I know everyone or least half of America is angry with Donald Trump becoming the next the president. The stunning election has resulted in protests throughout the country and social media meltdowns by a lot of people like myself. No, the election wasn’t rigged, and Jill Stein and Gary Johnson didn’t spoil the race. Hillary Clinton just wasn’t popular enough and ran a shady, misguided campaign. Even I have said here multiple times that I wasn’t a staunch Hillary supporter and that I was only voting for her because she is the lesser of two evils.
However, I do think this should also be a time to reflect on what happened and how to use our energies towards making America better again.
It is time to have some real talk. This might offend some people… but, whatever…
- Get informed: I have mentioned here time and again that there is a basic civics deficit among the American citizenry. We can’t be surprised an ill-informed man just became president when many of the people voting for (and against) him are just as uninformed. The quality of the candidates that run for office today generally reflects the electorate. It is seriously time for everyone to put down People magazine and turn off TMZ and start reading books, magazines, and newspapers that distribute real news and information. Only then can we make better, informed choices for the way our government is run.
- Stop sanitizing intolerance: A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the disgraceful effort by some people to try to sanitize slavery. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who think racism is over and we should either just stop talking about it or try to whitewash or sanitize this intolerant history, like calling slaves “migrant workers.” The problem with this is that when we don’t talk about and truly understand the past, history has a way of repeating itself. Trump was elected partially because a lot of people just assumed someone like him couldn’t get elected because everyone is so tolerant in 2016. But in reality, this denial actually shows how intolerance works today. We just went from the first black president to a president endorsed by the KKK.
- Call out intolerance: If you see intolerance happening, do something about it. Tell that person why their bigotry is wrong. Sitting on the sidelines being silent doesn’t help.
- Practice nonviolence: Protesting is great and it is our first amendment right, but don’t turn your anger into physical violence. It doesn’t help and it’s uncivilized in a democracy.
- Vote: Voting is the only way in our democracy things get done. When you don’t vote, you are a part of the problem. A lof of people didn’t vote this cycle, including blacks and millennials. It is always interesting that the people who complain the loudest about societal ills don’t vote, like Colin Kaepernick and a lot of the protesters. When you are not part of the solution, no one will take you seriously. Also, not voting is a slap in the face of so many who came before us who struggled so we can all have the right to vote.
- Engage in local politics: I know it is more interesting to follow national politics, but participating in local politics is just as, if not more, important as what is going on in Washington. It was great to see a high turnout at my local voting precinct last week for the presidential election, but just two months ago, there were barely any people in the same precinct for local elections. Your city councilor, state representative, alderman, the mayor and other local elected officials have a greater impact on your day-to-day life. For instance, if you are a person of color, you should definitely care about who your local district attorney is, as that person will be in charge of making major life and death decisions about you if you get in trouble with the law.
- Volunteer in your community: Doing volunteer work for a local nonprofit is a great way to give back to your community. It also gives you better insight into the many challenges facing your community and how to make things better for everyone. I volunteer my time at my local library, supporting literacy issues, as well as work for my local economic development committee and mentor at-risk young women. I also “think globally and act locally” by doing a lot of international pro bono work including organizing fundraisers for humanitarian concerns in developing countries and provide media development and technical support to international journalists.
- Organize in your community: If there is an issue you care about and there isn’t a group for it yet, why not organize your own group! It is very easy today to organize. A couple of years ago a neighbor started up a group to better address pedestrian and walkability concerns in the community. Today the group has regular meetings with local politicians and are really making an impact on community relations by improving sidewalks, road crossings, and bike paths.
- Support organizations that do good work: If you don’t have the time to volunteer, provide support to organizations doing good work in other ways with monetary or in-kind donations.
- Talk to someone who is different from you: Yes, everyone would benefit from widening their social network to include all types of diversity, including race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, religion, geographic location and even political persuasion. I had a good, long conversation on Saturday with a very good friend of mine who is a Christian, white guy from rural Michigan about why he and others in his community voted for Trump. Even though we respectfully disagreed on many issues, it was good to talk out our differences and understand where each of us is coming from.
- Actually talk to someone in person: Social media and all the accessible technology we have today are great, but sometimes things that are said on these networks can get lost in translation. Also, it is easier to say hurtful or untrue things about people online than to a person’s face. The internet has become a cesspool for cyberbullying and bigoted vitriol. Instead of getting on Facebook, pick up the phone or better yet talk to people in person.
- Stop the empty gestures: I just started seeing people the other day wearing these safety pins as a way of showing they are “safe and welcoming” to marginalized groups such as people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women and LGBT folks. But in reality, these are just empty gestures that don’t mean anything if you are not actually doing something to create a safe and welcoming space. For many people, the safety pins give temporary satisfaction and the false illusion that you are doing something by wearing it when you are really not doing anything. Instead of wearing safety pins, please do any of the above activities. Trust me, marginalized groups would prefer this.