The question seems particularly vexing for white progressives like myself. Grasping for answers amid the electoral whiplash, some of us donned safety pins to indicate support for those in Trump’s crosshairs – a gesture of limited utility. Others of us have held candlelit vigils and talked to racist uncles over Thanksgiving stuffing – reactions that indeed have merit.
But none of this makes anyone safer as backers of white nationalism prepare to take the White House. And that, it seems, should be our top priority.
To partner with people of color in shielding at-risk communities, white progressives need to go beyond symbolic protest. It’s time to support efforts, led by those most at risk, to actually obstruct Trump’s hate-fueled plans. Our job now is to get in the way.
What exactly does this mean? With local resistance efforts afoot across the country, there are many ways to plug in.
For example, you can throw a wrench into Trump’s mass-deportation plans by making your town a “sanctuary” city that refuses to cooperate with federal immigration officials. At least 18 U.S. cities already have done so – you can get your city to join the cause, or to more faithfully honor its “sanctuary” title, by offering time and money to local immigrant-led efforts.
While “sanctuary” cities pour sand in the gears of the deportation machine, they do not prevent immigration officials from entering town and detaining people. To create places of more literal sanctuary, 300 congregations and dozens of campuses across the country have signed up as safe spaces for people at risk of deportation – toolkits are available to get your church or school involved.
We also have an urgent opportunity to stymie a Trump team proposal to force Muslim immigrants to register with the government. President Obama, as one of his outgoing acts, could make it much more difficult for Trump to restart a Bush-era program that registered, tracked, and deported immigrants from 24 Muslim-majority countries. You can ask your representative, organization, and friends to join the more than 50 members of Congress, 200 civil rights groups, and 100,000 individuals that have urged Obama to definitively end the long-comatose program.
If Obama does not act, Trump could reactivate the program of formalized Islamophobia on his first day in office. If this happens, groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Civil Liberties Union could use your financial support to fight the program in courts, while your bodily support may be needed to help protest it in the streets.
The Movement for Black Lives may need similar support. While Trump stocks his Cabinet picks with vociferous haters of Black Lives Matter, the movement plans to multiply in size and fight harder for local policy changes that would reduce police killings of black people. For example, your community probably does not yet have the power to discipline or fire cops who shoot unarmed civilians.
You can help change that and grow the movement by supporting local campaigns of the Movement for Black Lives and joining your local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), which organizes white people to partner with people of color in combating racism. If you don’t have a local SURJ chapter, you can create one.
The reality is that more of us white folks should have been taking such action to counter xenophobia and racism before November 8th. The Obama administration deported over 2.5 million immigrants with only subdued protest from most white progressives, the Bush administration established a Muslim registry with little outcry from non-Muslims, and anti-black racism was more widespread than some of us wanted to admit before Trump turned a dog whistle into a fog horn.
But guilt gets us nowhere. If we’ve pushed snooze for past alarms of broad-based bigotry, let’s treat Trump’s election as the blaring wake-up call that it is. With January 20th around the corner, how will you get in Trump’s way?
Ben Beachy is a member of Sanctuary DMV and Showing Up for Racial Justice in Washington, D.C., and a senior policy advisor with the Sierra Club. Reach him on Twitter at @Ben_Beachy