What Are Activists Doing to Stop Trump’s Racist Agenda?

Advocates are asking: "What's next for the movement when the president's comments are 'textbook' racism?"

ATLANTA — In the days following the recent presidential election, many in the racial justice movement have felt shock, grief, fear, and even anger at the election of a Republican presidential candidate whose outrageous remarks meet the “textbook definition” of racism, even according to Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House. But it has also meant a time to come together and plan for the future.

Racial justice advocates in the Bay Area have started efforts to link up with national groups to talk about short- and long-term strategies for mobilizing against racism and protecting marginalized communities who are now at risk after Donald Trump’s victory.

States across the country have already seen an increase in racist incidents. By Nov. 11, three days after Election Day, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy nonprofit that investigates hate groups, had counted more than 200 complaints of harassment, vandalism, and intimidation against Black people, women, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community.

“There is no time to lose,” says Clare Bayard, a co-founder of the San Francisco-based Catalyst Project, which works with White people and organizations to become more actively anti-racist. Bayard tells SF Weekly that White supremacists are feeling more emboldened by Trump’s election and that progressive White people have to be ready to act.

“I think a lot of what we need to be doing is stepping it up 100 times in terms of being more out and more active if we are White people who oppose racism,” she explains. “We have to have conversations with our family and co-workers and people in our places of worship, in our kid’s schools. We have to be more active in confronting interpersonal racism, whether it is verbal or physical.”

In the Bay Area, groups working with Arab populations are working to shore up their resources to create better mechanisms of safety and support for their communities.

“We’ve been preparing for this for some time, given the policies of the last two administrations,” says Lara Kiswani, the executive director of the San Francisco-based Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

“The overt racism and bigotry of Trump’s campaign has further alarmed our communities, and our members are worried about what’s to come on immigration,” she tells SF Weekly. “Many people feel like they going to be deported tomorrow.”

Kiswani says that her organization is in conversation with allies around the country about what Arab communities can do to stay safe, given that many communities feel they cannot rely on police or political leaders for protection. The Arab Resource and Organizing Center is also working to build community safety, develop bilingual literature and educational resources, and deepen its relationships with existing allies locally and nationally.

In Atlanta, from Nov. 10 to 12, Race Forward, a national racial justice group with roots in Oakland, hosted “Facing Race” — a gathering of more than 2,000 activists from around the country, including many Bay Area groups — to strategize, mobilize, and discuss the impact of a Trump presidency. Organizers of the conference called the convening the largest and most diverse racial justice gathering in the country and “Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.”

Rinku Sen, the executive director for Race Forward, tells SF Weekly that racial justice groups have to keep an eye out for places to offer solutions.

“We have to look for opportunities in the face of despair,” she says. “Even as we are handling the damage caused by Trump’s win, let’s look for opportunities for expanding our key agendas and for pushing them forward.”

One such agenda is a call for greater unity, a key theme voiced by many racial justice groups throughout the conference.

Isa Noyola, the director of programs at the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center, told the crowd: “It’s been a rough week, but our people are uniting!”

Later, Michelle Alexander, the prominent civil rights attorney and author of the critically acclaimed book The New Jim Crow, said in a speech at the gathering that Trump’s victory revealed the depth of our nation’s racial divisions, fears, anxieties, and resentments.

“It’s time for a deep dialogue about one of our most pressing challenges … how to build multiracial, multiethnic movements for racial justice.”

“Much has been lost, but not all,” Alexander added. “Much of what we have created, dreamed together, and birthed cannot be taken away.”

Alicia Garza, the co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter and an Oakland resident, said in a statement: “If we are going to forge a strong movement for social transformation, no community can do that on its own. A strong movement can only be built with the active participation of all of us, connected in our resistance to anti-Blackness and the systems that keep our communities divided.”

Garza also spoke at the conference, pointing out the importance of building deep relationships, which means strengthening multiracial and multinational alliances.

“We have to double down on what deep solidarity in practice looks like,” she told the audience. “I am worried about us moving to working in silos. We are stronger if we are not only united, but coordinated. We have to all be in this together, because our fates are shared.”

While forging connections was one important step put forth by activists, many groups are also figuring out ways to push for broader protections for marginalized groups, such as Muslim Americans, undocumented immigrants, African Americans, and LGBTQ communities.

Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and California-based immigrant rights activist, also spoke at the conference. He said that Trump’s victory represented a “culmination of the hate, ignorance, and terror that Americans have inflicted on each other since 9/11 and long before that.”

Vargas, who publicly came out as an undocumented immigrant in 2011, said that allies need to make critical interventions now more than ever.

“Now is not the time for silence, it is time for you to come out with your support for [undocumented immigrants].”

Vargas believes that another important tactic will simply be talking to each other more.

“We will not get to where we are going to get if we just talk amongst ourselves,” Vargas tells SF Weekly, emphasizing that progressive groups have to be willing to talk with each other, and even with those who stand against what we value. “How do we really listen to and engage each other?”

Sen agrees. “The first step is to engage with other people, particularly people we don’t like. The first step is making contact.”

Van Jones, the CNN correspondent and former green jobs czar of the Obama administration — who spent many years as a Bay Area racial justice activist — told conference attendees that this is a time to mobilize new people who previously have not been active.

“We are less alone now that we have ever been,” Jones said. “There are people who will now answer the call.”

Desiree Evans is SF Weekly‘s national race and justice correspondent. She filed this original report from Atlanta. Follow her on Twitter at @desireevans.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Stories