In the days leading up to Trump’s inauguration, Fusion is highlighting some of the issues most important to our readers and what to do to prepare for the incoming administration, which looks pretty frightening to many. Today, we’re tackling racism.
What Trump has been up to:
First, it’s worth noting that the words “racist” and “racism” aren’t casual descriptors meant to end arguments and hurt feelings: They’re the result of systemic failings deeply entrenched in American life, from before the nation’s very founding. From the anti-miscegenation laws of the 1600s to the Three-Fifths compromise, race and politics have always intersected in the U.S.
Trump ran a campaign full of dog whistles and overtly racist behavior (like urging his voters to watch the polls in urban neighborhoods, insisting until late in the campaign that Barack Obama may not have been born in the U.S., identifying Mexican immigrants as criminals, or tapping a champion of white nationalism, Steve Bannon, as his chief advisor). Sure, Trump has disavowed those carrying out racially charged attacks in his name—but never voluntarily, and never at length. In fact, the president-elect has offered a stronger rebuke of civil rights icon John Lewis than the card-carrying racists (ahem, David Duke and Richard Spencer) who have supported him. It’s clear that Trump and a Republican-controlled congress could do some serious damage to voting rights, criminal justice reform, and efforts to combat police brutality—areas where our country’s racial inequities not only glare brightest, but carry lives in the balance.
Trump’s pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has come under fire recently for making racist statements in his past, including calling the work of the ACLU and the NAACP “un-American.” Sessions has denied that he said those things, or written them off as jokes. But many are still concerned about his record on voting rights, including Lewis and Senator Corey Booker, who testified against him at his confirmation hearing. Sessions’ continued support of the War on Drugs could also undo much of the progress done to lower incarceration rates, especially among the people of color whom those laws targeted.
The president-elect’s assertion that he would bring back Stop and Frisk is also deeply troubling, not the least of which because it has already been declared unconstitutional (precisely because it disproportionately targeted black and Latinx communities)—a fact Trump either didn’t know, ignored, or lied about. During the campaign, Trump also labeled Black Lives Matter as a “threat” and told Bill O’Reilly that he believes the group has helped instigate police killings—despite there being no evidence to support such a claim. Given that black and Native Americans are killed at the hands of police at rates that far exceed other groups, Trump’s tepid stance on addressing police brutality is a problem.
Who’s answering the call:
Fortunately, there is no shortage of people and organizations on the local, state, and national level fighting for racial justice and equality, many of whom have been doing this work for generations.
The NAACP has been at the forefront of calling Trump and his administration to task, as well as the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate groups and seeks justice for the country’s most vulnerable. From private citizens to activists, politicians and writers who have vowed to keep fighting for racial progress, you are in great company.
How you can help:
On a personal level, many people have stressed the importance of engaging with family members and friends who have racist attitudes and worldviews. But while the example of this blues musician is inspiring, it doesn’t replace enacting effective policy that addresses racism on a systemic level.
Beyond your friends and family, there are community organizations at all levels you can join—whether it be a student org, historically black and Latinx fraternities and sororities, or a local chapter of a national organization, like the NAACP or BLM. We have a healthy sampling of options below. Join their mailing lists, attend their meetings, show up for their protests and rallies, but see if you can get involved in other ways as well. And if you’re short on time, donate!
Finally, identify the politicians and activists that you most admire and support their work—this list of U.S. representatives boycotting Trump's inauguration may be a good place to start. If you have the time, consider getting more involved in your community as well, whether it be taking a role in student government (or encouraging your woke best friend to run) or running for an elected office. And keep a close eye on your elected officials—not just your congresspeople, but your sheriff, your district attorney, your mayor. Attend their forums and townhalls, and engage with them.
Reading list/resource links:
- What Donald Trump Doesn’t Know About Black People (The New York Times)
- John Roberts Gutted the Voting Rights Act. Jeff Sessions is Poised to Finish It Off. (Mother Jones)
- Donald Trump and Lester Holt clash over whether stop-and-frisk is constitutional in New York (PolitiFact)
- Sessions' Senate career shows mixed record on Voting Rights Act support (USA Today)
- Trump: Black Lives Matter has helped instigate police killings
- Donald Trump on Crime (On the Issues)
- Why Donald Trump’s election won’t doom the criminal justice reform movement (Fusion)
- Jeff Sessions’s ridiculous anti-drug crusade (Washington Post)
- Alliance for Justice
- American Association for Affirmative Action
- Anti-Defamation League
- Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
- Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights
- Leadership Conference on Civil Rights/Leadership Conference Education Fund
- NAACP Legal Defense Fund
- Asian American Justice Center
- National Council of La Raza
- National Urban League
- Native American Rights Fund
- Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
- Showing Up For Racial Justice
Up next on How to Survive Trump’s America: Come back tomorrow to find out how to protect our environment under Trump’s presidency.