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What white people need to do to resist the Trump administration

After the violence and protests in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, I started following journalist Sarah Kendzior on Twitter. She was a local white woman who had a lot of insightful commentary. Eventually she started posting about Donald Trump and the danger he posed to the country. I didn’t disagree with her, but she was also sure he would win. I thought that she was being alarmist. I knew what the polls said. I knew many people who had worked to re-elect President Obama were also working for Hillary Clinton. I was pretty confident we would get the right woman for the job. Last spring, I muted Kendzior.

Then, of course, everything she predicted came true. Trump won the election, and his bizarre behavior over the course of the campaign made sense through the authoritarian lens Kendzior provided from reporting on Central Asian dictatorships.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am not paranoid. But I believe the United States is heading toward being an authoritarian dictatorship faster than the majority of the population realizes. I underestimated the threat Trump posed once. I will not do it again. We cannot afford to. As the saying goes, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And because Americans are convinced of our exceptionalism, believe “it can’t happen here,” it will. It already is, faster than most of us can keep track.

This is not normal is only a partial list of all of the things that are abnormal–racist, misogynist, corrupt, immoral, etc–about the incoming administration. Every day, there are more things to add to it. It’s difficult to keep up, which is why a lot of it isn’t being reported as vigorously as it should be. Trump settled a fraud lawsuit over Trump University. His daughter is sitting in on visits with foreign dignitaries. White supremacists are being nominated for Cabinet posts. NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL.

This is not politics as usual. This is the freedom of our country and the world at stake. As someone on Twitter so aptly put it, the United States is one terrorist attack away from becoming a military state. And there are no checks on his power. The Republicans will go along with it. Democrats may put up a token resistance but people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, supposedly liberal lions, are already talking about compromising with Trump.

There is no compromising with a fascist.

Our institutions have failed us. The only thing we have is ourselves. Our belief in a better world than the one Trump envisions. The certainty that he and his supporters are a minority of the population. Roughly half of the voting population didn’t (or couldn’t, because of suppression) vote, about 25 percent voted for Hillary, and slightly less than that voted for Trump. Hillary won the popular vote by more than 1 million votes (and counting). There is reasonable suspicion that Russia hacked our systems and swung things Trump’s way. At the very least, there should be an investigation into foreign interference in a U.S. election.

I believe dire times are ahead; indeed, they are already here. The day after the election, there were reports of up to eight trans youths who had completed suicide because they were terrified of living under a Trump administration. Another woman had a friend complete suicide because she knew her health care would be taken away, and she could not live without it. Hundreds of hate crimes have taken place. And it will undoubtedly escalate.

There is little good news to be found since Nov. 8. However, there ARE things we can do to resist Trump and fight for the future. Here is a far-from-complete list:

–First, no safety pins. Most people who are being targeted by Trump–people of color, immigrants, Muslims–see this as an empty gesture with little real effect. And white supremacists are already planning to co-opt it and use the pins as bait to attack unsuspecting people.

–Call your senators and representatives and let them know you oppose any effort to put Steven Bannon and Jeff Sessions in the White House. Calling is more effective than emailing. If aides are on the phone all day taking calls, their bosses will hear about it. Call regardless of which party your representatives are. Let them know you are watching them closely and will hold them accountable for their actions.

–Donate to organizations that will be on the front lines: the ACLU, your local abortion fund, Planned Parenthood, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Trevor Project, CAIR, Sacred Stone Camp (fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline), Black Lives Matter, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center.

–Reach out to your local mosque, synagogue, temple, and black church and ask what you can do to help. Let them know you will stand with them in the coming months and years.

–Consider running for office. Too many down-ballot Republicans run unopposed. Republicans understand many of the decisions affecting people’s everyday lives are made at the local level. Democrats haven’t made many strides here. If you can’t run for office, recruit your friends to do it.

–Donate to Foster Campbell, a Democrat running for Senate in Louisiana. He’s in a runoff election in December and could secure another seat for the Democrats in the Senate, which would be crucial. If you’re near Louisiana, consider volunteering for him. Encourage your friends and family nearby to do the same.

–Donate to and volunteer with your state Democratic Party. This is important for many reasons. First, the statehouses are the ones that do the redistricting for congressional seats. There will be a census in 2020, and whichever party is in control at the time will determine the congressional districts. In 2010, Democrats didn’t turn out to vote, and Republicans swept to power in statehouses across the country. They gerrymandered districts so that even though House Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote nationwide, Republicans are safely in control of the House. We cannot let them continue to dominate statehouses. Second, it takes three-fourths of states to ratify amendments to the Constitution. If many more statehouses turn Republican, they will have a clear path to doing away with any amendment they don’t like (for example, the First), and adding any amendment they please (forbidding marriage equality, ensuring lifetime terms for presidents, prohibiting abortion, whatever your nightmare scenario might be). The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is a nationwide group devoted to putting Democrats in more statehouses.

