Getting ready to board a plane to Washington to march with hundreds of thousands tomorrow, I am thinking of the election and the emotional arc since.
November 9 2016. Complete devastation. No sleep. Hot mess. Crying when I saw kids’ faces. So innocent and full of good and about to be led by such evil. Sobbing as high school students marched past me chanting “not my President.”
In the days after, waking up feeling good, only to have the reality that Trump would become President sink in a few moments later. Inconsolable misery and despondency.
Feeling like I was dumped by my boyfriend. Wallowing in ice cream and MSNBC.
Abolitionists suffered a devastating defeat in 1850 but bounced back through intense organizing.
A little over a decade later President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
“Resistance movements need the support of permanent infrastructure. And they must be willing to engage in the time-intensive and expensive organizing that actually changes minds and behavior.”
-Linda Hirshman, Washington Post, Nov. 18 2016
Inspired by the Abolitionists and my activist brothers and sisters, I stood back up.
I have been an activist all my life.
I got back to work changing minds and behaviors, teaching racial equity workshops and advocating for police accountability.
Every Friday I march with mothers and concerned citizens in front of SF District Attorney George Gascon’s office, demanding that he prosecute killer SFPD officers. The national #InjusticeBoycott is drawing attention to our cause. We’ll be out there today.
Folks at tech companies and libraries invited me to speak about preventing police brutality.
Our hard work is paying off. Activists in San Francisco achieved some major wins in December 2016 we had been working on since SFPD executed Mario Woods on December 2, 2015, including appointment of an external candidate for Chief and a new Use of Force policy requiring deescalation, both despite tremendous opposition from the Police Officers Association.
At the Oscar Grant Memorial Vigil on January 1, 2017, Oakland City Council President Lynette McElhaney Gibson evoked Ida B. Wells, and her relentless quest to ban lynching despite tremendous peril and opposition.
All has inspired my plan to resist the Trump administration:
- Work in sisterhood and solidarity with all resistors. Last week, I was notified that a panel I submitted shortly after the election for a conference largely attended by White cis professional women had been rejected:
“As the 2016 Presidential election result has made clear, there is a wide divide between White cis professional women and women of color and genderqueer people in America today among both Republicans and Democrats. The election of Donald Trump has unleashed a torrent of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia that will only be quelled by unity. Frank conversations are necessary to begin to heal this divide.
White cis professional women have a very important role to play in overcoming bias and dismantling the systemic barriers that impede women of color and genderqueer women. This panel will bring a variety of voices, Asian American, Black, Genderqueer, Latinx, Native American, and White together for an open conversation and strategy session about how to overcome bias, build trust, and strengthen our power together.”
I was sad but not surprised that White cis professional women planning the conference rejected the panel, since we all too often don’t value other voices.
White cis resistors: one of the greatest ways we can contribute to resistance is by listening to and following our brothers and sisters of color and genderqueer folks.
More often than not this means we play a servant role in the movement, not setting strategy or being out in front.Our work is on ourselves and in White spaces educating our peers.
NEWS FLASH: the Resistance will not win by replicating White Supremacy. White Supremacy on the Left is a major factor in why we have a President who is a White Supremacist on the Right.
Equally frustrating are activists who have a hard time working together and trusting each other although we share the same agenda. The time for us to quibble with each other is over. Now is the time for love, humility, and unity. We have too much to fight against now to be at war with one another.
2. Allocate 0 mindspace to Trump. Don’t watch him on TV or read his tweets. Learn about what he is up to from Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Maxine Waters, Rep. John Lewis, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, and Alec Baldwin.
What he most wants is our attention.
Refuse to give it to him.
3. Laser focus energy where we are most effective: in our communities. I was thrilled when I read protestors got the Buffalo School Board to demand Carl Paladino’s resignation for his racist remarks. When I saw gay activists hold a fabulous dance party on Mike Pence’s front yard.
Let’s make all these fools reap what they sow in their own backyard.
4. Serve on every local governing body. We need resistors not only as activists, but as decisionmakers. I myself am seeking a seat on the SF Police Commission. Please contact Mayor Ed Lee and tell him to appoint me. And please seek appointment or run for office yourself.
The time for outsourcing decisions is over. The time to build a bench is now.
5. Practice intense self care. Do less. Just be. Spend time with people you love. Spend time in nature, and in community. Laugh. Meditate. Listen to music and look at art. Walk. Hike. Keep our homes completely clutter free and restorative. Exercise every day, eat well, sleep 8 hours. Read. Drink an occasional glass of wine.
But resist with all our hearts the desire to retreat into the comfort of our homes. We need to be in the streets.
6. Study how others organized effectively and adopt their strategies. I took a class in Kingian Nonviolence that enhanced my vision tremendously. As an activist I think sometimes we are too quick to plan actions without fully strategizing. We can learn a lot by studying other resistance movements. Gandhi studied and strategized extensively before planning the Salt March, and that is why it was so powerful and effective.
7. Believe profoundly in the righteousness of our cause and that we will win.
The key to effective resistance is persistence.
We are not snowflakes. We are glaciers: slow-moving, calm, relentless, determined, powerfully carving a path through cold stone.
Nothing can stop us.
Karen Fleshman is a Racial Equity Trainer and Government Accountability Advocate. Her mission is to build and support a community of people committed to love, learning, accountability, and action on race in America. She offers talks and workshops at companies, universities, nonprofits, and government agencies and blogs on Huffington Post and Medium. She is a member of the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition, a co-founder of San Franciscans for Police Accountability and often testifies to the San Francisco Police Commission and Board of Supervisors. www.karenfleshman.com @fleshmankaren