White People, Step Up

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Ever since the election in November, I’ve had several friends mention that they were going to ration their Facebook time, or cut it out all together. “Facebook is just too difficult these days,” they would say. “I blame Trump,” they would say. “I need a break,” they would say. “I’m sick of all the political posts,” they would say. “Bring back kittens.”

Interestingly, most (but not all) of these people have been white women.

White privilege means many things to many people. But one thing white privilege does entail is the ability to look away from a Trump presidency, to take a break from “dealing with it.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I could do more. I know that I could be doing a lot more. But at the very least, I feel compelled to keep up with the news, however convoluted and insane it gets, to pass along news items to those I know will appreciate it and respond to it, and to be in regular contact with my representatives in Washington. Thanks to modern technology, it’s so easy to do these things, even if you have social anxieties that prevent you from cold calling or knocking on doors.

For example, the internet and podcasts make it easy to keep up with the news and what the repercussions are of all the crazy things that are happening. (I download Rachel Maddow’s podcast every day.) If you’re feeling overwhelmed, apps like “Daily Action” can give you one thing to do each day. “Resistbot” lets you send faxes to your representatives directly from your phone! (All you have to do is text “RESIST” to 50409 and the bot will find out who represents you in Congress, delivering your message to them in under two minutes. No downloads or apps required. It is literally as easy as sending a text message.) There is also “Stance,” an app that records a voice message anytime, anywhere, and will send it directly to your representative’s phone. It’s a way around the endless busy signals most of us face when calling our representatives in Washington, as well as a useful tool for people who, like me, have jobs that don’t come with easy phone access.

In a normal world, we wouldn’t have to do all this. In a normal world, the general population would condemn racist language, nepotism, and corruption. In a normal world, minorities wouldn’t have to fear deportation — or worse. In a normal world, we would assume that people nominated to lead agencies would actually be looking out for the interests of said agencies. However, this is not a normal world.

White people elected Trump in overwhelming numbers. White people did this. It might not have been the people who are currently shrugging off Facebook and the news and activism, but their family members, their friends, their significant others did. None of us are that removed from the people who support(ed) this presidency. Those same white people who “can’t deal” and “want a break” have the power to enact the most action, to make the most impact.

As Brittany Packett writes for Vox:

“Never should the majority of the burden to end oppression fall on the oppressed. White people must be the primary ones to deal with what white people cause. People of color have enough work to do for ourselves — to protect, free, and find joy for our people.”

At this point, it does not matter whether you are actively engaging in the violent culture of hate that Trump and his minions encourage, or if you are merely stepping “out of the way to give it permission to persist and room to grow”— you are complicit.

We allowed ourselves to be lazy with Obama. We had the luxury to trust that our politicians would take care of us. And to a certain extent, we are still able to luxuriate in that trust out here in California. But that does not give us permission to turn off the news, to avoid information that might be uncomfortable or distressing to hear. Real people, those perhaps right beside you, are fearing for their lives and their rights because of who has taken over in Washington right now.

White people had the luxury of voting for Trump without fearing the repercussions of that vote — even if those repercussions were actual and tangible but you thought they would impact other white people. White people had the luxury of not voting without fearing the repercussions of their “non-vote.” And white people now have the responsibility to face this beast head on.

I don’t care if you use an app or make phone calls or volunteer for a campaign or organize a rally or send daily faxes or make a donation to Emily’s List — you no longer have the luxury of turning away. It is your responsibility to be vocal, to be loud. It is your responsibility to find action that works for you, that is possible for you, even if it makes you uncomfortable. It is your responsibility to keep your eyes open and your brain alert, even if it feels as though we are all careening straight off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style.

Do not forget that, in the words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

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