Love is Love is Not an Excuse

Even when we aren’t marching with Tiki Torches and shouting “JEWS WILL NOT REPLACE US,” white people have a natural talent for racial bias.  So natural, in fact, that most of us regularly contribute to discrimination and erasure of people of color (POC) without realizing it.

The LGBTQ+ community is no exception.  In our struggle for rights and acceptance, we have an unfortunate tendency to ignore queer people of color (QPOC). Take, for example, the Stonewall riots: widely seen as a turning point in the struggle for gay rights in America (less so for trans* rights, unfortunately).  These riots, although instigated by trans women of color, launched a movement that benefitted white cisgender gay people disproportionately to the rest of the queer community. The 2015 movie about the Stonewall riots even created a fictional character just so the protagonist could be a cisgender white man instead of the real-life Marsha P. Johnson and/or Silvia Rivera.

We white people have been socialized, through a system of racial oppression, to see ourselves as the “default” and to center ourselves in situations that are not about us.  I am not saying that white queer people (WQP) do not face real difficulties with discrimination and violence, rather that QPOC experience a uniquely difficult struggle as a result of their intersecting marginalized identities.  See this, this, this, this, this, and this article for more information.

When the Pulse shooting happened last year, WQP yet again overlooked the experiences of QPOC as we processed our grief and rage and fear.  I own my contribution to this; I and many of my white queer friends initially failed to acknowledge that the majority of victims were people of color and that Hispanic/Latinx and black communities were hit harder than we were.  It took some reading, a few difficult conversations, and a lot of introspection for me to understand that by claiming the event as “the gay 9/11” and by centering my feelings of victimhood, I was effectively ignoring QPOC.

Which is why today, I want to talk about the comic Love is Love.

LoveIsLove-Cv1

For anyone who doesn’t know, Love is Love is a 144-page comic anthology co-published by DC Comics and IDW in December of 2016, in order to raise money for survivors, families, and victims of the Pulse Shooting. It features 1-2 page comics and spreads depicting the rage, grief, fear, and ultimately hope within the LGBTQ+ and ally communities in response to the event.

You might ask what this anthology has to do with QPOC erasure.  Look at the racial diversity represented on the cover! Unfortunately, the cover doesn’t mean much once you realize that white men are over-represented on the list of writers and artists, while people of color are grossly under-represented. In fact, despite 300+ creators contributing to the project, Love is Love features the work of exactly one black woman.  For perspective: two of the Pulse shooting’s 49 victims were black women; three were white men.

At an LGBTQ+ comics convention in Brooklyn, New York, I attended a panel called “Love is Love: One Year Later,” featuring a small group of contributors, half of whom were white men. Marc Andreyko, the project’s originator and main organizer, moderated the panel. He was understandably proud of the anthology’s success; although meant to be a one-time event, Love is Love has gone through several re-printings, distributed more than 100,000 copies, and will soon be released for publication in several foreign countries. Given that 100% of the initial proceeds went to people who were affected by the Pulse shootings – with proceeds of later publications slated to benefit LGBTQ+ charities such as The Trevor Project – this is undeniably a good thing.

Which is likely why Andreyko was so thrown off when the first two questions from the audience called him out on the lack of POC contributors.

The resulting discussion consisted of several familiar justifications, from Andreyko as well as contributor Phil Jimenez (who himself is a QPOC):

  • You’re wrong.
  • How do you know they were white?
  • No seriously, how do you know?
  • We used white male contributors because we wanted this project to sell.
  • We reached out to as many people as we knew.
  • Not everyone we contacted was able to submit something by the deadline.
  • We didn’t intentionally exclude people of color.

Andreyko did later walk back a few of these comments, acknowledging the problematic lack of diversity on the contributor list and pledging to do better in future anthologies.  (Side note: apparently a five-year anniversary edition is in the works, and Andreyko promises to include more QPOC creators.)

Not all of these excuses were completely false; the comic publishing industry has been consistently dominated by white men. By limiting the project to people who were well-known, easy for white men within the industry to reach, and/or able to temporarily drop what they were doing to create a contribution without being paid for it, the organizers unconsciously favored white men, whose privilege allows them to be over-represented among people who fit those criteria.

