The Day Fear and Ignorance Prevailed

One year later, I reflect on a day that stands out in infamy – November 8, 2016. This piece also appears on Advancement Project’s Medium page.

 

The cool breeze of a brisk November Tuesday felt familiar. Oddly enough, it provided a warm and welcomed form of energy. After an exhausting election season, the country seemed poised to deliver a clear and decisive message that rebuked bigotry and hatred — at least in my mind. I ventured to my polling place in Columbia Heights in Washington, D.C., and eagerly awaited the opportunity to vote in another presidential election. A few hours passed, and I soon found myself in the middle of a surprisingly normal work day.

 
I refreshed the New York Times application on my phone more than a few times over the course of eight hours. Each time ended in a sigh of relief — the expected victor maintained a steady lead as the polls closed. My optimism about the expected results imparted a sense of calm balance. I left my office with a colleague to watch the election returns at another friend’s home. We laughed, broke bread and prepared to celebrate the election of the country’s first woman president — a victory that would ostensibly establish the security of the first Black president’s legacy. The air of joviality quickly transitioned into one of ominous solemnity.

 
We moved to a viewing party at a nearby restaurant; things started to feel more peculiar as the growing number of red counties registered in my mind. Around 9:30 p.m., the horror fully settled into my psyche. We journeyed to one more destination with a fleeting feeling that the initial returns were a fluke. Each passing second came with a growing sense of dread.

 
I caught a Lyft to my house with a numbness spreading through my body. I slept fitfully and eventually woke up at 3:30 a.m. to the official notification — fear and ignorance prevailed. I tried to make sense of it but it defied any logic that existed. The shock translated to pain as I walked to my office and passed numerous Black and Brown children with melancholy and heartbroken looks on their faces.

 
It’s certainly been a draining and infuriating 12-month period. Even in the midst of personal accomplishments, such as joining Advancement Project as a staff attorney, the frustration grows in intensity with each new hateful policy proposal or tweet. All of it has created an intriguing paradox. I am honored and excited to be where I am in my career. However, I also recognize the tremendous amount of work that is being created by this administration’s stark racism and the rebuilding that must occur, regardless of when this regime concludes.

 
During these troubling times, I hold strongly to faith, family and community. I remain grounded in the fact that the ongoing fight for justice existed prior to the current administration and will continue after it is out of power. I pledge to be resolute, attentive and innovative as I confront unrelenting civil rights challenges. I also commit to not back down from supporting local communities and amplifying the voices of the marginalized.

 
I am in the freedom fight for the long haul.

About andrewrhairston

Andrew Reginald Hairston is a civil rights attorney and writer. He will soon relocate to Austin, Texas to become the School-to-Prison Pipeline Project Director of Texas Appleseed. He earned his law degree from Louisiana State University in May 2016, where he was a Faculty Scholar. During his time at LSU, he served as the President of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) from 2014 to 2015, as well as the 1L Representative of the organization from 2013 to 2014. While he was the president of LSU BLSA, he served as a member of the Law Center's Diversity Task Force. Mr. Hairston refined his commitment to racial justice work as a law student. He worked as a law clerk for the LSU Parole and Reentry Clinic, and he subsequently served as a student attorney for the LSU Juvenile Defense Clinic. As a third-year student, he was appointed to the Trial Advocacy Board, and he won the Dean's Cup Senior Appellate Challenge during his final semester at the LSU Law Center. Mr. Hairston received his bachelor's degree, cum laude, from Howard University. At Howard, he was actively involved in the Alternative Spring Break program. He worked as a site coordinator to develop and execute the initiative's first trip to Baltimore in the spring of 2013. From 2017 to 2019, Mr. Hairston served as a staff attorney at Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization in Washington, D.C. He began his legal career as the George N. Lindsay Fellow and Associate Counsel at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law from 2016 to 2017. He is licensed to practice law in Louisiana.
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