Wishing for a New America

Wishing for a New America

01.20.21
Photo: Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post via Getty Images
01.20.21

For all I know America has always been problematic. But Inauguration Day for me means I’m desperately hoping for a new chapter. At the same time, after the crazy start of this year, I’m ready for the reality of gradual change. 

After I voted and when Joe Biden was officially announced as our new president, I thought my civic duties could take a rest and I could get into my New Year resolutions like bullet journaling – but I was mistaken. 

I thought I saw it all in 2020. But now after the attack on Capitol Hill, I feel like America has hit a different kind of low. So low that I’m not even sure what can be said or done these days to make it all go away. But I still have hope. 

Over the past week, I started to think about what Biden’s inauguration day means for my future and what “gradual” changes I’m looking forward to. 

I think it’s easy to pick a new president and go on about our lives. But the reality is, having a new president doesn’t 100 percent relieve me. If anything, it heightens my experience — making the burden of being Black in America a continuum. On the one hand, it’s a good time to express how I feel because suddenly everyone is “listening.” But on the other hand, I still walk around in the skin that I’m in and don’t get everything I need from society. It’s a weird trade-off.

Which makes it hard for me to easily accept change in the first place. But what’s my alternative? I don’t want to be angry all the time. And change is change, right?

Here are some things that do give me hope: 

Representation: The first thing I look forward to in this new administration is Vice President Kamala Harris. As a young, Black woman, I am very excited to see a woman and woman of color represented in our country’s highest levels of politics. Though Harris carries multiple identities, I can relate to her and put my faith in her judgment and her ability to push Biden outside of his comfort zone on hard issues. Because, I’ll be honest, it hurts my feelings to see myself and our country under the control of another white man.

New awareness: The last four years have broken our moral compass. We’ve lost that. People have started to wake up, though especially in Minnesota where I live. Here in the Midwest, it’s as if people thought racism only existed in the South or in the news until now. The conversation has started, but this administration needs to keep it going and call things out.  

Some COVID relief: We are almost at our one year pandemic anniversary and people are still dying across the world and our country. In the first 100 days, I would like to see vaccines being pushed out, without all the chaos. Nobody seems to know what to do. I want this next administration to get a handle on things. And I really just want to stop getting notifications about how many new COVID cases there are everyday. 

I’m also thinking about myself in this moment. I can wish for all these things to happen in the new administration, but I still need to do my part. How can I be a part of making change happen within my own capacities?

With our country in an uproar and in such a divided state, it has become much harder to tap in academically as a student finishing up college, and find the joys in being an educated person in the world. But I see, in times like these, the more educated folk, the better. The misinformation surrounding politics is ruining us. Just look at social media.  

So I’m going to stay informed, try to have honest conversations when divisions come up in my own life, and I’m going to give Biden and Harris the benefit of the doubt that they can remake America in a way that might help me.

But I know it’s going to take more than trust and faith that “everything will work out,” to make me feel a part of this country again.

Erianna Jiles is part of a collaboration between YR Media and WNYC’s Radio Rookies called 18-to-29 Now: Young America Speaks Up.