White people who are committed to racial equality need to understand that it is not enough to be “color-blind” or to ignore race as a factor. In projects such as Love is Love, white people in a position of privilege need to actively reach out to people of color, directly counteracting the systemic disadvantages that POC face. We so naturally default to white centrism that anything that does not actively work to include POC unintentionally shuts them out. (And that’s not even considering the issue of tokenism.)

The conversation was not going well until Tee Franklin, the only black woman on the panel (the entire project, in fact) spoke up.  (Jimenez appeared stunned to learn that Franklin was the only black woman contributor.)  Franklin described her experience as the “token black woman” in Love is Love.  She talked about queer black women and girls who had approached her to say that her contribution was the only place where they saw themselves represented. She pointed out that not only do databases of creators of color exist, so do anthologies of their work.  There’s even a database where people can search for queer creators of color.

Andreyko seemed increasingly receptive to what Franklin was saying, and by the end of the discussion he appeared willing to take action to include more queer creators of color in future projects.  My girlfriend and I were visiting Tee Franklin’s display after the panel, and Andreyko actually approached her while we were there.  He looked through one of the anthologies she had mentioned and eventually gave her his contact information so that they could work together on future POC-inclusive projects.  As someone outside the comic publishing industry, I can only hope that positive change comes from this.

A recurring theme at this convention was the importance of diversity, intersectionality, and representation in the media.  Representation matters, I heard time and time again. The Love is Love panel attempted to put that mantra into action, by calling out a project whose representation was lacking. I’m sad that it took almost a year for this issue to be brought to the organizers’ attention, and I’m equally sad that Tee Franklin is receiving backlash for speaking out about it. WQP (and allies) need to start doing better by QPOC, and this is just one of the many ways we can do it.

So what can you do?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Watch a video of the panel on Facebook. Show your support for Tee Franklin and other QPOC by liking or sharing it.
  • Educate yourself on the struggles that QPOC face. As I’ve said in previous entries, it’s long past time for white people to listen to marginalized voices.
  • Include QPOC in your conversations about LGBTQ+ issues.  Do you know how many trans women of color were killed in 2016? 2017? The past 48 hours? Do your friends and family know? Do not let another conversation about the Pulse shooting finish without someone mentioning the queer Latinx and black communities. Keep pushing when your white friends and families try to ignore or dismiss the issue. Be that person.
  • Show your support for Tee Franklin on Twitter and/or by pre-ordering her book Bingo Love. I’ve read the preview, and it looks fantastic!
  • Support queer creators of color by actively seeking out their projects.  I listed some ideas in a previous entry about prose books by authors of color, and there are plenty of other resources out there for finding books and comics by queer creators of color.
  • Let Marc Andreyko know that you hope future projects similar to Love is Love will be more inclusive of queer creators of color.
  • Buy and read Love is Love. Yes, it’s problematic, but it’s also a wonderful project for an excellent cause. We can acknowledge its racial bias while enjoying and supporting it for the good that it does.  Just make sure that when you discuss the book, you acknowledge the experience of QPOC and creators who were excluded. Do the work to make your corner of the LGBTQ+ movement inclusive, intersectional, and representative.
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Black Lives Matter 101 for white people

The following is an email I wrote to my (white) extended family and friends in July 2016. Unfortunately, the points I made nearly a year ago are still far too relevant

By now you have all heard of two incidents in as many days in which black men (Alton Sterling and Philando Castile) were fatally shot by police officers.  Yet Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are only the latest in a long line of black men, women, and children who were killed by police officers.  Tamir Rice. Sandra Bland. Eric Garner. Alexia Christian. Michael Brown. Trayvon Martin. Mya Hall.  Freddie Gray. Meagan Hockaday. And so many more.

In the cases of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, horribly graphic videos have surfaced.  These include multiple videos of the incident in which Alton Sterling was tackled, pinned to the ground, and shot at close range, as well as one video of the aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile in his car, in which his girlfriend narrates what happened, watches him die, and is arrested along with her four-year old daughter.  I am not going to link to those videos here.  They are brutal and graphic and to watch them solely for the purpose of emotional reaction is voyeuristic and disrespectful to the victims.  That said, if you need to see them in order to believe what happened, then by all means go watch them.  The videos won’t be hard to find; they’re everywhere. Find them. Watch them. Understand.

