For many individuals, the election of Donald Trump was distressing and unnerving. His presidency represents the validation of his abhorrent rhetoric and policies that threaten the humanity of Americans across communities (people of color, LGBTQ, persons with disabilities, Muslims, women). Specifically, many individuals who benefit from intersecting privileges of race, income, or education were shocked to discover that the progress lauded over the past eight years was a misrepresentation of the reality in this country.
As the majority of the United States braces for Donald Trump to take office, it is important to use post-election reflections to shape how we move forward. Not only is it crucial to hold Trump accountable, but to also personally commit to action beyond the problematic idealism that secluded many people prior to his election. Here are five commitments I am making for the next four years:
5. Listen, and educate yourself.
For many individuals (myself included) much of the next four years will include unpacking the privilege that enabled shock to occur on election day. During this presidency, it will be integral for individuals to listen to those whose livelihood and existence are at stake in the next four years. Much, if not all, of what is occurring presently has been described, thoroughly and eloquently, by individuals who have long known this oppression. Beyond listening, we need to take what we’ve learned and dig deeper into the work of understanding the systems in the United States that Donald Trump seeks to maintain. This must be continual and must shape all other actions to oppose Trump.
4. Get engaged in local and personal communities.
Focusing on change at the federal level is extremely important, but it is not the complete picture of progress. Furthermore, it can get exhausting when efforts to impact policy on the national level don’t come to fruition. There is a great deal of influence that can be made on policy at the state and local levels. Imagine if everyone engaged with their Alderman, Mayors or City Councils on the injustices that occur in many of our cities? Furthermore, and especially for individuals with white privilege, it is important to speak with those in our personal communities. This means dismantling harmful belief systems in communities we may belong to that benefit from privilege. During the next four years it will be essential to fight on the local and personal levels to achieve change that may not feel possible on the broader scale.
3. Spend money with intention.
In addition to engaging with our elected officials, it’s important to monetarily support to individuals working for those most at risk to Trump’s policies and rhetoric. This could look like supporting organizations who provide services to marginalized communities or organizations who are uplifting voices of marginalized individuals. For some, this may take form of additional donations toward groups like Planned Parenthood. For others, this may look like spending money at businesses of those marginalized by Trump’s potential politics. In Trump’s presidency, it is crucial to make sure our money is spent in the direction of our words.
2. Move beyond social media activism.
While social media will continue to play an important role in shaping social justice actions, we need more than Facebook posts and re-tweets. Instead we need authentic engagement in our communities, difficult conversations, and collective action. Protesting has always played an integral role throughout American history and it has shown to be effective in putting pressure on powerful individuals in current events (#NoDAPL). In addition to visible action, it’s also important to call and email elected officials, sign petitions, and vote in midterm elections. During the next for years, it is important to get out from behind the iPhones and leave our social media bubbles.
1. Never normalize Trump’s behavior.
In the age of technology, it is extremely easy to read or watch a viral pieces of news only for the outrage to diminish over time. During the next four years, it’s important to stay angry at the endless list of atrocities Trump spewed throughout the campaign. This is particularly true for people who benefit from the privilege and ability to block out his harmful words with no personal threats to livelihood. While people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ folks, or individuals with disabilities have all been well-aware of America’s oppressive systems, individuals who have these varying privileges need to do the work themselves to stay cognizant of their embeddedness in our society. Trumps harmful words and behaviors cannot be normalized.
While these five commitments may provide some direction toward engagement in the next four years, they are only the beginning. Further refinement and critical examination of one’s role (myself included) must be ongoing to achieve social justice in the emending presidency.