Representational Gestures and Why Trump’s Impeachment Ain’t Sugar Honey Ice or Tea

they act like they don’t love their country


what it is

is they found out

their country don’t love them. 

Taken from poem “Love rejected” by Lucille Clifton 

Trump’s impeachment comes on the cusp of 2020, the third decade of the millennium. This being said, the last decade elucidates why Trump’s impeachment is merely a representational gesture. By representational gesture, I speak to the symbolism or image consummating significance rather than embodying what should lie beneath the surface.

News of Trump’s impeachment hit much of America like an early holiday present. This is in part due to a pervasive ignorance to the term. Additionally, the omnipresent joy the news engendered resulted from America’s espousal to representational gestures. My use of the term ignorance does not function to condescendingly reference the American people, but to acknowledge the stupor that representational gestures arouse. In the case of Trump’s impeachment, the word “impeachment” re-presents the American way where gesture encompasses the change its symbolism stymies. 

The last decade best illustrates the representational gesture’s toxic role in American culture and underscores why Trumps impeachment isn’t S.ugar H.oney I.ce or T.ea with regards to the change this country needs.

At the beginning of the 2010’s, I was a fresh university graduate. I lived in Washington DC during the historic 2008 presidency, and I watched everyone drink the Kool-Aid of change. I listened to one of my misguided professors tell a room full of black students displaced in America, that Obama embodied the true African-American. 

These words functioned to impeach the black person displaced in Americas, suggesting that abduction thwarted authenticity. 

This problematic ideology also illuminated in how the word treated Chris Brown following the pre-grammy incident with then-girlfriend Rihanna. To a twenty-something year old me, Brown’s treatment illuminated that the “change” supposedly incited by Obama’s presidency failed to change the American perception of black men. What is change if black men remain anchored to a harmful caricature that allows white supremacy ceasesly weighs down the black collective?

Here, it became obvious to me that representation was far more important than reality. Specifically, the image of change proved far more significant than actual change. Such is the essence of a representational gesture. The gesture in itself is but an image— a representation— its power lies in the venom beneath the surface. 

The representational gesture took on somewhat of a different form after Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2012. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, murdered seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin who was “armed” with skittles and an Arizona ice tea. News of Martin’s death inspired a fervor similar to what the world saw in the 1950s following Emmett Till’s murder. 

So while the world basked in the symbolism of a nuanced history, America repeated past sins against the black race.

Protests ran out and there was a splash of thunder in July 2013 when Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges. I still remember watching a smile spill over Zimmerman’s face seconds after the verdict was read. The Zimmerman trial appeared to deviate from the many black murders that go untried, however, “trying” those who murder blacks proves a representational gesture. 

Specifically, when, well if, charges are brought against black people, it is merely symbolic. The representational gesture does not alter the reality that the laws in America are for white people; these re-presentational gestures do the same thing time and time again. Thus, to “try” someone who murdered a black person, doesn’t “try” anything.

American laws are just words that might as well be in another language because they exist for black oppression not black liberationTo bring an anti-black murderer up on charges is the bare minimum. Zimmerman’s indictment betrays the issue with indictment, an issue illuminated by Trump’s impeachment.

Despite what the 2010 decade delineated in representational gestures, Trump’s presidency functioned to convince people that somehow things have gotten worse. The sheer reality that Trump, or slave-owners like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson could ever be president illustrates why an impeachment is merely ornamental. So while many seemed to oppose Trump’s promise to “make America great again,”  his election incited many to take on a similar ambition. 

It is this truth, that makes the celebration around Trump’s impeachment so infuriating. It is infuriating that, for many, a re-presentational gesture operates as restorative justice. As a black woman who descends from from those kidnapped and itemized to produce American economy, my question is simple:

What is it that we wish to restore?

Many still wish to restore covert race relations. The oppressed consummate their subjugation in seeking concealed prejudice and veiled racism as a feat. The global oppressors hone their pseudo superiority when the powerful opt to settle. The representational gesture ensures the power imbalance remains intact in America. Perhaps most significantly, the representational gesture encourages the black collective to settle. 

It is the refusal to settle that arouses the following sentiment: Trumps impeachment doesn’t mean S.ugar. H.oney. I.ce. or Tea.  For it to mean anything means to put faith in a system that has habitually proven its indifference to black people. 

This past decade, like the centuries that precede it, underscores that the entire American government—from the laws to the economy– should be dissolved. So in reality, anyone who benifits from a defended and enforced American government, should be impeached by a government subject to the very same charges. The American government cannot enforce standards and ethics that it fails to embody or even aspire to execute.

Therefore, an impeachment, or any other representational gesture, is purely decorative at this point, and decoration ain’t S.ugar H.oney I.ce T.ea either. 

So, I suppose, my biggest political hope for 2020 is that the black collective will “impeach” representation, demand action, and therefore abolish the representational gesture.

It has never been about what this world or this country will give black people, but in refusing to settle for meaningless tangibles, it becomes more about the justice ans the freedom, that we can give ourselves. 

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