–Work to restore voting rights to disenfranchised people and felons. Voter suppression worked exactly the way the Republicans wanted. We must push back against this and work to expand voting rights. It’s crucial to our democracy.

–President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder have created the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which has a similar goal to the DLCC. Watch for more information on that and how you can get involved.

–Hold people accountable for normalizing Trump. There is no “everyone does it,” “both parties do it,” “nothing to worry about here.” Every. Single. Thing. He. Does. Is. Not. Normal. The media have already started by refusing to call white supremacists what they are. They won’t call a racist racist or a fascist fascist. Words have meaning. We need to use them.

–Read this and believe it: Autocracy: Rules for Survival

Read this.

–Lastly, but most importantly, we white people need to work on our racism. Many anti-racism activists and researchers, including Jane Elliott, believe we are all racist simply for growing up in the country we did. The United States is a country built on racism–first the genocide and colonization of indigenous people, then slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration. We have never acknowledged any of it. Too many white people, who often only know other white people, believe racism is a thing of the past. They think black people talk about racism too much. They insist “I don’t see color.” It’s easy not to think about race when you’re white because it affords us so much privilege. We aren’t targeted by police for being white. We’re not incarcerated at higher rates for being white. We’re not denied housing, education and employment for being white. We don’t die at earlier ages because we’re white. The list goes on.

We are all taught racism, if not by our parents, then by our culture. I grew up in a predominantly white area. There were no black students in my class until I got to high school. I had maybe two teachers who were people of color until I got to college, though I did have one white science teacher who would perform in blackface each year for his lessons on George Washington Carver. This teacher admired Carver and I’m sure he thought he was honoring Carver by wearing blackface. The administration allowed this. My classmates thought it eccentric but not incredibly racist, as it is for me in hindsight.

My classmates were more likely to be Asian–Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian, Pakistani–than black. There were two or three black students in my class of 300+ people. And it never occurred to me to discriminate against them for anything, but it also didn’t occur to me until years later how hard it must have been for them to live and grow up and learn in such a white area.

So, just because you don’t go around saying the n-word, that doesn’t mean you can congratulate yourself on not being racist. Being non-racist is a lifelong process. It’s a matter of degree. It’s being able to call each other out when we mess up. It’s being able to admit most of our favorite popular culture is racist–because most of it is created by white people. And it’s important to remember that liking it doesn’t automatically make you a bad person. But it’s also important to know that the issues are there.

Some favorites who are problematic: Elizabeth Warren claimed Native American ancestry, which genealogy has disproved. She has never really apologized or had a conversation about why what she did was wrong. That is racist. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which I love dearly, is racist. Her new series is racist. The Lord of the Rings is racist. Star Wars is racist. Katy Perry is racist. Gwen Stefani is racist. Johnny Depp is racist and an abuser. Cultural appropriation is a real thing. Stealing someone’s culture and identity for your own use is racist and wrong. White people having dreadlocks is racist. Saying things like “you speak English so well” is racist. Asking a person of color where they’re from is racist. Buying into the “welfare queen” stereotype is racist (the majority of welfare beneficiaries are white, not black). Consuming all-white media and not criticizing whitewashing is racist.

It’s also racist to think there is such a thing as reverse racism. Racism is based on power structures. As long as there has been a United States, white people have held the power. White people have never been an oppressed population here. So people of color may dislike white people as a group or stereotype them, but they cannot be racist against white people. However, they can be racist against fellow people of color. White supremacy is a powerful thing, and it rewards people of color who buy into its myths, the same way patriarchy rewards sexist women (e.g. Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, etc).

Don’t assume racism is something that will die out with older generations. Young people are plenty racist. Racism is taught, so if Baby Boomers and Gen X are racist, their children will be too. There’s also no rule that says just because you have one black friend you can’t be racist, or because you have gay friends you can’t be homophobic. It doesn’t work that way.

If you know people of color, remember it’s not their job to educate you about all of this. It’s your job to learn and do your own research. People of color have had to learn how to live in a white society to survive. White people’s lives don’t depend on knowing the ins and outs of black culture and history, so we are ignorant. The good news is, there are plenty of resources available. Go to your library. Use your friend Google. Make sure  to study and read authors and researchers who are people of color.

