The nightmare has become reality. A bigoted, misogynistic sexual predator has gone from punchline to president-elect of the United States. Like many people, I’ve spent much of the last week wallowing in the immense grief this news has caused, and focusing on the self care that is important for activists to stay in the fight long term.
And fight we must. The discussion about what should have been done differently has only just begun. We must continue that conversation and ensure that we take the right lessons from this experience. But we also have work to do to prepare to greet the era of Trump with the full force of a defiant movement that will not let his hatred represent our country and endanger our people.
And by we, I mean white people. I know not all white people voted for Trump, and women and LGBT people are impacted differently by his gaining power. But the fact of the matter is that whites are the only group that voted in a majority for Trump. Fifty-three percent of white women voted for a man who bragged about committing sexual assault, sexualized his own daughter and “joked” about dating a 10-year-old. It’s one of piece in a massive pile of evidence that white supremacy was a powerful and detrimental force in this election. So white people have an outsize responsibility to fight and wrest as much power as possible from this racist-in-chief and organize so we can send him packing in 4 years.
Here are a few things white people can start now:
Don’t normalize a Donald Trump presidency
Trump has emboldened the worst elements of our society with his racism, sexism and xenophobia. This isn’t garden variety racist dog-whistling. He has encouraged violence at his rallies. He has riled up people against members of our communities by vilifying them as dangerous and un-American. He has treated women with disdain if he finds them unattractive, or unwanted sexual advances if he does. We don’t owe him a grace period. We don’t owe him any more respect than he has showed us over the course of this campaign. Don’t show deference. Don’t genuflect. Don’t pretend that he didn’t show us exactly who he is and what he is willing to do if it suits his agenda. Don’t act like it’s just another day in America when he first black president is handing over the White House to a man endorsed by the KKK. Treating this like any presidential transition creates an environment where his heinous actions are acceptable for a world leader, when they shouldn’t be acceptable from anyone.
Talk to other white people about this, even when you don’t want to
Refusing to normalize Donald trump means not pretending you didn’t hear your relative say how excited he is to make America great again or how she doesn’t like him but everyone needs to calm down because he’s the president now. I’ve often taken the path of least resistance when I didn’t feel like creating an uncomfortable situation or expending energy on a political fight. No more.
Some of our white acquaintances and relatives voted for Trump because consciously or unconsciously his white supremacist message resonated with them. Some voted for him despite that, deciding that his egregious behavior wasn’t a deal breaker. Some of them opposed Trump, but they think what’s done is done and we need to sit back and see what happens, because they know their lives aren’t going to change significantly. We need to let them know the fear and pain this has caused. They need to face the damage Trump has already done and will continue to do. I’ve started to dive into these conversations, refusing to let the stray comment go by or scroll past the offending Facebook post in my feed. These conversations will be uncomfortable, but they’re necessary, and frankly no one should feel comfortable right now.
Don’t tell people everything will be OK
This is a time to listen to what the experience of being a person of color is like in this country right now. Sadly, there are already far too many tales of harassment, threats and violence. It’s not just happening in red states either; it’s happening in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Muslims are afraid to leave the house in a hijab. Children are afraid their undocumented friends will be deported. Women are rushing to get IUDs because they fear their constitutional right to abortion could disappear. Women feel unsafe in a country where you can sexually assault multiple women and still become the most powerful man in the world.
The people with the most privilege don’t get to tell us to wait and see before we protest, that we’ve been through this kind of thing before, that he hasn’t even done anything as president yet. Listen to what people are telling you about their lived experiences, and make sure other white people are listening too.
Get involved in a serious, sustained way
Stopping the Trump juggernaut, minimizing the harm to vulnerable people and electing people who can undo the damage will take time, energy and money. It will require litigation and grassroots organizing and direct services and emotional support. Did you wake up on November 9th wishing you had done more? Do you ever want to feel that way again? Think of the most you can do, then do more. Take care of yourself, but also push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Protest. Donate. Volunteer. Be there for your friends and neighbors who are targeted. Whatever happens, be able to say that you fought as hard as you could to stop a demagogue from destroying this country.