How to be a better, more active citizen in the Trump era

citizenFor me, 2017 has been marred with the knowledge that  it ushers in the era of Trump. The incoming administration has promised to push policies that slash rights for many already marginalized communities, ranging from the poor to women, to religious minorities, to the LGBTQ+ community, to people with disabilities, to immigrants, among others.

With inauguration day rapidly approaching, people are, legitimately and justifiably, terrified. As a Muslim American woman from a family of immigrants, I count myself among those battling to keep panic at bay as I contemplate the Trump administration. And on behalf of my closest friends and larger community, who are vulnerable as members of other marginalized groups, I am doubly scared.

So for me, 2017 means that now, more than ever, we all have the duty to be better citizens. We each have a duty to engage with our communities and get involved to every extent possible, if we want to roll back policies that will hurt us and those we care about. I don’t have any New Year’s Resolutions, but I do have these very pointed intentions to do whatever I can in the year ahead to make sure that my community does not suffer from a Trump presidency.

Hold politicians accountable

 Elected officials’ job is to represent us. Admittedly, the system doesn’t always work that way, and we often feel like our will is not being represented within our government. But it is our responsibility to persist. If we refuse to even try to hold our elected officials accountable at every level of government— local, state, and national— what’s to change the system? It is our responsibility to call our legislators, email them, show up at their offices and demand accountability. When a critical bill needs to pass (or get shut down), if we’re not out there demanding someone listen, then we can’t be the ones complaining later that it didn’t work out how we wanted. We are all responsible for holding our government accountable, and you can bet that I am going to do better keeping in contact with my elected officials and making my voice heard.

Allies, live your beliefs

Politicians aren’t the only ones who need to be held accountable. The past several months have seen a massive upsurge in legitimized hatred and bigotry, and we have to hold ourselves and each other accountable for fighting it. That means that right now, allies need to step up their game. All of us have some privilege, which means we all have the potential to be allies to a community that needs our support. Privilege is a responsibility to change the system. Privilege is a responsibility to call out our coworkers, friends, and family when their behavior is anywhere on the continuum from micro-aggressive to flat-out bigoted. Privilege is a responsibility to do better ourselves and to ensure we’re not reifying prejudiced systems. Privilege is a responsibility to shut shit down. And I’m going to take it very seriously.

Humanize the “other”

There are people different from us within American society: Learn about them. When we start to see people who are different from us as people rather than just as different, our world view shifts. Try checking out these books on the lives of people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, immigrants, women, and people in poverty. It’s really easy to think we understand the struggles of another community, claim credentials about having a diverse friend, or just assume we already know enough, but there’s always more to learn. I’m going to try even harder to branch out this year and consume information from a wider array of sources, read more books from more authors, and connect with as many people from as many backgrounds as I can.

We are responsible for knowing the truth

Nothing will change if we aren’t informed about what’s happening around us. Fake news is abundant, and Facebook is really not how we should be learning about the world. We can’t blame anything but our own laziness for misinformation. There are abundant resources out there. I intend to ensure that I am constantly cross-checking my facts, finding reliable sources, and spreading the truth.

America is not the center of the universe

We live in an increasingly interconnected world, and if we only know what’s happening in the US, we’re missing out on a vast wealth of information. What happens halfway across the world most definitely affects us in the middle of the country, so I’m going to make sure I don’t skimp on the world news. (P.S. It’s also helpful to get information from sources based outside of the US because more perspectives are always critical to a better understanding of an issue. BBC and Al Jazeera are often favorites.)

Get involved

Yes, issues of inequality exist at the institutional level, but they impact people at the personal level, and there are abundant opportunities to do something. Protesting isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there are plenty of other ways to make a difference. I’m going to make more time to volunteer within my community to make people’s lives better (and hopefully still attend rallies and marches, too). These are a small selection of St. Louis organizations you might consider helping:

This is only a brief introduction to efforts we all need to collectively undertake to protect ourselves and our communities. A lot of us were left wondering after the election how this possibly came to be, and if we want to stop this from happening again then we have to make a change.

Let’s get to work.