 

Because we as white people need to understand what is happening. Our police officers are killing black people and this trend is not going away.
A study reveals that in 2015, police killed at least 346 black people in the United States.  (Click on “About the Data” at the top of the page to find detailed descriptions of their sources and how they defined their terms.)  From January 2013 to April 2016, police officers killed between 12 and 43 black people each month. Black people were three times more likely to be killed by police officers than white people were.  30% of black victims were unarmed, compared to 19% of white victims.  Importantly: when data was analyzed by city, numbers of black people killed by police officers showed no correlation to rates of violent crime.

 

So, the “Ferguson effect” (in which police killings are supposedly linked to increases in crime) is demonstrably false.
According to another study, police fatally shoot black civilians most frequently in cities where the black and white populations are close to equal but the police forces are primarily white.  By contrast, in cities where racial diversity in the police force accurately represents civilian demographics, these incidents are significantly less common. These factors influenced what the researchers labeled “(perceived) group threat.” Parentheses are theirs.
Perceived group threat.  Police in certain cities – in which black people are residents but not police officers – are considering black civilians to be a collective threat.  As a result, police in these cities are killing black civilians in greater numbers.  I should note again, these killings are not correlated with rates of violent crime.  Need more proof?  A writer for the Washington Post summarizes this finding from the FBI:

 

“In 2014, the suspects were black in only about 15 percent of homicides in which the victim was white, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Yet in cities where more such crimes were committed, killings of black civilians by police were also more common – although less so in cities where the make-up of the police force was similar to the population’s.

By contrast, there appeared to be no connection between killing of black civilians by police and the rates of homicides involving black suspects and black victims.

Uncomfortable yet?  There’s more.

 

A study conducted in November 2015 revealed “evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans” from 2011-2014. Specifically, “the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average.”  This racial bias was found to vary significantly by county, “with some counties showing relative risk ratios of 20 to 1 or more.”  This relative risk was greatest in large cities with “low median incomes, large populations of black residents, and significant income inequality.”  Again: “There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates) meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.” (Emphasis mine.)
With that out of the way, we need to talk some more about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
By now you know the stories: Alton Sterling was selling CDs outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge when he was shot in the chest and back by a Louisiana Police Officer.  Philando Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light and then fatally shot – with his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter in the car to witness the whole thing.
Maybe you’ve witnessed the heartbroken friends and family: videos of Sterling’s 15-year-old son breaking down on national television, Castile’s mother reporting that she was not allowed to identify his body and she did not know where his girlfriend – who had livestreamed the aftermath of the shooting, including her own arrest – was (she was not released from police custody until the next morning).  I’m not linking to those videos here.  Again, it’s voyeuristic to watch them simply for the emotional reaction; again, if you need to see them to believe them, you can find them easily.
The anger and grief and shock that these people are experiencing cannot be understated and should not be ignored by anyone with a modicum of compassion. These people are furious, I’m furious, and you should be too.  If you’re not, it’s long past time to start asking yourself why.
We’ve already started to learn about the backgrounds of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  Alton Sterling has a mugshot and a criminal history. As Justin Cohen says in his article:

“…the media will outline the various ways in which the victim behaved inappropriately in the past.  None of this matters, and it certainly does not change the fact that the police killed the person outside of any legal process. I smoked pot when I was in high school, for example, and if the police used that as justification to murder me, that would be ludicrous.”

