Photo via Newsday cartoons

President Joe Biden has officially taken office this week, ushering in a United States of old that many have been eager to get back to. And many, based on the revolutionary year of 2020, refuse to ever return. As President Biden finds himself in the oval office, body glowing from the presidential seal beneath his feet, the ghost of Trump will linger in the White House walls like a wraith. He will be felt in the U.S. Capitol building like a poltergeist; he will be sauntering in the Supreme Court as the Justices dispute cases; he will still be influencing the very people who became fanatical under his leadership, or lack thereof. I hope we never forget how much damage has been done in this country. The remnants of Trump will settle deeply in its foundation. Of course, President Biden will reverse policies, attempting to eradicate the memory of Trump. But we may continue to see apparitions.

2020 was filled with challenges, some unprecedented and some familiar: a global pandemic in COVID-19 that killed, and continues to kill, Black Americans at higher rates than other communities — the third leading cause of death for Black people in 2020; the refusal to acknowledge the humanity of migrants who seek asylum in a country that is supposed to extend its arms to the huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the disposability of incarcerated peoples and essential workers, who are essential enough to work the frontlines, but not essential enough to be paid a living wage and given protective equipment. 2020 was filled with Black folks refusing to be next at the hands of police, but still, finding our names chanted as a way to live forever. 2020 has been a year defined by white supremacy, showing us how deeply racist society is.

Elijah McClain loved an undeserving world. He was murdered by Aurora police, pleading as he proclaimed beauty in the nuance of death.

Atatiana Jefferson was murdered by a Fort Worth cop. Her 8-year-old nephew watched her body become lifeless. An Aunt dedicated to family.

Ahmaud Arbery was chased down by white supremacists as he jogged; practicing freedom.

Daniel Prude was dotted by pain and drug use after his nephew committed suicide. He was fraught as he burst from his brothers home, shirtless and shoeless, in the cold. And there in the cold, shirtless and shoeless, he was murdered by Rochester police.

Rayshard Brooks fell asleep. Awoke with death’s light glaring at him. He only wanted to go home. He only wanted to live. He was murdered by Atlanta police.

Breonna Taylor, murdered by Louisville police, in her sleep by a hail of bullets, and George Floyd, murdered by a Minnesota police officer with a knee imprinting in his neck on the street, sparked rebellions across the country. The Minneapolis 3rd police precinct was burned down in the spirit of Floyd. The flames calling out to ancestors for strength not just to live, but to resist. Calls for de-funding the police and investing into genuine public services and programs rang out. As a participant in the “good trouble” that took place this summer, in Denver, CO, we marched through the city and gave igniting speeches several days in a row. Some of us were met with rubber bullets and tear gas, blooding our faces, nourishing the pavement. While officers were met with vicious water bottles; the plastic bouncing off their protective helmets and body armor. Officer that took an oath to protect us, the people, showed us who they were really protecting. As the Mayor of Denver lamented for broken property rather than wounded people at the hands of police. We bellowed “DEFUND THE POLICE!” “ABOLISH THE POLICE!” Along with other expletives. Many people were saying that’s exactly what Joe Biden would do once he became president. Not because he promised us the protection of our bodies, but because what Trump was already allowing to happen to us. “Biden will listen,” “Biden is more likely to change his mind.” “All we have to do is get him in office and you’ll see.” I remember these phrases being spoken as I sat in my belief that no president will ever go against the state and the violence inflicted, no matter how peaceful the people are. As I was finding hope in the people who risked their bodies to Covid-19 and police violence, Trump shouted from the mountain tops that Biden supported de-funding the police. In “Joe Biden’s America,” Trump told supporters, “you and your family will never, ever be safe.”

