Donald Trump has released his plans for his first 100 days of presidency and they’re terrifying. Soon the attack on refugees, undocumented people, the environment, women and more will reach new heights.
Those of us with the privilege to do so must get organized to act locally and quickly. But let’s not forget; we are very late. People have suffered for years due to our ignorance of the struggles under our noses. But there’s not much time for self-flagellation. Let this election shock us into action.
We face two big challenges as Trump’s attacks loom: 1) our privilege insulates many of us from knowing what is happening in our communities, and 2) our obsession with top ballot politics has created little in the way of grassroots organization.
As we begin to organize, our first goal must be to puncture the privileged bubble that made us so sure Trump wouldn’t win. Then we must build the capacity to act quickly, locally and powerfully.
It’s difficult to know exactly what the effects of Trump’s attacks will look like and thus difficult to prepare for them. His pledge to remove undocumented people could mean a surge of ICE detainments or new tactics. His threats to the environment could mean that new extraction sites and pipeline routes will be explored near your home. And removing federal funding from Sanctuary Cities could mean pressure on local institutions like homeless shelters and more. And beyond the policy, will we see an uptick in racial violence by individuals and police?
Now an awkward question: If any of this started tomorrow, are you sure you would even notice? The same white and class privilege that exempts many of us from things like stop-and-frisk searches also keeps us in the dark about what our community members are enduring. To counter this, we must actively seek out and build relationships outside of our bubble.
But we aren’t just ignorant, we’re also disorganized. Let’s say that you learn that a local father has been detained by ICE and is scheduled to be deported. Their family is asking for calls to the ICE office to stay the deportation, for instance. How many calls could you organize friends and family to make? If they announced a protest, how many people could you bring? As I count, my own numbers are far below where they need to be.
If we really want to do something about Trump, we can’t let ourselves remain disconnected and disorganized a single day longer.
Let’s start. I propose that you assemble a small organization and plan to meet and take action together every Sunday. In this way you will begin to build power, and by taking action together you will solidify your group, build new relationships and develop trust in the communities you want to help.
Here are some steps that might send you on your way.
1. Think of 10 friends that might be eager to take action but unsure of what to do. Text them right now and invite them to sit down on Sunday (or other suitable day) to make a plan together.
2. Do some Googling. Who’s doing work in your community? Make calls to organizations and ask if they are in need of volunteers. Don’t assume, and don’t make commitments you aren’t ready to follow through.
3. On Sunday, spend the first 30 minutes just talking about what’s happened. The shock and anger are real. Talk about it.
4. Present some options for action, discuss and vote. Do you want to volunteer at a homeless shelter together? Attend the meetings of a local immigration solidarity group? Escort women safely into and out of abortion clinics? Attend community council meetings? vote on which option your group wants to pursue, and commit to being there and meeting for 30 minutes after for a debrief.
5. Finally, name your group together. Make it serious, or funny, or whatever. Just make it yours. And then create a text/whatsapp/groupme and a facebook group to keep in contact.
6. On the next Sunday, show up, do good work, meet other volunteers, listen, discuss and make the existence of your organization known. Develop a good reputation. Never neglect the debrief; talk about your experiences and discuss new opportunities. And if you’re white (and especially male), try a lot more listening than talking.
7. As you show up week after week, recruit new folks and develop a reputation of bringing people out. Other organizers will take notice. You might be asked to marches, told to make calls, asked to donate money, and more. And if you see an opportunity, call up your gang! And watch your people show out when it matters.
And lastly but maybe most importantly:
8. Get out into your privileged communities and start telling stories about what you’re experiencing ― especially to people who disagree. Have dinner with refugees. Work alongside undocumented people. These experiences will change you, and a good retelling of those experiences can change others too ― even a bigoted uncle or friend might be forced to think twice. And hey while we’re on the topic, what’re they doing next Sunday…?
This isn’t anything revolutionary. Finding people, building an organizational identity and taking action together are the bedrocks of community organizing. And there’s lots more to read if this sounds fun.
So let’s get started. And by the time Trump takes office, we’ll already be fighting back.