White People: Here’s How to NOT Respond to the Election
Posted by Rachel Bezek
November 16, 2016
Sit down and buckle in, because this past week has proved to be extremely bumpy with extreme turbulence between activists and “activists.” After the election, we have a president-elect in Donald Trump, and the world has not slowed down ever since. Protests have been popping up, news outlets have been voicing their disappointment, and — of course — many people have found the worst way to attempt solidarity and allyship. Just one week and the conversation has largely shifted to calling-in those that do more harm than good with their efforts, enforcing and encouraging damaging ideas and false narratives to avoid discomfort, accountability, and conflict. I’ve unfortunately noticed a lot of reoccurring patterns in white people that not only prove being an ally is a walk and not a talk, but that we are to blame for the direction of our politics.
So, this is your edition of how not to respond to an election like our recent one, or any event that is similar.
“We will survive, Only 4 years, Won’t be that bad.”
This one has been commented on many times since the election results have been public and we have had time to digest the results. There’s multiple takes on this perspective, and many different ways it has been debunked as completely and totally unhelpful.
The root of the issue with the intended optimism is traced back to whom it would be survivable for. As many people know, the VP-elect has openly supported conversion therapy for LGBT and opposes funding for Planned Parenthood, putting many different populations in a situation of harm and danger. Conversion therapy is known to use torturous methods to help teens and adults change orientations, and lack of access to abortion is correlated with more maternal deaths due to botched procedures.
Many people, unfortunately, wouldn’t survive this reality. Whether it be directly, like with the maternal deaths due to lack of women’s heath, or indirectly with the increased suicide rate with conversion therapy on youth, there are certain oppressed groups that will have very real fear for their safety.
So, basically, there are groups that wouldn’t survive. There are groups that haven’t survived presidential administrations before, such as the people who lost their lives in the AIDS epidemic due to the lack of action. There are groups that won’t survive with certain policies in place.
If you’ve been on social media, you’ve heard of the safety pin initiative. It’s been said to have originated from the Brexit debacle, or from other movements in the past. All in all, it’s mean to symbolize the connectedness between groups in order to show support against fear and hate — like a way of metaphorically pinning our torn communities together again to stay strong. As a white woman, I know my interpretation of it is not the most important and is likely lacking many different experiences that would affect my bottom line.
What I can say is that safety pins on your sweater is not an active way to be an ally or accomplice to a cause or group. There is no real, obvious change occurring when you walk to class with a pin on your shirt or bag, letting that simple act be your way of being involved without the risk of conflict. Active allyship is made through consistent work and accountability, hitting the pavement with your privilege to make sure the right voices are heard. It is lobbying for important legislation, it is holding yourself and other white people accountable for systematic oppression, and seeking out different experiences to desegregate the ideas you’re exposed to.
It is active, it is work, and it is not something you can do in the back of your mind, letting a small metal contraption do the talking and walking that you — yourself — are supposed to be doing.
Calls for peace
Extra points if this include appropriating POC quotes to fit the agenda of a perfect, non-violent movement.
Calling for a certain reaction from people that are scared, angry, and oppressed is the basis of tone policing. Many examples come to light when protests, riots, and opposition hit the mainstream media, mainly being calls for non-violence and peacefulness. We ask for protesters to be quiet, away from anything that might cause inconvenience, and calling for hugs and unity instead of change and justice.
Unfortunately, we’re not the ones to make that call or choose the reaction, people.
If you are not personally affected by a situation, you don’t get to choose what reaction is appropriate or not. I shouldn’t get to choose how POC are meant to feel over racist policies and systematic oppression, men shouldn’t get to choose how I experience sexism and harassment, and so on with all the different identities that one can experience. Calling for non-violence is not in our right, especially when it causes us to miss the point of the protests altogether.
Instead of being angry about a protester yelling in the face of law enforcement, maybe we should acknowledge the reality of fear, oppression and anger that they’re experiencing.
Calls for anything, really
White people, we are the groups that got Trump elected in the November race. We are the only groups that had him in the lead — to an almost scary large margin. We are the ones that put Trump in a position of power, affirmed his policies, and likely won’t have as many repercussions for them.
Our calls for action are — and should be — falling upon deaf ears.
We can actively be a part of the change and be a part of the activism against the harmful policies, but we are not the ones that are calling the shots. Through our actions we have made Trump into the problem he is today, and we have lost the privilege (one which we didn’t earn in the first place) to think that we can be the ones to fix this. Our underestimating, overexposure, and tolerance of Trump got us here — let us take a back seat and think about what we’ve done, not force ourselves to be the leaders of a cause that is not ours to lead.
I’m an optimist myself, but there is a line. There is a difference between hoping the sun will come out after a week of cloudy weather, and trying to twist the reality of homophobic, racist, and sexist Trump-team members being put in the White House staff. Yes, there is a woman, a gay man, and a black man that have been asked to be a part of the transition team or other relating positions, but that doesn’t excuse the policies that they’re putting forth to harm other communities outside of their own.
A woman can be racist, and that is unacceptable. A gay man can be a misogynist, and that is unacceptable. A black man can be homophobic, and that is unacceptable. Unfortunately, many of the people under Trumps cabinet have fallen under this pattern, or are white men with a tendency toward two or more of the oppressive behavior. It is unacceptable, and cannot be ignored or dismissed.
By trying to simplify the reality to something that we can sleep at night with, we’re dismissing the real harm that they can do for our own comfort — comfort that we would have anyways out of our own privilege. We cannot take a complex situation and iron out all the bad things about it, our reality doesn’t work like that. Regardless of whether we choose to see and acknowledge it — the traits will be there, and they will affect the lives of many.
In conclusion, we need to acknowledge that we have royally messed up, and allow other people — the people that we have directly harmed — to show us how to make change that is effective and inclusive of everyone. It is accountability at its core, and will be a good lesson for us to finally learn after years of ruining opportunities for growth. This is our chance to make amends and let ourselves take the blame for an issue we created, perpetuated, and affirmed with this election. Once we allow ourselves to hold the accountability of this outcome, we can really make the change that we say we want.