8 Steps Marginalized Citizens Can Take to Defend Themselves in the Trump Era
8 practical steps that marginalized people can take to to survive in Trump's America.
Step 1: Understand that you are a target
Individually, and most practically, you must first understand and accept that you are a target for hatred and violence. This can be a difficult leap to take for those who have invested a great deal of psychological space into the American dream.
Step 2: Protect yourself from psychological harm
As a target, you must find a way to defend yourself both individually and collectively. If these feelings of anger and vulnerability are new to you, know that you can find comfort in places of togetherness. Go with friends and visit mosques and community centers, particularly if you are from a vulnerable group.
While it’s important for one’s self preservation to embrace self-defense, this realization also can negatively impact mental and physical health.
There are many great sources of empowerment. Authors such as Audre Lorde, Isabel Allende, Leslie Marmon Silko, and James Baldwin provide much thought and inspiration for marginalized people living through difficult times. My personal favorite is the Autobiography of Malcolm X because it posits a defensive globally conscious mind-state that is sensitive to the injustices of all people while being harshly critical of white supremacy.
Many of the social movements in America relied on religion for fuel in the face of deeply egoistic antagonisms. While spiritual force can be individual, its power can be used collectively to reinforce or challenge predominant narratives in society. Meditation is also a very powerful tool for self-preservation and community building.
Step 3: Defend your body from physical harm
Taking self-defense classes and lifting weights are ways to learn practical techniques for opposing physical violence, but also empowering oneself in the face of aggression. Carrying pepper spray and mace, depending on the jurisdiction, is also recommended.
All marginalized people should exercise their Second Amendment right, openly, proudly, and without fear. This includes learning how to use a weapon at a firing range, taking a course on gun safety, and possibly forming rifle clubs in your local communities.
If you are worried about potential backlash from asserting the right to bear arms, then you have not accepted the reality that many in America already view your existential presence as a threat. It is not necessary to publicly show gun-ownership, but it is necessary to at least psychologically accept this right and assert it when you feel comfortable doing so.
Step 4: Be vigilant
More than anything we must develop a proactive, vigilant and assertive mentality. Tools for defense are useless unless we are ready to competently employ them.
Step 5: Stand in solidarity with others
On a communal level all marginalized people should express solidarity with each other in the face of basic human rights abuses. As a Muslim, I hold beliefs that I believe prevent me from endorsing certain positions. I can and I will, however, endorse anyone fighting for their right to exist as full human beings/members of society. I will work with anyone looking to create a fair and just society.
Step 6: Organize
On an organizational level we should prepare for a massive legal and public relations battle aimed at plugging up many of the proposals that will come forth under a Trump presidency. The proposed hijab-ban in Georgia was defeated before it even hit paper because of sustained and organized public outrage.
We each should get to know someone who is undocumented. Listen to their stories and provide emotional support. There will be legal battles over DACA and other such executive action that may be overturned by the Trump administration.
Reach out to your local ACLU and pro bono legal services provider for “know your rights” information.
A nationwide directory of legal aid services is available here.
University groups and working professionals can conduct “know your rights” sessions in vulnerable communities using this information with the assistance of legal aid providers and community organizations.
We must reject all American exceptionalism. We must build coalitions with other marginalized groups around the world, both to show that Americans do not endorse this government, and for psychological comfort in the face of aggression. There is a great deal of room for solidarity and collaboration with populations facing right-wing backlash in Europe. We must reflect critically on the ways acting in self-interest has harmed others, particularly in the global south. We must envision ourselves as belonging to a global community.
Different communities that will be harmed by this administration must get to know each other and build strategic bridges based on community organizations and personal relationships. How this looks will be different in different places.
Step 7: Reach across the aisle
When we feel comfortable, we should begin a campaign to reach out to some Trump supporters–particularly those who are working class. This should be a part of a mass grassroots campaign.
A genuine movement aimed at countering rightwing extremism cannot be based on crushing the voices of white working class people in response to their injurious support for Trump.
All the socially induced hatreds of white supremacy must be confronted, even and especially at the risk of violent backlash. However, we must remember that ideas can only be overcome by ideas.
Visioning a public good, where we, people ostensibly interested in making change, abandon toxic self-interest in no way means accepting our own oppression or the oppression of those who are casualties of our lifestyle and consumption habits. Changing our own personal narratives about our role in American society does not equate to abandoning aggressive confrontation of injustice in all its forms.
Step 8: Create a new society based on fulfilling mutual needs
Organizing and envisioning a different society not based on exploitation will require people to embrace a deeply anti-establishment, anti-capitalist, pro-community, anti-individualism, almost religious ethos that transcends our lives at every level.
We must face the possibility that there will be tremendous pain and sadness because of the damage that will be done. Our work may be co-opted by the forces of consumerism and empire. We must hold strong together to resist these forces and build even more authentic bonds in the face of increasing hostility.
Let this moment be one of critical self-reflection and community building. The enemy is the same disease that all of us struggle with, unrestrained self-interest. Now we have a dire reason to struggle against it within ourselves and in our world.
Ismaail Qaiyim is a freelance writer with an interest in politics, global affairs, religion, philosophy, and genuine critical engagement. He currently attends law school in New York. Follow him on Twitter @ismaailqaiyim.