By Mala Nagarajan
Nearing four weeks after the 2016 election, and many of us are still angered, shocked, and disappointed. Some of us are still dealing with our reaction and emotions – immobilized like a deer in headlights, depressed like we’re free falling, angry like a boiling tea kettle. Some of us are analyzing what happened, engaging on the ground, and looking proactively to the future. Still, some of us are critiquing, judging, and name-calling.
How do we use this energy in a way that connects our mutual interests, leverages our combined efforts, and harnesses our collective power?
The fact is we’re not all on the same page, and we’re not all fighting the same fight. Unless we find a way to talk to each other, debate each other, sway each other, we’re doomed to living in and organizing in silos. I admit: I’m stubborn and thickheaded. I’ve acted in ways that don’t reflect the compassion and conscientiousness with which I want to walk in this world, so I may be the one I’m talking to here. For example, take someone I think exists in the Matrix, oblivious to how power, access, race, gender, sexuality, disability, nationality (among other identities) dramatically shape and bias our experiences and perspectives. That doesn’t make them the enemy.
I can choose to see them as the enemy, as the enemy’s soldier, as a part of the oppressive machinery, or as a human being who perhaps I need to intentionally engage with. I need to acknowledge that choice, take some accountability for the actions I take – be accountable to my own values,… and make it right – shift my stance. I’m tired though. But as tired as I am of having to educate others (e.g., “so why do you think it’s ok to call someone Pocahontas?”, “how would you feel if it were your child, your brother, your sister, your father, your mother who was killed by officers like Darren Wilson of Ferguson, Missouri, and how (and why) is it different than when Mike Brown was shot”), as tired as I am of having to educate others or bear the pain inflicted when someone acts out, consciously or unconsciously, their privilege, I need to step into the engagement with compassion and afford others the same patience (and time to get woke) that I’ve been given, right?
Engaging in this social change work can be exhausting, and most of us don’t have the capacity to be in this role all of the time. I don’t. But still how do we use the energy we do have towards harnessing our collective power?
Luckily, there are multiple ways each of us can make a difference, and different tactics and actions we can each prioritize based on our capacities. Below, I offer my suggestions (but stay with me! After my list, you’ll find links to other lists created by brilliant webpeople of yet so many other ways to engage in the resistance!).
- Support the most vulnerable. Make sure the people who are most vulnerable have the support services they need:
- Attorney contacts and emergency contact numbers
- Renewed IDs (where it’s safe to do so)
- Access to shelter, food, and medical services
- Exit plans: safe houses in the community and safe paths to sanctuary areas
- Know-your-rights, self-defense, and de-escalation training
- Technology to quickly report civil rights violations/abuse (such as ACLU’s Mobile Justice, Police Abuse )
- Prepare our local communities to support the resistance:
- Talk to and build relationships with neighbors/allies, share stories of how injustice is affecting you and community members, share your vision for what a community might look like, ask how they would be willing to help in the event of a worst-case scenario
- Advocate with local officials to designate sanctuary cities and campuses
- Train neighbors and community members on how to support targets of harassment, how to de-escalate a situation, and tactics of resistance (e.g., signing up for registries)
- Identify safe houses and sanctuaries in advance to support those targeted by state-sanctioned fascism
- Organize communities:
- March in protests that show those in power that we have capacity to resist and that show the most vulnerable communities they have widespread support
- Identify people who can coordinate local, national, and social media coverage to get the word out
- Donate to organizations that are defending us against fascism and corruption and that are targets of fascism and corruption
- Engage in cross-sector, cross-movement, intersectional movement building and agree on core principles, practices, and commitments to each other; be strategic in our campaigns and in how we engage communities and networks
- Advocate within the system.
