in the Nov. 6th election’.

Stacey turned that injustice into a fight for fairness. In 2018 she created Fair Fight, the voting rights organisation, to instil a desire in everyone to respect their vote and to have their vote respected, regardless of which political party they supported. 

Since launching, Fair Fight reports that they have registered more than 800,000 new voters in Georgia. Stacey and so many others have done amazing work, based on the fundamentals of equity. 

Recognising these remarkable accomplishments is so important. When Kamala used her Vice-Presidential victory speech to talk about ‘the Black women who are too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy’, it inspired me. How many people actually know that I was the first Black female to speak from the despatch box as a government minister?   

Kamala also used her moment to say that while she might be the first woman in her office, she won’t be the last. Her election will inspire people for generations, and this overlooking and underplaying of what Black women have achieved will hopefully be a thing of the past.

Defeating Trump at the ballot box is something to be grateful for, as are the achievements of all those who contributed to his defeat, regardless of colour, religion, sex or gender. 

However, the overwhelming need I have after this election is for reflection. 

That is because, sadly, this election was not the clear rejection of Donald Trump and his brand of hateful, divisive politics that many of us were hoping for – after all, over 72million Americans voted to re-elect him. 

Although he lost to Biden, who got around 77.5million votes, Trump nevertheless achieved a record number for a Republican presidential candidate (and the second most votes in history, after Biden), and even more people voted for him than they did four years ago. This is so disheartening to me.

Despite Trump’s appalling record over the last four years and his obsession with division, which has been so painful for so many, people still voted for him.

If Trump had been resoundingly rejected then it would have made many of us feel better knowing that we had looked misogyny, discrimination, anti-disability mocking, sexism and racism all in the face, lived through it, and then emphatically renounced it. 

But the fact is, it will take much more than this election – it will take a concerted effort from all of us progressive, woke, forward-thinking, anti-racist people to make the difference. Biden and Harris are going to need a lot of help and support. 

The fact that so many Americans still believe Trump and support him shows just how much work there is still to do, how much we need to confront uncomfortable truths about the prevalence of prejudice and dissect what the last four years have brought to the surface. 

To do this, we need to come together as a society and engage with one another, not just to paper over cracks but to heal the deep wounds. It is going to be difficult at times, as we are all learning.

Although some will not care and may cite fake news when confronted with reality – such as Trump having lost – we have a responsibility to at least try and understand what it is that attracts people to a man who seemingly cannot even begin to understand their world and who, even now, is reportedly channelling donations under $8,000 meant for the election results legal challenge to other funds.

The injustices inflicted upon people in these last four years sit on top of the historic injustices we are already fighting to end. We need to make it clear that, no matter what, we are not going to let another generation live through the racism and discrimination many of us have lived through already. 

And this is not a problem just for America – after all, it was Joe Biden who called Boris Johnson ‘a physical and emotional clone’ of Trump. It is a challenge we face here in the UK, and the threat of the far-right continues to cast a sinister shadow.

So, while I am grateful that Biden being President-elect and Harris as Vice President-elect means we will see the end of a Trump administration, I am not celebratory. This is a serious time to consider what comes next. 

We have to keep fighting sexism, racism and all kinds of discrimination; keep understanding and calling out privilege and keep pushing for equality, no matter how hard people try to silence us.  

The US election has shown us that there is a lot of work to do. But I know that when we come through this, we will be a stronger, better, more united and informed society.

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