When the economy crashes–because Trump has plainly stated that’s his goal–remember it was white people who voted him into office and white people who implemented his policies. He will try to blame everyone else for what happens. Nothing is ever his fault. Remember. It’s not the fault of immigrants. It’s not the fault of people of color. It’s completely Trump and the people who voted for him.

 

 

 

Hillary is awesome, as usual

Today the Human Rights Campaign released a video of Hillary Clinton supporting marriage equality. The video is great, but, at least to me, a little redundant. Did anyone really believe she was against equality, after saying things like “gay rights are human rights”? After making a video supporting the It Gets Better Project? Still, it can never hurt to have such a powerful woman express the views below.

Why I volunteer for the president despite disagreeing with him

The reason why I support the president despite sometimes disagreeing with him should be obvious. There’s not a single person in my life I agree with 100 percent of the time. If you respond you do have someone like that in your life, please go grow a spine.

Off the top of my head, I can think of several areas where I disagree with the president: he doesn’t support same-sex marriage; he hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay; he signed an executive order when the health care law was passed banning federal funding for abortion; his support of the EPA has been tepid; more undocumented workers have been deported under him than any other president (not something to be proud of); and he and his defense secretary are opposed to any cuts in defense spending despite the fact that makes up the majority of our budget.

However, his list of accomplishments is vast: he has appointed more women and minorities to positions of power than any other president, including two women to the Supreme Court; passed the most sweeping health care reform in generations; killed Osama bin Laden; passed a stimulus bill that prevented a depression; saved the auto industry; ended don’t ask, don’t tell; stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act; made a video for the It Gets Better project; appointed former rival Hillary Clinton to secretary of state, where she’s had wild success and approval; improved the standing of the United States around the world; halted massive job loss and created new jobs; proposed the American Jobs Act to fix our aging infrastructure and project public sector jobs; and ended the global gag rule that prohibited U.S. aid to foreign family planning groups that even mentioned abortion to their clients.

Yet liberals who supported Obama in the 2008 election seem disillusioned this time around. Most of the people I talk with are planning to vote for the president again, but they’re not jumping in to volunteer for the campaign.

They’re disappointed for what boils down to two reasons: They thought Obama was more progressive than he really is, and they blame him because Washington is gridlocked.

First of all, I can’t think of a single issue where Obama has ever pledged a truly liberal stance, despite screaming from the right wing about how he’s a Marxist/communist/socialist. But because the United States got dragged so far to the right under George W. Bush, and even under Clinton, Obama looked like he was more progressive than he really is. He’s a centrist, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a far sight better than what we had from 2000-2008.

Second, in our government, it takes three groups to get anything done: the Senate, the House and the White House. After the 2010 midterms, the Republicans took control of the House, and although the Democrats still have the Senate, they don’t have enough votes to pass bills without Republican support. And even if they did, they’d still run up against the wall of opposition in the House, where leaders are determined to get nothing done. They want the economy to do badly because they want Obama out of the White House. There’s only so much Obama can do without the approval of Congress. And he has bent over backward to compromise with Republicans and include them in discussions to move the country forward. They refuse.

I’m disappointed that more people who supported Obama in 2008 don’t understand the above points. Over the weekend I had a union organizer tell me that based on what he’s hearing, if there were a Democratic primary challenge, Obama would be in trouble. I wanted to beat my head against a wall. Obama is the smartest, most serious, most reasonable president we’ve had in a decade. And one of his best characteristics is that he’s open to criticism, feedback and new ideas.

I wasn’t surprised to read about friction in the early stages of his administration over the role of women in the West Wing. According to the Washington Post, female staffers felt shut out of discussions and disregarded to the point where it could qualify as a hostile workplace. Obama’s reaction? He finally sat down with the women to hear them out.

“Those tensions prompted Obama, urged on by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, to elevate more women into senior White House positions, recognize them more during staff meetings and increase the female presence in the upper ranks of the reelection campaign. … The complaints seemed to subside over the last year, as officials have made a greater effort to promote women and the tight-knit inner circle has shifted to bring new advisers into the building.”

That, to me, is the work of a good leader. No, he’s not perfect. No one is. But despite the areas where I disagree with him, I truly believe he is a good man. I truly believe he has the best interest of all Americans at heart. That is why I have put so much time and effort into re-electing him. It’s why you should consider doing the same.

The devolution and evolution of Barack Obama

Dan Savage at Savage Love has done a great job recently at tracking President Barack Obama’s stance on marriage equality. It recently made the news that as a candidate for Illinois state Senate in 1996, Obama told Outlines newspaper, in his own handwriting, he supported gay marriage. However, presidential candidate Obama in 2008 was clearly opposed to gay marriage. In the last few months he has suggested there might have been an “evolution” of his position and that he’s now leaning toward supporting gay marriage. But communications director Dan Pfeiffer and spokesman Jay Carney insist Obama up until this point has not supported marriage equality.