Whatever you want to say about Alton Sterling’s criminal history, it has nothing to do with the specific incident in which he was shot and killed by police. Using his criminal history to justify not feeling bad about his death implies that he deserved to die because of his past crimes.  That is not usually our intention when we refer to these criminal backgrounds, but we use excuses to make ourselves “feel better” about what happened, and the implication is the same.  This is not okay.
Tom Winter of NBC News has already pointed out, via Twitter, that Philando Castile had been pulled over by police 31 times since 2002 for traffic violations. Think about this one for a moment.  Traffic violations. If you are going to argue that traffic violations – even a high volume of them – can ever justify killing someone, then it is definitely time to stop and think.  Examine where that comes from.  Ask yourself if you would feel that way about a white victim with a similar traffic record, and be honest about your answer.
We as white people can ignore racial injustice because it doesn’t directly affect us.  If I’m pulled over for speeding, I do not worry that I’m going to be shot.  Nor does police violence feel like a particular danger to me when I’m walking down the street.  If I want to, I can ignore what’s happening to black people in our country because it doesn’t impact my life.  Meanwhile, acknowledging it – understanding that the institution which is supposed to serve and protect me is committing constant system-wide injustice against people whose skin is different from mine – is deeply uncomfortable.
I am not suggesting that white people honestly believe that a black person deserves to die because he (or she) is frequently pulled over for speeding.  I’m saying that we frequently use whatever excuses we can to justify these deaths.  Michael Brown was “a thug,” Sandra Bland shouldn’t have talked back, and Tamir Rice should not have been allowed alone in public with a BB gun.  We are smarter than this, and I sincerely hope we have more empathy and compassion than this, but thinking critically about these situations reveals truths that are deeply unsettling.  If this system has been so biased for so long, who are we for allowing that to happen?  Who are we for being complicit with and benefitting from a system that disproportionately kills people based on race?
The answer is uncomfortable, and on some level I understand why we want to avoid it.  But this is happening, and it will keep happening if we don’t allow ourselves to be uncomfortable with it.  After admitting to ourselves what is truly going on, we will feel guilt, rage, grief, shame.  We’ll feel uncomfortable, unsettled, less secure in our country.  We may feel frustrated and helpless.  All of that is okay.  If we don’t let ourselves feel these things, our system will never change.  We will continue to be complicit, and these deaths will keep happening.

 Philando Castile spent 10+ years working for St. Paul Public Schools, the most recent two years as a supervisor in their cafeteria.  One coworker is quoted in this article as saying:

“Kids loved him. He was smart, over qualified. He was quiet, respectful, and kind. I knew him as warm and funny; he called me his ‘wing man.’ He wore a shirt and tie to his supervisor interview and said his goal was to one day ‘sit on the other side of this table.”

He’s gone now.  His students, the ones who are old enough to understand, are mourning.  A four year old black girl learned firsthand that this is what police officers do to black men.  Friends and family and coworkers are grieving just as friends and family and witnesses are grieving for Alton Sterling. They are shouting that enough is enough.  As white people, it is long past time for us to listen.

Don’t just take my word for it.  Read, watch, educate yourself in whatever way you can.  Open your eyes to what’s happening and understand.  As white people, we have a choice to look the other way, and as long as we keep making that choice, the racism in our system will not change. Black people – men, women, adults, children, LGBTQ+, straight – will continue to be killed by the system that is supposed to afford them the same protections that it affords us.
Another email I wrote, to the same group, a few days later.  The first part is a response to comments about the Dallas Police shootings that took place shortly after Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were killed.
The Dallas Police shooting is also an important story and definitely needs to be included in the conversation.  We need to condemn these attacks and feel sorrow and compassion for the families and friends of Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarippa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens just as we feel for the family and friends of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  We are human. We have space to mourn all of them and condemn violence in all its forms.

That said, we need to be very careful that we do not allow our outrage and grief at the Dallas shootings to overshadow our reaction to police brutality against black people across the country.  Obviously, the Dallas Police were not involved in the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling any more than those two men were involved in incidents of black people killing cops.  As I said, we have space to be angry for both, and we should not attempt to diminish or simplify our anger by using one tragic incident to justify another.

 

The difference is that people who kill police officers are severely punished, while historically the reverse has not been true.  This should not affect our emotional response to the tragedy of either situation, but it should color our desire to get involved in the outcome.  If nothing else, the violence of this past week shows us that this cycle will keep happening unless something drastically changes.
Another point I want to address: the conversation about Philando Castile’s traffic record is relevant outside of the context of his shooting, because black drivers are pulled over far more frequently than white drivers.  Even something as silly and innocent as playing the game Pokemon Go is more dangerous for black people or other people of color.  So while Philando Castile’s laundry list of traffic violations has no place in discussions about his death, it does need to be included in the conversation about injustices that black people face every day in America.  All of it needs to be addressed if we want to see change.
This is still relevant.  In a recent entry, I suggested some ideas for fighting oppression and injustice in a post-Trump America. I won’t repost them all here, but I will include this one: the homepage of Black Lives Matter movement, which outlines their mission and aims.  Read about BLM directly from the women who started it instead of the myriad of politicians who are framing them in different ways to suit their own agendas.

