Last week, we made a bigot president-elect of the United States. Some folks are feeling partisan disappointment at this. Many others are flush with primal fear, like realizing that you're trapped inside Jurassic Park just as the news that the raptors have escaped from their enclosure blares from a loudspeaker. But this is our reality, complete with roving bands of Trump supporters carving swastikas on any surface clean enough to bear the mark. If you're black like me, or brown or Muslim or queer or trans or poor — people living oppressed pre-Trump — you're probably figuring that this singular event marks the decline of America into the Hunger Games era.
For me, waking up to an impending Trumplandia was like taking a sledgehammer to the chest. I sank into an emotional swamp of depression, disgust, and fear for myself, my friends, and my family. Being the target of good old, homegrown American hatred is nothing new for a lot of us, but the reality of life as a target of soon-to-be President Trump's actual hatred and his forthcoming policies rooted in that hatred has the road ahead looking mighty decrepit.
Facing this reality, how should we prepare to move forward along this road in the direction of progress and justice? Well, I don't have all the answers, and I can't tell you how you should be feeling right now. But I can tell you that we have options. Our resilience and resistance is nothing new. Without us and our refusal to be denied our place in the American tapestry, this country would be a bland, music-less republic full of sadness and weird Jell-O casseroles.
Folks suffering from Trump-shock, take a moment to breathe. Or pray. Or cry. Or break some dishes, or swear your fealty to an ancient eldritch horror with tentacles for a head in exchange for the power to make humans spontaneously combust with a blink. Okay, maybe not the last one. But give yourself the time and space to react to this new, horrible reality. Forgive yourself for your fear, because that's a normal emotion to feel when you're facing down the hydra that is white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy — its singular goal is to disempower everyone who's not a cisgender, straight, white dude. Take the time to process and right yourself. You'll thank you for it.
Once you right yourself, check on your people. You're not alone in your grief and fear right now, and there are people in your networks who will need to lean on you. I wasn't joking about those roving bands of Trump thugs; they're real, they're indiscriminate, and they are drunk at the seeming justification for their hatred. Find your people and cover them. Feed them. Let them vent if they need to. Squad up and watch each other's backs. Come to their aid if you see them suffering from Trumpression. We're going to need each other if we're going to make it through this.
After taking care of yourself and finding your squad, start the work of living and resisting. Despite what some think, you don't have to accept the fact that a vulgar, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic bigot is our president. Especially when that president has made it very clear that he is going to work against everything that you stand for. Sure, he has a lot of power, but so does the Lich King — and he can be taken down in a 25-player raid.
Now is the time to strategize. Gather and hunker down. Determine which representatives are true to your community's interests and needs. Develop a long-term strategy for electing them to or placing them in key strategic positions. Understand that voting is not the penultimate resistance, but that equity and justice work also requires personal action — use your skills to support organizations and groups whose work aligns with your values. Read literature that broadens your worldview. Artists, create kickass art that challenges people. Community leaders, help those around you understand the gravity of our situation and listen to their ideas on progress. Galvanize yourself and others to work toward the common goal of equality and shared power. Begin to think and act strategically and intersectionally.
And remember, there's a difference between conversation and debate. Debate has a different aim than conversation; it is used to force people to concede a point, and ultimately silence them. Conversation is used to communicate, to share ideas and expand understanding. Conserve your energy, and work smart. Don't fall into the trap of debating individuals when you should be conversing with your squad and working to make our systems equitable. Don't jump too quickly to the blame game. Even though we know white people and their dedication to preserving systems that privilege them played a huge part in this mess (Trump won the white vote over Clinton in nearly every conceivable way, per exit polling data gathered by Edison Research for the National Election Pool. Feel free to debate your mother about that one), blaming them solves nothing. Hopefully, the ones among them who call themselves allies realize the work that they must do and are committed to doing it.
So, take the time to right yourself, then brush yourself off. We have work to do, and we're going to need all squads on deck. Ring the bells that can still ring.
Troy L. Wiggins is a Memphian and writer whose work has appeared in the Memphis Noir anthology, Make Memphis magazine and The Memphis Flyer.