By Coshandra Dillard
Now that Donald Trump is officially the president of the United States, there is no doubt that there is plenty of work to do to stop the course of divisiveness, hateful rhetoric and damning policies.
On day one, Trump recited a speech that was written partly by Steve Bannon, an alleged white supremacist. By day two, he tried to gaslight Americans by exaggerating the size of the inauguration, and again denigrating the press while addressing the CIA.
We’re already on the verge of chaos: Trump was misleading about crime statistics during his inaugural speech, which can easily be fact checked; suggested that “maybe we’ll have another chance” to take Iraq’s oil; and is appointing people to his cabinet who seem determined to undermine their respective departments.
For example, attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, whose eyebrow-raising history with race relations has had critics in an uproar. During the era of Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, their departments investigated and prosecuted hate crimes, and placed a spotlight on police departments that were violating civilian’s rights. This is why we know about the corruption that has happened in Cleveland, Ferguson, and Chicago police departments.
Betsy DeVos, with little experience in the education field, is supportive of policies that negatively affect students of color and students with special needs. However, she’s in step to become the Secretary of Education.
There is evidence that everything Trump said on the campaign trail may come true: from the repealing of the Affordable Care Act and pulling the plug on women’s health choices to pushing marginalized people further into the margins.
Meanwhile, Trump is highly unpopular, with only about 40 percent favorability, according to numerous polls.
So what is there to do, particularly if you have no political power? I’m glad you asked.
This is the time to organize or support organizers who are vocal about issues most important to you. At the national level, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Movement for Black Lives, Black Youth Project, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, and Black Lives Matter have already been working toward resistance.
While the spotlight is on Washington, D.C., it’s important to pay attention to what is happening at the state and local levels. Issues here directly affect our daily lives. For example, although Texas’ proposed voter ID law has been found to be unconstitutional, the fight to ensure people will not be disenfranchised may be abandoned under the Trump administration.
You can organize your own group or go solo by attending local government meetings and/or putting pressure on leaders who don’t act in the best interest of everyone. Learn what’s on the Tyler City Council’s agenda here. Information about Smith County Commissioners Court meetings and agendas are found here.
Know who to contact for information or grievances. Click on the names of officials who represent constituents in Smith County:
U.S. Senator John Cornyn
U.S. Ted Cruz
U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert (District 1)
State Senator Bryan Hughes (District 5)
State Representative Matt Schaefer (District 6)
State Representative Cole Hefner (District 5)
This is the prerequisite to getting involved. If we don’t know what the issues are, or which policies negatively impact us, then there is no way to be effective. It’s important to follow credible news sources. The Texas Tribune is a good resource to follow what legislators are doing at the state capitol. The New York Times, The Washington Post and NPR are among news outlets that can keep you in tune with what is happening on the national front. Follow them, and key journalists on Twitter to keep abreast of news in real time. For local news, you’ll find @LiberateMag on Twitter as well. It would also be a great idea to read books that provide historical and cultural context to today’s political climate. A list of seven books about activism are listed here.
Commit to self-care.
You can’t help anyone or be a voice if you aren’t well—physically or emotionally. While social media has its place, it’s easy to become frustrated by some conversations and a steady influx of information. Step away from the keyboard and unplug sometimes. Connect with family, friends or others in the community with the same vision. Get rest, exercise, and find “me time.” Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help or reach out to those you know may be in need of support.
Don’t entertain ignorance.
We are always told to engage with people with whom we disagree—that having a conversation is the only way to build trust and unity. But there are some instances where nobody wins by engaging, whether it’s with someone who is racist, irrational or violent. Disengaging is a form of self-care.
If someone wants to dismiss or erase your experiences, that’s not an opinion. That’s an assault on your humanity.
Writer Robert Jones, Jr. said, “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”
Follow Us on Twitter: @LiberateMag