You’ve been reading the news, imagining what America under a President Donald Trump would be like, and the thought of it makes you want to do something. But what?
If Trump’s presidential win has fired you up and you’re ready to go, but you need some direction, check out this list of 15 steps you can take. You can use all or just some of these steps as a jumping off point, but on the whole, these steps will help you find a manageable way to dive into the world of social activism.
1. Don’t get sucked into the propaganda
As a journalist, I can tell you firsthand that the profession has started to decay from the inside out. It’s started years ago, but the rot is only just beginning to show. Now, I’m not saying that every journalist out there is bad and every journalism outlet is now on Trump’s payroll. But what I am saying is that the rise of the 24/7 news cycle and the “news-for-ratings” mentality has led too many news outlets to rush to be the first on a particular storyline without actually investigating it.
For instance, we’ve heard a lot about the “alt-right,” Trump’s Cabinet picks, Trump’s bad presidential policy (before he even gets in office) and there’s a very real danger of Trump possibly using the media to his advantage once (or if) he gets in office. But we haven’t really felt outrage from the media about any of these stories. Instead, they report the news, give a little emotion behind it, and then wait for the next story. Waiting to be fed like birds isn’t what the journalism industry is supposed to be. We as the Fourth Estate are supposed to be forcing those in office to hold higher standards, not wait until they feed us lies for us to regurgitate as “reporting.”
This is a bit of a rant, but what I’m saying to you is to keep your online bookmarks stocked with sites you can trust. Nowadays, a lot of the news you can use is coming from alternative sources, like Teen Vogue, Fusion, Vice, The Young Turks and some staples like Al Jazeera. For the most part, The Associated Press is good to use, despite some of their previous hiccups when reporting on the alt-right. Also, I just refer to them out of habit since all journalists have had to depend on The Associated Press. Other newspaper sites, like The Los Angeles Times and online news sites like Politico are also good places to find news that hasn’t yet catered to Trump’s wishes. However, if you still want to stay on top of the standards, Reading The New York Times and USA Today don’t hurt.
My list doesn’t have to be your list, though; find what fills your news void and stick with it and when choosing your news to partake, stay mindful of the story’s headline. If it tries to portray Nazis as something akin to gentle hipsters, or Trump’s antics as traditional presidential behavior, then keep that story moving and find something else to read.
2. Figure how where your activism strengths lie
Not all of us can be on the frontlines of a march, and frankly, not all of us have to be. We all aren’t one-size-fits-all, so if you don’t think you can’t handle being in the middle of a march, then don’t think of yourself as a failure. What you can do, though, is find out how to best utilize your strengths in an activist capacity.
Are you good at art? Spread your message with your paints, pens, pencils and brushes! Are you a skilled dancer? Create a moving piece based on your personal feelings about America. Are you good at poetry? Do like my sister Ashley and write a book of poems about how you want to see the world become a better place. Do you love singing and songwriting? Perform your own original song, full of your message. Like writing in general? Do like me and start a website to get your message out there. If your strengths to lie more on the side of extroversion and you want to get out there and you want to protest as loud as you can, go do that.
We need voices of all types of voices willing to use their gifts to better our society. People learn in all sorts of ways, so we need all kinds of teachers willing to put themselves out there to teach and inspire. Just because you might not be on the battlefield, as it were, doesn’t mean you can’t contribute.
3. Act on those strengths! Don’t rest your laurels!
Once you figure out what your strengths are, utilize your gifts to their maximum potential. On the one hand, you’ll be surprised where your gifts can take you. But on the other hand, if you use your talents at their max, you’ll be apt to reach that many more people. Don’t think that there’s not an audience for your gift (because we’re all hurting out here right now).
4. But do rest your laurels.
With that said, please take some time to actually take a chill pill. If there’s one misconception about activism, it’s that the activist is always on. Activists are people too, and people like eating, going to the movies, walking in the park, and sleeping in late. Do take the time to rest yourself.
5. Take some time to actually forget about what’s going on, for the sake of your brain.
When things get overwhelming (and they will) try to just block out the world for a couple of hours. The world will not collapse because you aren’t doing something every second of the day. What will collapse is you if you don’t take care of your mental computer. What I often do is watch cake, nail art, and DIY videos on YouTube. Find what helps you turn your brain off.
6. Speak out against bad acts if you see them happening.
When you see someone behaving badly, such as harassing a hijab-clad woman on the street or saying something derogatory to a Latinx family in the store, do something about it. Whether that’s confronting the person outright or calling the manager to get the offender escorted from the store, find some way to help those who need your help at that moment.
7. Block people online (and maybe in life) who only mean you harm.
Muting, blocking, and/or reporting people online is a definite must-do for folks writing or talking about activism. There will always be those who try to refute your opinion with their racist “facts,” or try to demean you. Clearly, you don’t want to waste your energy on those trolls.
However, for some of you reading this, you might have to drop some folks in your day-to-day life. Maybe the person you thought was your friend is actually more prejudiced than you realize. Maybe you’re faced with checking your neighbors one day. These folks just might have to be left to the curb as you go on in your journey.
8. Educate those you can reach in your inner circle
Sometimes, though, the bigots in your life just might be your parents or siblings. In that case, it’s a lot harder (and way more emotional) to just excommunicate them from your life. If you feel you can reach them, try to make them understand your message. Sometimes our elders just don’t know better and just need to be shown the way; just because they’re older doesn’t mean they’re always wiser.
9. If you have friends of the same gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, etc, befriend someone of another race/culture/sexual orientation/etc.