In an interview with Robin Roberts, and Vice President Kamala Harris — in their first joint interview — Biden laughs as he’s asked if he wants to defund the police. “No, I don’t.” He goes on to assert that police need more help and more assistance, and offers alternatives to de-funding police as V.P. Harris nods her head in agreement as she mhms, showing her deep conviction in what Biden has said. Biden ends the interview by suggesting Donald Trump is in fact the one who wants the police defunded. I immediately thought of the people who said “once we get Joe in office, he’ll be more likely to listen.” I couldn’t help but feel defeated. Trump pressured Biden; who promised to restore honor to the White house — giving us a glimmer of the transformative president that we all deserve. And he fell for it. I imagined somewhere Trump was flexing his forearm once he heard Biden’s comments; his fist at an angle mirroring a Tiger Woods birdie. Laughing in the nasally laugh as villains do. Trump terrified Biden like the Republicans did the Democrats in the late 80s and 90s, when every politician wanted to prove who was the toughest on crime. We saw the moderate that Biden was. We saw the Biden that befriended White supremacists. We saw the same man who half-way apologized for his role in the 1994 crime bill. We saw that even though Trump was bound to lose; like the venomous symbiote from spider-man, his DNA would find itself infecting its host.

Trump has been committed to legacy. The destruction of Barack Obama’s legacy. And, establishing his own legacy, on the ashes that are Obama's. Donald Trump leaves the White House having appointed more than 200 judges to the federal bench. Each holding their seat until they resign or die. He’s also appointed nearly as many powerful federal appeals court judges in four years as Barack Obama appointed in eight. A stat Trump is sure to gloat about. On the nation’s highest court, Trump has appointed three Supreme Court Justices: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, all under the ages 55 and younger. That’s more than any president since Ronald Regan with four appointed. A Pew Research analysis found that past Supreme Court appointees when they were 55 or younger ended up serving for an average of nearly two decades. Trump worked closely with Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans to ensure his legacy is with us long after he is.

Witnessing how close the 2020 presidential election was, was frightening. Especially after a summer spent protesting, mirroring the dream King expressed on the Lincoln Memorial steps in 1963. According to the exit poll, Trump did better in 2020 with every ethnicity/race and gender except white men; more white people voted for Trump than Biden. And these weren’t just uneducated Trump supporters. These were also people with college degrees. I’m frightened because people were okay with the separation of families and detaining of children, with murdering Black and Brown lives, with the assault of women as something innate in boys, and with the mocking of people who are disabled. I’m frightened because on January 6th, Trump supporters beat officers with the very flag used to signal the inhumanity of Black people. A blue line in the middle of a deathly flag. But the insurrection was the event that made people say that’s enough? I believe in the growth of people. I have to. For myself. But one cannot grow if they cannot admit the wrong and the harm that they have done. We have shown the worst in ourselves. We have shown the weakness in our spirits, allowing Trump to haunt our very being.

As we watch companies like Twitter — who have allowed him to have a platform — and people who supported Trump turn on him, I am not convinced they are worthy of redemption. Baldwin has this line in The Fire Next Time that stands out to me: “A civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.” Biden is working to be unified with those who scoff at our destruction like Lincoln did when trying to reunify the South with the North. I’m not sure we can move forward if we can’t even agree on what we, some more than others, allowed to happen under Trump’s presidency. I think about the words of my Africana Studies professor, Dr. Gardener, who would show the class images of brutal lynchings and ask us to observe the photo. He would zoom in on some little child tucked in the corner of the photo, and ask us what we think is the effect on this child. The effect of watching white spectators smile and gleefully eat lunches around a Black mutilated body. Racist violence doesn’t only affect Black people (though it affects us greatly), it also affects those that practice being vile. They rob themselves of their own humanity by killing mine.

As we enter this new chapter, with the same pages, I’m not sure if we can move forward if white people continuously show us their racial paranoia. Believing that progression for Black folks means extinction for them. I’m not sure if President Biden and Vice-President Harris will challenge whiteness. I hope. But they are walking in the lineage of Obama, and he had the ability to soothe race-consciousness among white people, alleviating them of any accountability. If they don’t address the systemic issues that led to Trump’s presidency, Trump will continue to roam this nation, wreaking havoc for generations to come, while we manage to shift the furniture around.