The America That Was Forgotten

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by Reginald Barbour

I’ve been hearing a lot of discussion about “the America that was forgotten” and President-elect Donald Trump managed to tap into that and use them to win the election. Now I’m not a fan of Donald Trump myself, but to be fair, I’m not really a fan of current politics overall. There are too many distractors that often take us away from our real goals and where our real focus should be.

However, I understand what this part of America is saying even though I live in Washington, DC. And it’s important to point out that my city is not only the nation’s capitol; it is a major metropolitan city with movers and shakers, where there’s something always going on, a cause to support, a charity event to attend, a social gathering that you’ve been invited to, and let’s not forget the almighty “brunch.” (If you’re millennial or have lived in DC, you’ll understand the significance of brunch.)

What we aren’t is rural, or deeply segregated, without school choice or educational options. We don’t work in factories, and we don’t have a vast amount of green space. We have museums and restaurant openings, and tourists who flock here throughout the year. We’re a melting pot of all sorts of people and although we have our quarrels and quips about areas getting preferential treatment over other areas, no one has forgotten about us. There have been serious strides made to ensure that there are loud voices for the disenfranchised, just as there are for the privileged. We see movement and development in low-income areas and intentional efforts to bring jobs to those areas. Not close up shop and leave.

And so I get it. I understand what rural America said during the election. I understand what they are saying now. And quite frankly, I don’t blame them. When you are forgotten about and someone suddenly shows attention to you and promises to work on your behalf and provide jobs and make it so you can take care of your family, I believe, you would vote for that person too. 

To this day, people still tease me about the late Mayor Marion Barry. They couldn’t understand why we would continuously elect a man to lead our city after he had a number of personal indiscretions. They would say that they would never do something like that and we were crazy. What they didn’t understand was he fought for those who needed him the most. He made sure the hungry were fed, the homeless had homes, and the unemployed had jobs. He was a man of the people. I am not comparing Mayor Barry to Donald Trump as much as I am acknowledging parallels with my experience in electing someone who worked for those who needed him the most. I think that’s why I understand. We were willing to overlook some personal and very public mistakes and flaws in order to have someone in place who we believed would look out for our best interest. 

And while that’s a similarity, there’s one major difference between us and rural America (by rural America – I’m referring to the Trump-supporters who have publicly identified themselves this way and have behaved in a not-so-nice way.)

We weren’t and aren’t racist. We don’t torment people who are different from us. We don’t believe that our city can only be great if we only have one group of people here. We understand that we need each other in order for us to work. We embrace and sometimes celebrate our differences. 

It’s too bad that there’s an overall feeling that divisive actions are needed to “make America great again.” I do understand and empathize with those who felt like they were forgotten and dismissed by those on the coasts. And I’m happy that they finally feel like those days are over. I’m happy that so many in the rust belt feel optimistic about their futures and their families futures for the first time in a long time. Every American deserves to feel that way. Just like as an American, I should be able to live in a country where the color of my skin does not impact my right to feel optimism and hope about the future of me and my family. 

There’s enough room here for all of us. 

Reggie Barbour lives in Washington, DC and is a husband and father of two sons. As an accountant by trade and fierce education advocate by nature, nothing is more important than ensuring his sons receive the best education possible for their lives. What’s more, Reggie believes that all families should have access to high-quality educational options as a way to help put their children on a successful trajectory in life. Reggie spends his time learning what he can about educational options and sharing those learnings with other families to help enlighten them to what’s possible. Reggie also prides himself on being an avid sports fan, science buff, and comic book collector.