You won’t grow your worldly perspective if you don’t actually interact with the world. The real hurdle some have to jump is if they can take their activism from the theoretical to the practical. For instance, it’s one thing to say you believe black lives matter when you’re speaking from an egocentric, “I want to be seen as the good person” view, but it’s another to say that and still harbor discriminatory thoughts that block you from not only making friends with black people, but from not seeing black people as potential threats.
Communicate with those you want to be in allyship with. Get to know them and empathize with them. Friendships with those not like you are the most potent ways of overcoming bad habits and seeing others as humans, not theories or objects.
You must have intersectionality for activism to work. This is my personal view; in today’s times, we’re more interconnected than ever, and activist groups have to work together to get major things done. Yes, people fighting for the causes of one race in particular is great, but they still need alliances with other activist groups. At the end of the day, marginalized people are all fighting for the same thing: recognition of our humanity and dignity. With our common goals, it only makes sense that we come together.
10. If you’re white and want to stay accountable, order yourself a Safety Pin Box subscription.
If you love subscription boxes, I know of no other subscription box to help you on your journey towards activism greatness than the Safety Pin Box. The subscription, created by activist/organizers Leslie Mac and Marissa Jenae Johnson, Safety Pin Box makes white allies actually accountable in their allyship in measurable ways. The box, riffing on the idea of folks using the safety pin as a sign of solidarity, puts the actual work in allyship (whereas just wearing a pin is too easy of an out).
The monthly subscription also helps financially support black femme freedom fighters. Also, black women and black femme activists can receive a one-time financial gift from the Safety Pin Box’s Black Women Being monthly drawing.
11. Do your research.
Part of the greatness of the Safety Pin Box is that it forces those who want to walk in the path of allyship to actually do the work necessary. This leads to my next point: everyone who wants to help marginalized people should do their own research. This includes other marginalized people researching the issues that affect other marginalized people. There’s a base understanding of white discrimination against people of color in general, but how often do we face POC discrimination of other POC head on? How often do we face marginalized people discriminating against LGBTQ people of color? Again, intersectionality is the key here. Learn about your fellow humans.
As millennials, sometimes money is tight; the job market still isn’t everything it could be. But if you see an organization that needs financial support and you’ve got the means, donate some of your money. It can only help strengthen the organization, which in turn can help strengthen the rest of us in the fight for equality. Some organizations include the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, The National Council of La Raza, Council on American-Islamic Relations, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, The National Congress of American Indians, the NAACP, GLSEN, Southern Poverty Law Center, Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, and many others not listed here.
13. Cultivate a group of friends (in the real world or online) who will support you in your activism journey.
Earlier, I wrote that you might have to let some people lie where they are as you continue on in your journey. Whether that happens to be the case for you or not, it never hurts to cultivate a strong support group, either in “real life” or online. Together, you can keep each other uplifted and upbeat during the tough times, and you can have someone to celebrate with during the victories.
14. Develop a self-care regimen
I alluded to this above, but I need to stay it outright; it’s important to take care of yourself as you go on a selfless journey like this. This is also advice to myself, because I often neglect certain basics of self care. But for me, self care includes remembering the goals I want to achieve in life–not just when it comes to social justice, but my career goals, relationship goals, fashion goals, etc. Remembering your goals helps you remember who you are as a human being.
Remembering what you love doing also keeps you present. Indulge in your hobbies and talents to take you out of this world and into your own personal space.
Also, remembering the loved ones in your life will keep everything in perspective. The people who love you will have your back whether the world crumbles around our feet or not. It’s their love that serves as a reminder that we are not just specks of insignificance on this planet; they remind us that we do matter, especially if we might forget that fact ourselves.
15. Remember why you’re on an activist’s journey
Things generally get tough before they get easier, and some of the most important goals in life are often the hardest to achieve. We often get fed the idea that Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, heck even Jesus, had it easy in their life’s journey. Clearly, they didn’t. Throughout their lives of service, they faced their own doubts, setbacks, and hopelessness. Can you imagine going up against injustice in the tougher political and social climates they had to face? In comparison, we have it a little easier, but not by much.
The fact is that the majority of us now facing our own “piss or get off the pot” moments when it comes to activism and we, unlike our parents and grandparents, didn’t grow up in a time in which the civil liberties we enjoy now were secure. Because of our relative softness, we might wonder if we have the heartiness to withstand the pressure that’s facing us.
This is the point in which all of us have to steel ourselves and rely on each other. We must nurture the belief we can handle the storm and prevail. Alone, we have power, but together, we have even more. We also must remember the end goal, which isn’t actually about us; right now, we’re fighting so the next generation won’t have to put up with the same BS we’re dealing with right now. We’re fighting for their futures just as much as we’re fighting for our own. That’s why the activist path is so important; if you’re willing to do what you can to make the next generation’s lives better and much closer to that ideal of “a more perfect union,” then you’re already on the way towards success.
BONUS: Want more ways to resist bigotry and make a change in America? A website called “Weekly Actions to Resist Trump” provide actionable tasks to take each week in terms of contacting government officials and donating to organinzations. Rolling Stone‘s article “5 Ways People Are Resisting President-Elect Trump” provides some of the tips given in this list, as well as more information on volnteering, contacting your representatives in government, and more. A citizen’s guide to strategic resistance called Indivisible: A Practical Guide for For Resisting the Trump Agenda,” was created by former U.S. Congressional staffers and shared as a Google doc. Ironically, it is inspired by the same tactics used by the Tea Party.
What steps do you have to offer to the list? Provide them in the comments section below!