“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
― Assata Shakur
I have heard Assata Shakur’s powerful chant at several Black Lives Matter actions continuously calling out white supremacist power built on anti-Blackness. I have listened to undocumented Dreamers sing these words outside the home of the head of the Department of Homeland Security–as they have called for an end to raids and deportations. And I have used this chant with impacted Muslim families who have been the targets of preemptive prosecutions and entrapments under the War on Terror.
Last week, the day after Trump was elected, we turned to Assata Shakur yet again. We had organized an emergency community meeting that drew more than 80 people at the Washington Peace Center where I work. To ground ourselves in the new reality that is Trump and the old reality that is white supremacy we recited Shakur all over again. The struggle continues against white supremacy: Donald Trump’s election is terrifying and shocking. But, for us, it is not a surprise.
On November 9th, Donald Trump won the electoral college and, with it, the presidency. His campaign represents the resurgence of an explicit form of white nationalism, which is white supremacy. His campaign weaponized the forces of patriarchy, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and an all-encompassing intersectional hate that targets multiple identities. For white liberals and privileged communities of color with class privilege, this election is a wake-up call. It is a wake-up call because they have been living in a bubble where America is progressing and in the process of entering a post-racial era.
But, they still do not see that Trump’s presidency is consistent with the foundations of what America is built upon. It is built upon white supremacist heteropatriarchy. It is a state built upon genocide and settler-colonialism. It is a state that sustains itself through imperialism, capitalism, and empire where racism and white nationalism play a central role in how power is distributed.
What we witnessed was a ‘whitelash’: A white backlash that is a response to the powerful movements led by Black, Brown, indigenous, womxn, queer, trans, undocumented, and communities of color that have always been at the margins and have been forced to survive violence that continues to be normalized. The causes for why we got here are helpful in analyzing the direction for the next 4 years and the ways we can intervene to prevent this forward march of white supremacy.
The exit polls show us that the majority of white voters – including women, middle, and rural America – voted for Trump. He redrew the map and galvanized a base of pissed off white people who are upset that the American Dream isn’t returning the material wealth they thought they were entitled to.
Trump weaponized xenophobia and Islamophobia, in particular, to place the blame on Muslim and immigrant communities for the economic grievances that working class and poor white America is living with. In a country where poverty rates have increased and key pieces such as job security, education, class mobility, and healthcare are inaccessible, the white backlash held communities of color – immigrants, undocumented communities, Muslims, refugees, communities of color, and women – accountable for this reality. This is despite the fact that these demonized groups outnumber whites in the ranks of the most impoverished and are worse hit by the economic policies unleashed by establishment politicians like Bush, Clinton, and Obama. The message: “Make America Great Again,” or rather, “Make America White Again,” made sense to white people across class and education levels.
The key appointments that Trump has made, such as Stephen K. Bannon, a known white nationalist, Islamophobe, and anti-Semite, sends a clear message about the type of administration he is building. Bannon’s appointment to a top White House position signals the type of administration Donald Trump is putting together and tells us that he is working to recruit some of the leading architects behind white supremacy in a core team. With the entire House and Senate – along with a majority of local elections – in the hands of the Republican Party and the rapid expansion of executive power under the Bush and Obama presidencies, Trump faces very little opposition in furthering a white supremacist agenda.
Just a few days after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported there were at least 200 hate incidents across the country. This is what an emboldened white supremacist America looks like. Given his proposals for the first 100 days, things are not looking that great. Here is a partial list of the actions he promises to carry out:
- Deport 3 million undocumented immigrants
- Repeal parts of Obamacare
- Fund the construction of a wall on the Southern border
- “Restore” rule of law by funding more law enforcement agencies, militarizing law enforcement, and building up prisons
- Expand the US military and build more bases
- Renegotiate NAFTA
- Move forward with building pipelines across the country to devastate and destroy the climate even further
- Cancel all support for UN Climate
- Cancel all executive orders including DACA that gives temporary relief from deportations but is not a path to citizenship
- Replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court
- Cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities
- Suspend immigration from “terror-prone” nations and institute “extreme vetting”
- Restore the National Security Act
- In the next few days, we will gain more clarity around how Trump’s administration decides to implement these proposals.
It is important that moving forward our communities reject the normalization of Trump and white supremacy. It is also important that our communities show up and throw the weight of our resources and solidarity with other grassroots movements.
At this moment, we must stand with the #NoDAPL water protectors at Standing Rock who are fighting militarized violence for protecting water and sacred land. It is important that we show up for the Movement For Black Lives, undocumented communities resisting and fighting violent deportations, and show up for our own communities targeted by state violence. At the same time, we have to push beyond US borders and work towards building transnational solidarity because the repression given by the state towards current movements is state tactics imported by the violence we have seen through the War on Terror and War on Drugs in our communities and across the Global South.
In terms of practical ways you can support, here are some suggestions:
- Stay informed. When institutions fail to do oversight, it is our responsibility to serve in that role.
- Make oppression inconvenient. Flood phone lines, offices, businesses, and employers.
- Remember, all politics is local. Find a local grassroots group to support, fund, and get involved in. If you do not have one, get 2-3 friends together and build something. Not every organizing group is a non-profit 501(c)3. Remember that the more variation we have the better it is especially when white supremacists have been targeting PoC-led nonprofits
- Pool resources together for survival and check-in on people. In local communities, people are discussing the need for emergency funds, safe houses, safety plans, rapid response teams, and community control.
- If you can, find ways to show up to actions and mobilizations. However, get training, support, and be part of something strategic without harming yourself and others around you
- Always think about accessibility. For organizers, it is important to think of creating actions and mobilizations that also take into account accessibility
- Support the Sanctuary Movement. And, build locally to see how your community can publicly protect undocumented communities and Muslims who will be among the first targets of Trump’s administration
- Put pressure on local representatives. Pressure your Mayor and local government Council to affirm your locality’s Sanctuary status and keep the pressure high.
- Connect with existing organizers. Take a moment to connect with organizers who have been around surviving and pooling resources together so we build on preexisting work and prevent ourselves from repeating mistakes.
- Garner the resources. This is a moment of an uprising. Many new people will be politicized and they must have entry points into movements.
- Provide accessible political education. This is a necessity and for people who are scholars, it is important they serve communities rather than think-tanks and the Ivory Tower.
- Respect the multiplicity of ways in which this struggle can happen. Our liberation must be multilingual and it must respect multiple ways of communication
Finally, the only choice we have at this moment is to organize, organize, organize. I have compiled a list of over 20 grassroots groups across the country that you can plug into and support. It is important that we continue the struggle and stay clear about our goals has always been to build systems that affirm our humanity rather than dehumanizing us consistently.
Darakshan Raja is a Co-Director of the Washington Peace Center, a grassroots organization that supports movement building through political education, resources and training for activists, coalition building, and support for mobilizations in Washington DC. Darakshan is also the Co-Founder of the Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum, a local collective of Muslim women organizers fighting against structural Islamophobia in the District.