In conclusion, as I stated in my original email to my family:

 

Think. Listen. Acknowledge. Be uncomfortable.  Maybe then we can find a way to put an end to this.

 

Beyond the Women’s March: A PSA for fellow white people

Between 2014 and 2016, I attended several protests and rallies in Boston responding to the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the non-indictments of the officers who had killed them.  Although I didn’t keep a diligent count of the demographics, it did not escape my attention that visibly fewer than half of attendees were white, more than half of white attendees were women, and more than half of white people at these events presented as queer in an obvious way.

So it seems that, despite their abundance, cisgender, heterosexual, white people – especially men – are a rarity at Black Lives Matter events in Boston.

But the few cis-het white men who did show up? Wow, did they enjoy leading chants.

In the proximity of a cis-het white man, we rarely if ever experienced more than a few seconds of relative quiet without him bellowing a chant and expecting the crowd to follow along.  Cis-het white women were similar.  Often, chants initiated by white people would interrupt and ultimately drown out a chant led by people of color.

This is a problem.

It’s a problem that we white people didn’t show up when the Black Lives Matter movement needed us, and it’s a problem that those of us who did felt that our voices needed to be heard more than others.

Why?  First: Black Lives Matter exists because white people have systemically ignored black voices for a very long time. We do nothing to help the cause if we show up only to speak over them yet again.

Second: chants led by people of color were different from chants led by white people.  White people raged against racist police; people of color decried white supremacy and a corrupt system. That difference matters.

Then there were the white people who happily joined or started chants that we have no business shouting, such as “I can’t breathe” (yes we can – we aren’t the ones that systemic racism is oppressing) or “Whose streets? Our streets!” (Yes, they are our streets. That’s the problem!).

All this to say, the few cis-het white people who do show up for Black Lives Matter consistently fail to listen to the voices we are trying to support. 

Which brings me to the the Women’s March.

Anyone who hasn’t avoided the news for the past several weeks has likely heard about the overwhelmingly-well-attended Women’s Marches around the world on January 21st.  News sources disagree on how many people attended, but minimal estimates count millions of people at marches in all 50 US states, at least 60 countries and all seven continents. Everyone except Sean Spicer seems to agree that the D.C. Women’s March alone was better-attended than Trump’s inauguration.

This fact on its own is fantastic. My girlfriend and I attended the Boston march with some friends and the experience was powerful and moving.

Unfortunately, after the march I heard and read too many stories about black women, indigenous women, Muslim women, disabled women, and trans* people being ignored or outright disrespected by well-meaning white marchers. So there’s a few issues that we white people need to address before we become too complacent about our role in improving the world.

First:

Congratulating ourselves on organizing a protest that resulted in zero arrests. 

Again, this is an objectively good thing.  Peaceful protests are meant to be exactly that, and the fact that organizers managed to keep all events free of rioting or aggression is a feat to be commended.

That said, we as white people can’t take all the credit for this.  In the days following the march, I witnessed a trend of self-congratulatory posts gradually evolving into white people wondering why, if we managed it, the BLM and No DAPL protestors couldn’t avoid violence.  Why couldn’t they just do what we did?

This is where white people need to stop and check our privilege.

At every BLM protest in Boston, I saw long lines of mostly-white-cis-het-men police officers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, staring straight ahead with blank expressions, occasionally resting their hands on their guns.  Full riot gear was rare in Boston, but I did see it from time to time. As instructed by march organizers, we ignored the police and kept to our route, but the tension was palpable.

