Now that we’ve had a week to sort through our myriad of feelings and concerns about the next president of the United States, we find out where we are going next. We have two months until President-elect Donald J. Trump takes his seat in the White House, and in those two months we as citizens and students must think strategically about how we are to organize, network and brace ourselves for the incoming storm in this country.
Many are still in shock and disenchantment, and that is okay. It is necessary to let ourselves feel those emotions and to grieve for the nation in which we thought we lived. However it is also necessary for us to recognize that the next two months and the duration of this upcoming presidency are critical to shaping and understanding the landscape of American politics and policy for decades to come. This means that while our grief and disappointment are valid, it is time for us to work towards collective, substantial civic engagement among young people.
Still, the question remains, what exactly can one do to take on the advent of an openly racist, hetero-patriarchal administration in the White House? We’ve got a long way to go, but I’ve listed here seven actions that we can begin to take as members of an elite institution in an urban space:
1) We must devote civic efforts to making voting education accessible to communities that are the most affected by the gradual yet systematic reversal policies protecting the voting rights of marginalized communities. One way that you as a student can do this is by volunteering at or joining chapters of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. During election season, you can also work for voter registration drives and do voter registration canvassing.
2) We must recognize that we, as college students, occupy a privileged seat at the table. This means that we cannot continue to stay in the “Case Bubble” and must actually get to know the city that our university so relies on. Furthermore, the ivory tower must be a part of the movement against fascism in office, but we must be a part in such a way that does not undervalue or infantilize the communities we work alongside. This also means that it is okay to take a step back from organizing work, from social media and even the effort to “stay informed” in order to refocus our minds on our work and to develop ourselves as scholars.
3) We must be continually aware of the ways in which we use language on a daily basis as a tool of power. This means recognizing that words matter, that silence in the presence of violence equals complacency and that there is value in telling one’s stories in community. In conjunction with the value of storytelling, we must also lean into our discomfort and listen to the stories of many different people in order to appreciate the many experiences that make up this community.
4) We must enact self-care. We must honor radical self-care. We must take time to heal, recharge, laugh, cry, love and bleed so that we can get back up again and fight some more. Do not underestimate the dangers of burnout, resentment and exhaustion. If others tell you that they are concerned about your mental, physical and emotional health, listen to them. As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
5) We must protect those around us who live at the center of many intersections. Though they are the most at risk for hate crimes, they are also the most likely to be erased from conversations about oppression and violence.
6) We must remember that being an ally, as Roxane Gay poignantly noted in her talk on Tuesday, Nov. 15, does not mean showing up for the sole purpose of gaining recognition for work as an ally. It means caring about the lives of those around you, people who may not share the same privilege as you, as deeply as you care about yourself. This requires you, then, to also care deeply about yourself.
7) We must hold each other accountable for behaviors that perpetuate racism, misogyny, heterosexism, Islamophobia, anti-semitism, ableism and any other oppressive “isms” that we can think of.
We will fight cynicism and disenchantment with strategic action and reflection. We are confronted with a surreal moment in our nation’s politics right now, one that demands that we hit the ground running with a thick skin and an innovative mind. As students, our future is shaped by how this moment unfolds into the next four years. If you feel unsure about how you can contribute to the shaping of this moment, try starting with some of the steps listed above. Remember, we are in this for the long haul, and there are many, many ways to be a part of that fight.