One of my immediate reactions to Trump’s election was to think about acts of resistance and what they will look like. We can count on the media to make everything look as divisive, nasty, and disorganized as possible, because “if it bleeds, it leads.” We have probably literally millions of people who are new to political engagement, new to activism, new to protest. We certainly have millions of people who feel frozen and don’t know what to do.
Because we are not born knowing anything, there’s no shame in not knowing what resistance looks like. But we tend to feel shame when we are frozen, feel that we are somehow supposed to know (just like we’re supposed to know how to behave in sexual situations, how to parent, how to manage a bank account, how to cook, even if no one has ever taught us).
So, looking at what people have actually done is incredibly helpful. Gregory Locke found himself on a New York City subway train where all of the maps and advertisements had been covered in hateful anti-Semitic graffiti.
One guy got up and said, “Hand sanitizer gets rid of Sharpie. We need alcohol.” He found some tissues and got to work.
I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously reach into their bags and pockets looking for tissues and Purel. Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone.
For me this story has three messages. First, the haters are out there, and they have no shame about spreading their message, usually anonymously, usually in some situation where they can’t face repercussions.
Second, our numbers are much larger than theirs. If we know what to do as a community, we will largely do it.
Third, nothing happens until someone unfreezes, makes a suggestion, takes an action. That whole car could have been frozen and the graffiti could still be there.
Practice makes perfect. If you have the opportunity, take a stab at being that person. One group that will help you learn how is Hollaback! and there are many others.
If you hear about acts of resistance like this one, or bigger, or smaller, share them.
Thanks to danceswchopstck for the pointer.