At the Women’s March, the atmosphere was completely different. Police officers still lined the route, but they were visibly more relaxed than any of the officers I saw at BLM events.  Many of the officers at the Women’s March were smiling. Some made eye-contact with people in the crowd and nodded. One or two even cheered.  I didn’t personally witness this, but there are videos of police high-fiving marchers in other cities.  I saw no riot gear in Boston. No officer’s hand was anywhere near a gun.

It is unfair for white people to claim credit for the difference in police response to the Women’s March.  Many of the marches changed their routes at the last minute (which they are not supposed to do), and at Boston alone I saw tons of people ignoring requests that the police had made before the march: holding signs with wooden pickets, wearing backpacks, and carrying bags that were not at all transparent.  Meanwhile, BLM marches in Boston showed zero threat of violence on the part of the marchers, no weapons, and no engagement with the police.  Like the Women’s March, BLM events had volunteers specifically present to make sure that attendees followed all of the rules.

In short: the palpable difference in how the police treated us had nothing to do with attendees’ behavior.

Police felt more comfortable with the Women’s Marches because they consisted primarily of cisgender-heterosexual-white women. People of color and LGBTQ+ people were present, yes, but cis-het white women were the clear majority, and this prevalence put the police at ease.  White women are not a threat.  White women are “on their side.” Events consisting primarily of people of color marching for their lives feel more threatening to the police, and as a result they are treated differently.

So think twice before you say something smug, comparing the Women’s March to the BLM or NoDAPL movements. Acknowledge your privilege and the role that it played. Sit with that. Process it. Feel uncomfortable with it.

Then use your privilege for good.

How do we do that? The obvious answer is to attend more events supporting people of color. I have frequently seen or heard people of color asking: “Where were all of you when we marched for Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown…(etc)?”

In general, we weren’t there, but we can change that. We can attend protests and rallies supporting people of color, Muslims, refugees, and indigenous people. We can show up for marginalized people and pester our friends into joining us, and it will do these marches good. The increased presence of white people – especially cisgender-heterosexual-women, will likely help the police to feel less threatened. It’s sad, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s true.

Walk on the edge of the crowd, where you will be most visible.  See a woman of color holding a particularly contentious sign? Walk near her. Watch her back.

I did not come up with these suggestions, by the way; women of color have been saying all this since before the Women’s Marches took place.

Can’t show up physically? Research other ways to support people of color and their causes, whether by donating money, spreading the word, or doing something else that these movements are asking for. The Women’s March is a perfect example of how white feminists need to improve at listening to and supporting  people who are marginalized in other ways.

Which brings me to my next issue:

Ignoring the needs and struggles of trans* people.

(I’m using “trans*” as an umbrella term for trans men, trans women, and everyone who identifies as gender non-binary.  I did not invent this term.)

Although Boston’s pre-march program made a fantastic effort to include women of color and disabled women, at most a few cursory mentions were made to trans* people.

Worse, many marchers’ signs mentioned “uterus,” “ovaries,” and other reproductive anatomy that cisgender women often mistakenly assign to all – and exclusively – women.  After the march, I heard and read responses from trans* people saying that these signs and slogans made them feel invisible, excluded, even dysmorphic.

Simply saying “trans women are women” helps no one if we’re going to exclude trans* people from our actions. Already we’re ignoring trans men and non-binary people when we claim abortion as a “woman’s right,” but using “uterus” or “ovaries” as a stand-in for “women” excludes trans women from the conversation.  Trans* people are already fighting for recognition, inclusion, and safety in a country that is openly hostile to them, and for many people losing Planned Parenthood means losing access to vitally important hormone therapy.  It’s unfair and counterproductive for cisgender women feminists to exclude trans* people from our cause, but unfortunately it seems to happen unintentionally.

So how do we counter it? Again, I have a solution presented to me by a person who was directly affected; I cannot overstate how important it is for white feminists to listen to marginalized groups.

Instead of focusing on reproductive rights specifically, lets fight for body autonomy for all.  Let’s acknowledge the services that Planned Parenthood provides to trans* people. “My body, my choice/their body their choice” does not need to specify cisgender women. It can include trans men and non-binary people who need abortions and birth control. It can include trans women who need access to hormones. We can protest Trump’s open and unapologetic history of sexual assault without implying that only cisgender women are ever assaulted.

