By Froswa’ Booker-Drew, PhD
I remember going to bed early on the night before the 2016 election. I knew the outcome in my head, and did not feel I needed to stay up to watch results. That morning, my 16-year-old daughter entered our bedroom crying hysterically. She was devastated and could not believe that the country that elected Barack Obama would elect Donald Trump. She was afraid and concerned for her future. She was afraid for her friends who are immigrants to this country. She was afraid for her friends who are part of the LBGTQ community. She was afraid for her own existence because of being a multiracial teen. My daughter was paralyzed because she did not know what the future would hold for her, for her family, for her friends, for her community. I could not express it, but my thoughts raced about what could happen. I reassured my baby that things would be fine and that despite the challenges that might arise, we are fighters. We don’t give up. Our heritage is proof of that. We must resist. Resistance is never futile.
This memory resurfaced during the first few days after the election. I realized that now more than ever, I had to teach my daughter and reaffirm in my mind that resistance was necessary. I’ve actually made the word resist my word of 2017: I will resist thinking, having conversations, and taking actions that harm me or others. I will resist people who perpetuate information that is not true and who create chaos and fear. As an educator and as a parent, this is essential for our health and our hope.
After the election, the stories of students being harassed on campuses across the US is concerning. Academia was once a place that encouraged diversity on a number of levels. Many believe this election has given a seat to hatred, discrimination, various phobias and “isms” on college campuses and in communities. The reality is that these feelings have been a part of the cultural fabric of the United States. As much as we’ve made progress, we have not dealt with the wounds of the past. We have not owned the atrocities committed against so many groups. Healing cannot begin until there is acknowledgement and ownership. One of my favorite quotes from Marcus Garvey is, “A People without a History is like a tree without roots.” Because we have not owned our collective histories, good and bad, we are not growing. Our roots are poisoned and if we are not careful, we will implode from the inside out. What we are witnessing is the toxicity of the perceived post-racial society.
Many of us turned our heads when issues did not impact us directly. We ignored the problems of police brutality because it did not affect our communities. We assumed that it was “those people” and if they had only done what they were supposed to do, things would be different. It is important to note that these problems are systemic and that the problems of others have a way of impacting all of us directly or indirectly. We often feel that it is always some other group that is responsible for our problems. We have never stopped blaming others. It is easier to do that than to recognize that our destinies are tied together; and if we are to be successful, we must work together.
I had colleagues who voted for Trump and I could not believe it. These were individuals who worked with those who are oppressed. They proclaimed they were Christians and people of faith; yet I could not reconcile how they were able to support ideas that contradicted their beliefs. There were family and friends that did not vote because they either did not like Hilary Clinton or their Afro-Centric ideas kept them from casting a vote because the system was not designed for Black people. I saw on my Facebook timeline low- to middle-income whites who did not realize that many of their fears were very similar to the fears of African Americans. At the core, we all are afraid of losing something. Our fears have made us believe that we are enemies, when the reality is that we are more powerful when we collaborate and partner.
It is important that we continue to share stories of resistance, hope, and community in the era of Trump. We must cross the lines of race, gender, ideology, class, religion, and sexual orientation to allow our stories to bring us together. In order to create the change we want to see, we cannot stop the telling of stories. We have to remember and share the stories of those who came before us—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I find myself sharing stories with young people, including my daughter, about my acts of resistance as a college student and in my adult life. I need her to understand not just the tragedy but the triumph. I need her to also understand that these are not fairytales—there isn’t always a happily ever after. Some stories do not end well. Some people do not have a voice and we cannot silence those who are marginalized. It is not our job to be their voice, but it is our job to stand with them and fight actively for their stories to be heard and recognized.
As a young woman growing up in Louisiana, I saw and lived stories of resistance. I saw men, women, and children, in different ways, stand up and resist. As a young woman at the University of Texas at Arlington, I fought to make sure that we had faculty of color and that the issues of students of color were heard and represented. My experiences have shaped me and contributed to who I am. These stories are more powerful during this season. Narrative can be a tool to help us move forward in the present. The narrative can remind us of our resilience and strength. The narrative can help us process our pain and help us as we create strategies for the future.
We have an important role to play in this confusing moment in time. We must share our stories. We must resist. We must build community. Most importantly, we must mentor young people as they find their voices. This is not a time for us to hide and wait for 2020. My daughter and others can benefit from our stories but they also need the space to be safe in their homes, on their campuses, and in their communities. We must be willing to work diligently to provide that for them, no matter what the cost. Resistance is not futile—it is necessary.
Froswa' Booker-Drew, PhD is a graduate of Antioch University, Oklahoma City University and the University of Texas at Arlington. She has been in nonprofit management for more than 20 years serving in a variety of leadership roles with local, national and international organizations. She is a consultant, trainer and adjunct professor. In addition, Froswa' is the author of two workbooks for women entitled, Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last and Ready for a Revolution: 30 Days to Jolt Your Life. She is currently a writer for several publications around the world. Visit www.froswasrules.com for more information. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org