Laughter Is Powerful, Personal, and Political

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It’s no secret that laughter works miracles. It stimulates and relaxes muscles, reduces pain, and improves moods and immune systems. But sometimes when we, women of color, need it the most, it’s hardest to come by. And we need it right now. More than ever, you might say—even if it is always right now, and always more than ever.

Laughter is my superpower. And it is loud. My laughter fills rooms, resonating and expanding from bass notes to mezzo-soprano. When I laugh hardest, it’s a full-body experience, my stomach rounded out, eyes shut, ribs shaking, and one arm reaching to cover my wide-open mouth. The truth is that my laugh is as essential to me as anything else. It’s a form of survival and catharsis in the face of suffering.

But I remember too many times and spaces in which, and people for whom, my laughter has been too loud. Elderly white ladies in almost every kind of setting, particularly restaurants; middle-aged white men in office spaces; extended family.

When I started a career in my mid-20s, I was both embarrassed and indignant at being told to laugh quietly or not at all. To make myself smaller. To take up less space. I would nervously apologize.

Now I don’t. Apology would justify the unjustifiable: the right someone presumes to have to referee my laugh, to tell me to take my place in the background. I might laugh when just a smile would do—but I see no reason to mute my joy or withhold its expression. The foreground is ours to claim by organizing, protesting, voting, running for office, hiking, writing, and laughing.

Comedians Sarah Cooper and Ziwe Fumudoh know it too. They get me laughing by using humor as an act of resistance—to racism and sexism and a culture of racialized misogyny that’s all too familiar in the United States. To laugh loudly is to reject the assumption that women of color must, at all costs, watch our place. Cooper and Fumudoh are in their place and out front. And they are really, really funny.

Photos of Kamala Harris are everywhere this week as we witness her historic rise as a vice presidential candidate. She is smiling big, unabashedly taking pleasure in the moment. I imagine she knows the power of vocalizing, whether she’s at the back of the room or holding the mic; at the edge of power or the center of it; in a moment of rage or a fit of laughter.

Venu Gupta is Mother Jones’ Midwest regional development director. Laugh with her at recharge@motherjones.com.

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Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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