LeoPatrizi via iStock
LeoPatrizi via iStock

We won. We organized our communities, got out the vote, and showed up to make our voices heard in a collective effort to defeat President Donald J. Trump and the racist ideologies that have continued to dominate America since its establishment provided the foundation for various forms of systemic racism, police brutality, racial injustice, and other societal issues. But we were quickly reminded why the fight against oppression isn’t about the success of a single election, and why our struggle for justice has never been just about Trump.

The Jan. 6 domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol, led by white supremacists emboldened by the Trump administration and Republican enablers, was rooted in our country’s incapability to dismantle systemic racism and oppression of BIPOC and other marginalized populations. The former occupant of the White House directly incited violence by fanning the flames of white supremacy and fear among his supporters. White supremacists are afraid because despite the pandemic, voter suppression, and intimidation, BIPOC revealed what’s possible when we take action, build coalitions, and refuse to be silent.

In 2020, BIPOC communities faced complex circumstances: another racial reckoning over anti-Black police violence, catastrophic climate crises, global public health concerns, and under the Trump administration, a government that largely abdicated its responsibility to serve its people by failing to address any of these issues—and in some cases, exacerbating them. Instead, we encountered various movements with grassroots organizers, activists, and volunteers leading the way to influence local, state, and federal policies and elect new leadership, up and down ballots from across the country. 

We continued to demonstrate resilience by showing up in historic numbers in 2020, the highest voter turnout ever recorded in American history, despite the increasing use of voter suppression tactics and risks of the pandemic. In exercising our political power, there’s no “going back to normal.” Now that the presidential election and the Georgia Senate runoff elections have concluded, a Democratic majority in Congress is secured and ostensibly there is now a greater possibility of a more progressive future. However, as our communities are aware, that future isn’t assured without continued work and pressure on lawmakers and public officials. As we’ve seen time and again, justice and progress aren’t achieved without an electorate holding those in power to account, regardless of political party.

With organizers from all backgrounds advocating for racial justice with Black Lives Matter, young people of color combating the climate crisis with Sunrise Movement, and public health officials in hospitals risking their lives to serve and protect everyone else, BIPOC who predominantly inhabit those roles continue to work on multiple fronts to achieve safety and justice, for both ourselves and for our extended communities. Despite the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on communities of color and the pressures of juggling the risks of showing up to work and care for others while trying to keep our own loved ones safe, our communities demonstrate the importance of compassion, humility, and service as guiding principles in a movement that works to uplift everyone.

The possibilities open to us in 2021 are ones that BIPOC folks uniquely positioned ourselves to obtain. Rep. Cori Bush now represents Missouri as the first Black woman with “for the people” policies as part of “the Squad.” A record of 574 LGBTQ+ candidates ran for office this year with trans people elected to state legislatures. Historically, conservative states like Arizona passed policies that invest in education and tax the rich, among other major wins for communities of color and historically oppressed voices. 

While we should celebrate the victories progressive BIPOC fought hard to achieve, we must continue to remain consistent in our fight for liberation, beyond representation. For many of us, we know that moving forward by simply having a representative leader in office is not enough. We understand this national racial reckoning is necessary for the development of our communities and the country as we continue to move forward and press on a hard-won advantage for real progress, not simply return to a pre-Trump era.

Now that the glamour of the Biden-Harris administration has worn off as they continue to back away from fulfilling their promises—such as the reopening of the same detention centers, but with a new name—BIPOC communities are taking bold, progressive actions on our own without waiting for those in power to do what’s right, even when we’re the reason they’ve been elected.

In 2020, our organizing efforts revealed what we’re capable of accomplishing, and our sights are set beyond a mere “return to normal” that primarily benefited the status quo. As progressive BIPOC, we can build on those successes by investing in and preserving our long-term civic engagement efforts and contributing to various local movements year-round, not just during major election cycles. This means holding each other accountable for our own mistakes, protecting voting rights, and expanding access to voting participation, particularly in light of Republican efforts to make voting harder for BIPOC.

A culture of progressivism, spearheaded by BIPOC and embodied by a community of empowered and unapologetic women of color, faces myriad challenges, from the pandemic to climate change to worker protections to police brutality. We are equipping one another to run for office, recognizing the value of our education and expertise as a political act, infiltrating elite institutions designed to keep us out, continuing the call to defund the police until it no longer exists, and pushing for other “radical” actions that will allow us to flourish in a society that has disproportionately targeted BIPOC and other marginalized communities. We have found our power and we’re taking it back, unapologetically and unafraid, embracing BIPOC-led progressivism and our political movements for change.

Irene Franco Rubio is a social justice activist and catalyst for change, born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. She has devoted her efforts to advocating for BIPOC communities through community organizing,...