Beyond that, lets show up for trans* people when they need us.  There’s plenty to do, especially now.  If you live in a state where trans* students could be affected by Trump’s withdrawal of trans rights from Title IX, find out what you can do to fight back.  If you live in a progressive state with its own anti-discrimination policies, research ways to support trans* people who need help.  This article is a great place to start.

Speaking of extra work, issue #3:

Potentially quitting activism after the March “high” wears off.

I’m thrilled to see people still involved in activism more than a month after the march, but this is a problem that we as white people need to keep in mind over the next four years. Non-marginalized groups tend to lose interest in civil rights movements more quickly than marginalized groups do. White people get fired up on issues, sure, but we tend to spring into action one day and then return to our regular lives the next.

As a gay, cisgender, white, able-bodied, middle-class woman with chronic health problems in Massachusetts, I am protected by state law in the ways that my disadvantages might affect me.  My privileges take care of the rest.  I, like many people, have the ability to stop paying attention to issues that deeply affect minorities across the country.

But we can’t let that happen this time.  There’s too much at stake.

How do we counter this?

  1. Stay informed. Follow reputable news sites and fact-check everything you hear or read.  Listen.
  2. Pace yourself.  I’ve heard from multiple people in multiple contexts: this is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t push yourself to every event, just more than you would have attended before. Take breaks, engage in self-care, then come back.
  3. Don’t get discouraged when you do things wrong.  Most of the issues I’ve addressed above are things I myself have done. I didn’t protest police brutality until Michael Brown’s death in 2014, and even then I happily chanted “OUR STREETS” until the problem was pointed out to me. Acknowledge your mistakes and do better the next time.  Let your attempt to self-correct be the momentum that keeps you involved.

Speaking of self-correcting mistakes:

Speaking over marginalized groups.

I mentioned that this happened at the BLM events, and it happened at the Women’s March too.  As the last few speakers – all of them women of color – addressed the crowd, a chant gradually took over the audience.  People – most of them white – started shouting “March, march, march!” Our impatience to walk led us to literally shout over women of color who were trying to inspire us.

I will acknowledge that the size of the crowd meant people at the back couldn’t hear all of the speakers, but that does not excuse the people around me who started chanting. It does not excuse our tendency to value our white voices over other voices.

So let’s stop and listen. There are so many ways to do this, especially in the age of the internet.  Marginalized voices are speaking on Twitter, Facebook, on blogs of all sizes, at rallies, panels and public addresses. It’s time for us to listen.

It’s time to make sure our feminism is intersectional, meaning it includes people who are non-white, Muslim, poor, disabled, fat, and/or LGBTQ+.

It’s time for us to learn and acknowledge the ways that different marginalized identities interact and how their problems may differ by state, city, even neighborhood.

It’s time for us to listen to and amplify marginalized voices without speaking over them.

It’s time for me to shut up so you can start acting.  Listen. Acknowledge. Keep fighting. Keep showing up.

I’ll see you there.

How to make our dystopian future somewhat less dystopian

So.  It happened. Donald Trump is the United States president elect. I’m not going to speculate on how or why he won, what his presidency will mean for women and minorities in the US, or the ramifications for the rest of the world. It’s likely that you already know.  If you don’t, I’m too tired and sad and terrified to educate or debate with you right now. This post was hard enough to write as it is.

For the rest of us, I’ve compiled a list of things that we can do to combat this nightmare, or barring that, shape it.  Because although this isn’t actually a collective hallucination – as I’ve been slowly coming to realize – we aren’t out of options just yet.

 

Attend a protest

Voice your anger, your concern, and your refusal to quietly let bigotry and hatred shape our next four years.  Find solidarity with thousands of people who feel the same and are just as determined to make their voices heard. From a practical standpoint, attending these events is often a good way to get connected with local and national activism groups and events, so you can keep fighting after everyone goes home.

Here is a list of 33 anti-Trump protests and rallies taking place around – and outside – the United States this weekend. There’s also a protest taking place in Washington DC on Inauguration Day and a march for women’s rights the day after. There are undoubtedly more, so look around if you can’t make it to any of these.  Facebook, for all its flaws, is generally a good way to find out about smaller, local events.

