Many rang in 2021 with a mixture of relief and hesitation. The denouement of the previous administration was not final. There was no peaceful transition. Quite the opposite. The siege at the Capitol on January 6 reminded us of that. One of the results of the violence was the growing fear of what could happen on Inauguration Day. What would happen to the president-elect and our first-ever female, Black and South Asian vice-president? We wanted to breathe easier, but we couldn’t, and rightfully so. Danielle Broadway’s post-inauguration reflection and Marvel (and DC) comparisons mirror the conversations so many have had as we still wait.
The recent United States presidential inauguration was filled with resounding emotion as people gathered at the Capitol, or tuned in on televisions, computers or smartphones, to witness history.
Many took joy in absorbing the moment, while others disapproved. From proponents to challengers, people have felt strongly about what new leadership will mean for America and the rest of the world. However, I found myself in a slightly different moment, and I’m still there.
I am in the moment in Avengers: Infinity War when Scarlet Witch destroys Vision’s Infinity Stone and has seemingly stopped Thanos and saved the universe.
It’s a moment of simultaneously mourning those, including Vision, whom Scarlet Witch loves, who could not be saved from Thanos’ wrath, while also creating a new path for a better world.
It’s in this scene that I believe America is frozen in for now. We are in pain. We are in wary victory. We may be applauding too soon, but there is nothing else we can do while we wait for the future to reveal itself.
We must continue to collectively use our powers to fight the forces of white supremacist evil and the volatile rhetoric from Donald Trump that incites violence, but we don’t know what may be lurking around the corner.
The 2021 Inauguration was beautiful, inspiring and, undoubtedly, a socio-political breakthrough that stood resiliently against generational anti-Blackness, sexism, misogynoir and anti-immigrant sentiments. But it is not how this story ends.
Any minute, like the monster in the attic, Trump, in his menacing “orange skin” may just snap his fingers.
Although he’s gone from the White House, hopefully forever, he is not without followers and he is not without power that he intends to continue leveraging.
After the domestic terrorism at Capitol Hill, the inauguration felt like the eerie silence before the storm.
I was both fully immersed in Kamala Harris being eloquently honored in a way that as a Black girl and woman, I didn’t know Black women could be, and the fear that something terrible was going to happen.
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman’s powerful words were like the fierce and loving caresses of a home that I had longed to reside in but had never received an invitation to enter.
She proclaimed, “While once we asked, ‘How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?’ Now we assert, “How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?’”
I wanted to carry that tenacious hope with me to the moon and back. I want to. But I’m still with Scarlet Witch in the moment of a painful, premature victory. I’m looking behind my back for Thanos. He’s still there.
He’s the security guard who followed me step for step down the aisles of a cosmetics store only a week after the inauguration.
He’s the Uber driver who condescendingly referred to me and other women as “sweetheart” and then threw a misogynistic fit when he didn’t get his way.
He’s all of the Trump minions who were absent on Inauguration Day. Sometimes we see Trump, but for now, he’s mostly magically concealed.
While many people imagined Trump and his supporters sequestered in their homes pouting over their lack of control, I imagined that it was a bit more like secret gatherings—like The League of Doom meeting in secret to plot against the Justice League or the KKK convening to plot the demise of Black people, Jewish people and basically anyone not like them.
Trump is Lex Luthor and his reign of corporate evil and domestic terror will not go down without more fighting.
During the inauguration, I wondered: If we’re all celebrating a rejoicing victory today, what are the villains doing and, more important, what are they plotting?
If Trump’s presidency was a direct backlash to Obama’s, what will follow the election of a Black and Indian woman as Vice-President?
With so much power and possibility, I feel as if at any moment, Thanos will use the Time Stone to reverse victory and regain control. That in an instant, with a snap of his fingers, all will be lost.
I know that as cool as Marvel is, it’s not reality, but in the same way that the uprising in Washington D.C. felt unreal, somehow victory does too.
Perhaps 2020 was a year so consumed with trauma and failure from the pandemic, police brutality and Trump’s presidency that a success feels foreign.
Yet I think it’s more than that. Perhaps it’s knowing that lightning indeed does strike twice. What happened once can happen again.
It’s cathartic to celebrate a moment of glory, but we cannot let our guard down. To be marginalized in America is to know that there’s always a chance that Thanos will snap his fingers or that Trump can return with his minions.
For now, I reside in a moment somewhere in between pain and victory, waiting for our history to unfold.
Danielle Broadway is an English Literature MA student at California State University, Long Beach. She has been published in Black Girl Nerds, Blavity, LA Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Byrdie and more, and is Associate Editor at Angels Flight • literary west and an editor at justfemmeanddandy.com. An activist and educator, she is inspired to make social change both in the classroom and beyond. Read more of her work on her Linktree and at @broadwaynerdwrites.