Confused? I don’t blame you. I have long suspected Obama’s stance on the issue is a political decision rather than an actual personal belief. I just couldn’t understand how someone who has appointed so many gay people to positions of power in the government, who has allowed hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples, who has worked to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell, and who has shown every other indication of supporting full equal rights for gay Americans could stop short at marriage.

I agree with Savage that it’s likely Obama changed his position in order to win the presidency, and yes, that disappoints me. But Savage asked some thought-provoking questions. If progressives push Obama to support marriage equality before the 2012 election, and he loses, that issue will be blamed for it. Are we willing to let a President Pawlenty or President Bachmann become a reality for the sake of our principles? By the same token, if Obama had supported same-sex marriage in 2008, and lost to John McCain/Sarah Palin on that issue, what would our country look like now? Would the trade-off have been worth it? I don’t know. I fully support marriage for heterosexual and homosexual couples, but the thought of Sarah Palin being vice president right now still makes my skin crawl.

In a perfect world, Obama could express his true beliefs and there would be no political consequences. No one would refuse to vote for Obama next year because of this one stance. However, we all know the world is far from perfect, and Republicans would be using his support for same-sex marriage to raise millions of dollars and drive their base into a frenzy. I’ve had enough of their idea of governing to last me a lifetime. I’d much prefer letting Obama have another four years to move this country forward.

New York passes marriage equality

Two great pieces of news in one day! First a federal judge granted Planned Parenthood of Indiana an injunction restoring Medicaid funding, and then New York state approved same-sex marriage. After several days in which is was unclear whether the issue would be voted on or whether there was enough support for the measure, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill late Friday. It makes New York the largest state where same-sex couples can now legally marry.

One of the sticking points in the debate was exemptions for religious institutions. I have never had a problem with churches, synagogues or mosques not performing same-sex weddings. I don’t agree with it but that’s totally their choice. And what gay couple would want to get married in an establishment that regards them as subhuman, anyway? However, if a state government legally recognizes same-sex couples, those people should not be discriminated against in, say, a religiously affiliated hospital. I also don’t think those couples should be prevented from adopting children from religious adoption agencies. Your religious beliefs should end where someone else’s civil rights begin.

One interesting tidbit is that this law passed a Republican Senate when two years ago it failed in a Democratic Senate. I have to praise the Republicans who went against their party and voted in favor of love:

With his position still undeclared, Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he had agonized for months before concluding he had been wrong.

“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”

It’s statements like his that give me hope that although marriage equality exists in just five states right now (with New York to be the sixth), in the not-too-distant future it will be reality in all 50.

Religion is for everybody

Mainstream Christianity is often criticized (appropriately, in my opinion) by the left for not being inclusive enough. Pastors of mega-churches regularly spout off hateful comments directed at women, queer people, Muslims — anybody who is too different. This is ironic to me, because I thought love and unconditional acceptance were basic precepts of Christianity and other major religions. And because religions so often get it wrong, it’s important to highlight when they get it right.

Minnesota state Rep. Steve Simon, who is Jewish, recently testified against a gay marriage ban in the state by asking, “How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether or not God actually wants them around? … How many gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether the living of their lives the way they wish as long as they don’t harm others is a godly and holy and happy and glorious thing?” Good questions, Mr. Simon.

And yesterday, via Dan Savage, comes a video from Believe Out Loud that you just have to watch:

Sadly, Sojourners, which dubs itself the biggest publication for progressive Christians, has rejected showing this video on its website because it says it hasn’t taken a stance on gay marriage. The simple “Welcome — everyone” message is too controversial for them. Dan and others rightly ask what is up with that. But thank you to people of faith such as Steve Simon and the group at Believe Out Loud for being accepting of everyone — no exceptions.

DOJ to stop defending DOMA

Finally, some good news in a winter that has seen one attack after another on women’s rights, workers’ rights, detainees’ rights and more. The Department of Justice has announced it will stop defending part of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law passed under President Clinton that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. President Obama and his administration have long been criticized by gay rights activists for continuing to defend “don’t ask, don’t tell” and DOMA in courts even when they were opposed to those measures.

You can read more of the legal technicalities at Daily Kos. I wish the Justice Department would stop enforcing the law, but this is a good step forward.

Also, possibly the most hypocritical statement ever from John Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, reacting to the announcement:

“While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the president will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation.”

He says that with a straight face after Republicans have spent weeks focusing on nothing more than denying women access to abortions. They have yet to produce one bill that creates jobs. And we’re supposed to take these people seriously?