 

Call out racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, ableist, and body-shaming language when you hear it.

We are not going to overcome intolerance in our culture if we continue to allow people to get away with bigoted comments, however minor or unintentional.  So call out bigotry when it happens. This amazing thread outlines how to do this better than I ever could:

And it’s not just about race. Don’t let anyone get away with saying things like “That’s so gay” or “That’s so retarded.” When your friend catcalls a stranger in public, tell them to knock it off. Challenge a coworker who refers to a foreign accent as “broken English.”  If someone uses the wrong pronouns to refer to a transgender or gender non-comforming person, correct them.  Keep pushing if they try to brush it off.  Call yourself out when you need to, and listen to people who call you out for inadvertently offensive language. Apologize, then correct yourself.  Yes, it’s awkward, but it’s important, especially now.

At the same time, be careful that your voice isn’t overshadowing the voices of women and minorities.  If you witness a microaggression and the victim speaks up against it, show your support quietly.  Stand next to them, nod, agree, speak if they ask you to, but do not let your voice overpower theirs. These moments are not about you. They are about people who have been fighting for dignity and respect for decades, even centuries. Show your solidarity without speaking for them.

 

Intervene when you witness harassment in public

After Brexit, hate crimes in the United Kingdom increased noticeably.  After Trump won the election, people predicted the same for the US, and it turns out they were right. Check out Shaun King’s Twitter account for anecdotal evidence of hate crimes taking place all over the country – against a variety of marginalized groups – in the past two days alone. Read as many as you can, allow yourself to feel uncomfortable and disgusted, take time to recover, watch for hate crimes and harassment in your world, and (this is key) step in.

This comic provides a really nice guide to de-escalating public harassment.  Although it specifically refers to Islamophobia, the idea generalizes to situations of public harassment against just about anyone.  This Facebook video, created in response to the rise in racist incidents after Brexit, provides some more tips for responding to public harassment. Familiarize yourself with these techniques, then use them. Don’t assume someone else will step in.

Afraid for your safety?  So is the victim.  These are dark times, and we won’t make it out of them if we fail to show solidarity when people need it the most.

 

Donate to charitable organizations that are likely to struggle under Trump’s presidency

Here is a list of “Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-bigotry organizations,” with links for making online donations. These organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Planned Parenthood, and the Southern Poverty Law center, work hard for equality and are likely to struggle more than ever over the next four years.  It also wouldn’t hurt to check out your local rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, Boys and Girls Clubs, food banks, and LGBTQ organizations.  Can’t donate? Volunteer. Tell your friends and family.  Share links on social media and encourage your followers to do the same.

 

Sign a petition (or petitions) urging the Electoral College to elect Clinton instead of Trump

I’ll be honest, this one is highly unlikely to accomplish anything, but it’ll take less than five minutes of your time, which feels like an appropriate trade-off for the slim chance that we can avoid a Donald Trump presidency.

This one from Change.org argues that Clinton won the popular vote and Trump is unfit to serve as our president.

This one from gopetition.com calls the Electoral College into question in addition to urging Electors to cast their votes for Clinton.

Which brings me to the next item:

 

Write to your legislators and ask them to switch to a National Popular Vote

Democrats have won the popular vote in six of the past seven presidential elections. This election, in which Clinton won by more than 395,000 votes, is no exception.  In fact, this is the second time in 16 years, and the fifth time in US History, that  the person who won the popular vote did not become president.  This site is working to change that. They have great explanations for how/why we should switch to a National Popular Vote, as well as a very easy link to help US residents email their legislators.

 

Last, but definitely not least…

VOTE in your local and midterm elections

If you do nothing else, do this. Trump will have the support of a Republican majority in the House and the Senate, but in 2018 we’ll have the chance to change that. Massachusetts residents, let’s not allow Elizabeth Warren to lose her seat to Kurt Schilling two years from now. Show up at all of the elections, stay informed, and vote in people who will strengthen our country, not destroy it.

 

Not enough?  This article has more great ideas.  So do Rachel Maddow and Elizabeth Warren.   The second half of their conversation outlines exactly how we fight and/or shape Trump’s presidency at the political level.

Stay strong. I love you. Never stop fighting.