It has been not yet a week since Donald Trump made the official transition from well-fed condo hustler to president-elect, and already it’s become impossible to keep up with the instances of hate spawned around the country as a result. Not long after Jezebel published this item on a Muslim schoolteacher receiving a threatening note from a student, our inbox swelled with tips of similar stories: The swastikas drawn on dorm room doors at the New School. The University of Michigan student who was told by a man that if she did not remove her hijab, she would be set on fire. The Southern Poverty Law Center has already identified more than 200 incidents of “election-related harassment and intimidation.” And that was just through Friday evening.
On Wednesday morning, I was walking down the street, an unusual cocktail of grief, rage, and misery coursing through my veins. I was trying to find somewhere with a TV in which I could watch Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, and as I was walking, hair in disarray from a sleepless night and cheeks stained with tears, a man stepped into my path and whistled at me.
In such circumstances I generally opt to respond with nastiness—a threatening glare or the unclever (but effective!) “fuck off.” On Wednesday, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I found myself cowed, putting my head down and shuffling on, just as I did before the day it dawned on me that I shouldn’t have to stand for that shit. I felt resigned to the realization that this was Trump’s America now, and the inconvenience of a cat call is nothing compared to the actual danger that many of us, whose lives Trump has decreed don’t matter, will now face.
Now, more than ever, we should not stand for that shit. This will inevitably mean different things for different people, depending on the level of danger they sense from the situation, and how much they’re willing to risk by fighting back. Small acts of defiance matter—I, for instance, have in the past tended to let men interrupt me when I’m talking, in an effort not to come off as bitchy. No more. If someone threatens you, call them out if you feel safe doing so, and if not, report them. Do not “let it go.” It will take time out of your day, you’ll be accused of rudeness, of shrillness, of “overreacting.” Too. Fucking. Bad.
These small acts of resistance will not be comfortable, especially at first. But it’s a new week, and the days for aimless grief must come to an end. Many of us want to help, but few of us have quite figured out how. And I don’t mean calling trolls out on social media—I mean in life. You’d be surprised how taken aback people are when you look them in the eye and tell them what they’re doing or saying is wrong. It will not be painless. It will be inconvenient and uncomfortable, and in some situations, scary. But the cost of turning a blind eye is simply too high—treating Trump’s racism and sexism as unfortunate byproducts of his personality, rather than the core of his existence, is precisely what landed us in this mess. If we don’t act, Trumpism will become normalized, even more than it already has.
In addition to standing your own ground, it is imperative to help others stand theirs, too. As Gothamist’s Jake Dobkin wrote, it is your obligation to intervene when you inevitably witness a racist, sexist or homophobic act:
“This does not mean you need to jump up and hurl yourself at the perpetrator—quite the contrary, as this will only escalate the conflict.
No, the trick is to use your street smarts and figure out what is the least aggressive, but most effective means of diffusing the conflict. If it’s just a name-calling idiot, moving between them and the victim is a good technique. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you can use your voice—a loud shout in your most New York accent of “Hey! Knock that off!” or “Stop it!” can help. If you’re too scared to speak, then you need find reinforcements: a fellow citizen, the police, etc.”
The chorus of “let’s give him a chance, maybe it will be okay!” has already begun in earnest, ignoring the newly emboldened bigots already clearing their throats all over the country. It will not just “be okay,” because it’s already not okay. Electing a monster to run the country gives the rest of the country’s monsters carte blanche to act on each racist, sexist, homophobic whim, finally unshackled from the restraints of “political correctness” and generally held propriety.
Trump will be president, and no amount of disbelief will turn back the dial on that fact. But we can still thwart him by battling everything that he stands for. Everyday resistance needn’t be huge or flashy, but you can fight back every time you step out of your house.