- Call on all elected officials – Republicans and Democrats – to defend against fascism (stop appointments of anyone with former or current ties to the KKK, fascism, white nationalist movements), to deny corrupt government (e.g., nepotism, conflicts of interest), to investigate election tampering and suppression, to fight for country not for party
- (Until Dec 19) Call and write electoral college voters explaining why they should cast a vote of resistance to recall the election: the dangers of Trump, fascism, and corruption; whether or not they are for Clinton, we need to save the country
- Engage in consumer and shareholder activism. Consider levels of activism for businesses and institutions that are supporting the Trump administration, fascism, and state-sanctioned violence:
- Call and write local businesses and national businesses and ask them where they stand, get their commitment to fight fascism and corruption, provide them with tangible steps and actions they can take to support and lead the way for other
- Lead or take part in shareholder or consumer activism to move businesses to stop supporting or promoting the Trump administration and violence he instigates
- If activism does not work, divest your money and interest; stop buying from businesses that continue to support or promote state-sponsored violence and hate groups
- Engage in the hard heart and mind work. If you have or can garner the capacity to do so, have meaningful conversations with those who voted for Trump – individuals and business owners – listen; understand their reasons for voting for Trump; find common ground along the spectrum of allyship; speak in everyday language that can be heard, not activist language or the language of theoretical academic frameworks and constructs; share dreams about where we can go together; and move them toward empathy for the most vulnerable populations by sharing stories of the escalation of violence and emboldened white supremacy. And when possible, move them toward fighting fascism and corruption, or at least move them to commit to this.This a lot to ask, and it’s not going to be done over one chai and chat. This is different from talking to our allies and neighbors. This is about talking to people we don’t know, who walk on a different path in life from ours, and who we wouldn’t otherwise have these conversations with. This about staying connected despite our differences.
There you have it. My suggestions. But you have so many other options listed in the sources below. My point is: we can’t move on just one level. We need to be working at many levels. We can’t move on just one front. We need to move on multiple fronts. We can’t just operate on one time scale. We need to operate on multiple time scales. We can’t just assume we are all connected. We need to consciously connect our struggles and efforts and intentionally and actively collaborate.
It is a chaotic movement building moment. We have an opportunity to respond in novel ways. But even in this chaotic moment, we need foundational building blocks. What might they be? For myself, I’d like to see our movements and communities collectively:
- Create a common, long-term vision and set of principles, practices, and commitments to each other (a) that guide the way we stay in connection despite our differences, (b) that allow us to live in separate realities, while being grounded in the same core values and ethical boundaries, and (c) that draw hard lines not against each other but against fascism and authoritarianism.
- Learn how to move with each other. The more we know how we need to move and when, the more effective we’re going to be. Sometimes we will need move in parallel like an orchestra, playing different instruments (different strategies, different roles, same direction, same target, same time). Sometimes we need to move in sequence and take turns like a relay race, passing the baton to the next runner while we take a rest (same strategy, same direction, same target, different roles, different times). Sometimes we need to move like a flock of starlings, all moving all the time in formation, but taking turns taking the lead (same strategy, same direction, same target, same roles, same time). Sometimes we need to move in clusters, like firecrackers lighting up the sky (same strategy, same role, same direction, same target, different time). Sometimes we need to move in waves with each cohort emerging, rising, crescendoing, and crashing, as the next wave of cohorts gain energy and continue the cycle.
- Do whatever we can on whatever front we can and support each other in whatever way we can (action, money, dialogue with people who don’t see the connections). I’d like to see us listen, trust, and forgive. I’d like to see us commit to staying in relationship even when actions on different fronts seem counterproductive — all so that we are one massive block of resistance.
Maybe we already have those foundational building blocks in place? I’m doubtful, given what I saw during this election and the continuing call-out culture we’ve cultivated so well on the left. So, seriously, what are the foundational building blocks we need to resist in unison?
In this chaotic moment, I fear these building blocks may be the only glue that binds us, but perhaps, the only glue we need to move forward together.
What next? Many folks have suggested ways we can be productive. Find a way that fits you:
Actions you can take: Week of November 27: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OSR2QqSBESn0GnERdCpcq6NT1znKafWzL_LOftEVusk/edit
Some active, but private ways you can protest Trump: https://firstname.lastname@example.org/5-ways-to-be-a-silent-trump-protestor-71a549113119#.ek03x7c7m
12 actions from frontline organizers:
I would love to hear what’s on other people’s lists.