Dangerous Post 11/9/2016 Detours

November 22, 2016 1 Comment

Many of us who identify politically as left of center, and who work in nonprofits or foundations, have been upset, shocked, angry, sad, disappointed and more about the election of Donald Trump last week.

In reaction to this loss, many are awakening to the white supremacist (alt-right) forces gaining strength in our county. Many people are experiencing a greater degree of fear for our nation and for their safety than ever before. In the last week, I have witnessed a few reactive behaviors that are not going to serve us through this time. If we don’t stop ourselves from practicing these behaviors, we are in danger of pursuing short-sighted strategies that end up preserving the status quo, rather than taking advantage of this moment to push us forward toward a greater force of woke people standing for justice.


Check out Jen’s compilation: “Intro to Racism for White People—a List of Resources for White Peoplehttp://bit.ly/2gdUhDs

The behaviors that most concern me right now are:

  1. A conflation of being partisan with being political, shying away from saying anything that could potentially reveal who we voted for or that we are taking a side so as not to alienate Trump supporters in our networks and organizations. We don’t need to conflate being partisan with being political because the two-party system in this country has lulled us into a false polarization framed as Republican versus Democrat that distracts us from the real issues. We can be political, we can stand for justice, without alienating others. We may need to find new words and be open to new ways of communication, but we must not compromise on our commitments to equity and justice because we need to work with people who voted Republican. If we do, we lose our moral compass, we lose the possibility of bringing people together of varied mindsets for an equity and justice-focused agenda.
  2. An outsized alarm about white voters who supported Trump not for his bigotry, but despite of it, overshadowing the need more than ever to support, fund, and strengthen power building and organizing in and led by communities of color. Of course we (especially us white folks) need to hear to the concerns of other white folks and organize them where possible for equity and justice. This work will only be helpful if it complements rather than lessens support for The Vision for Black Lives, Immigrant justice and Muslim activists, as well as other people of color and poor people-led work.
  3. Scapegoating working class whites who voted for Trump, thereby turning a blind eye to the fact that it was mostly college-educated whites who voted for him and to the real reasons Trump was so appealing to at least 19% of the total American population during this election season. We cannot and must not dismiss Trump voters as if they are all uneducated and uninformed. We risk reinforcing classism as well as completely missing the complex set of forces that led to a Trump victory.[1]
  4. Outrage about recent acts of overt bigotry as if transgender, Muslim, brown and black people weren’t already under attack, without an accompanying commitment to understand, reveal, and uproot the systems that have kept these overtly hateful beliefs boiling under the surface of our society for decades, and have kept those more subconscious or unconscious beliefs informing our policies, institutions, and laws through veiled dog-whistle politics: structural racism[2] and white supremacy.[3]

I am witnessing the largest heart opening and thirst for information I have seen in my lifetime among white people to understand how we got to a place where someone like Donald Trump could be elected POTUS, to learn more about how racism and other forms of oppression are operating, and to take a stronger stand on the side of justice. This makes my heart sing. For example, I pulled together “Intro to Racism for White People—a List of Resources for White People” on November 11th that has since gone viral via Facebook. I pulled this together off the top of my head; these are resources I use all the time in my work. So I wonder: Why hadn’t I more widely shared these resources with people in my networks sooner?

There is so much work to do, and we must not shy away from it. This is the time to deepen our commitments to transformational change. We need to listen more deeply and ask questions with genuine curiosity if we are going to do the work that this time is calling for us to do. It will not be the same work we have been doing. Let us ask questions of ourselves including:

  • What was I not paying attention to before 11/9/2016 that I should have been?
  • Where have I been complacent where now I must be awake and proactive?
  • Who have I not been listening to? And why?
  • How has the legacy of slavery and structural racism harmed the psyche and humanity of White Americans?
  • How will White Americans also benefit if Black lives actually matter and policies, practices, and cultural values realign to support that reality?

“We are going to win. To know what truths we have to face, we have to look up. To know what we have to do differently, we have to look up.” – Rinku Sen, Facing Race Conference, 11/11/2016

“The question weighing on my mind, “Is America possible?” is one that Vincent Harding once asked. Harding was one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech writers. We live in this egalitarian nation where diversity is supposedly our strength, and where we believe in justice for all. Harding said yes America is possible, but the odds are against us. There is nothing about justice that is inevitable. The arc does not necessarily bend toward justice. It comes through the tireless efforts of us. What is necessary for us to beat the odds now?” –Michelle Alexander, Facing Race Conference, 11/11/2016

[1] See “The Rise of American Authoritarianism”

[2] Structural Racism is a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequality. It is racial bias among institutions and across society. It involves the cumulative and compounding effects of an array of societal factors including the history, culture, ideology and interactions of institutions and policies that systematically privilege white people and disadvantage people of color. (source: Race Forward)


[3] White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege. (Source: Challenging White Supremacy Workshop)

1 Comment

  • Miriam Messinger says:

    Thank you Jen for noting so beautifully many things I have seen in the world and with clients in the past few weeks. I look forward to sharing this. I am particularly interested in the conversation about being strongly based in our values of equity and racial justice in ways that can speak to (and push) all people–very political but not partisan.

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