Supporting Each Other in the Trump Era

With the rise in acts of hate, we have to turn to each other. In that spirit, we are literally asking friends how can we help each other feel supported in potentially harmful situations. Rich Gutierrez has started us off with an anonymous collection of responses. This will be a continuing series.

A week ago a friend was taunted on the street by a white man screaming, “Trump!”

Sometimes it’s hard to discern between drunk antics, scare tactics or real aggressions. Often I’ve said this is the folly of some arguments from white people because for myself as a mixed brown man I often need to assess every situation with what the level of violence or harm I'm at risk of. This was just one of many situations I’ve heard about in circles not so distant from my own.

When these situations take a turn for the worse and a person or people are in your face how do you respond? How do you lend a hand to others?

In order for de escalation to manifest in a way that leads to understanding, the object of oppression first needs to be humanized to the oppressor. As someone who has access to violence I know that it is easy to bury my worries into someone’s face, but in another's shoes I’d like to know how best to support them in a moment of hysterity.

The Trump effect’s greatest tool is the use of dehumanization tactics that take complex individuals and creates palpable propaganda, much like stereotypes, but magnified. It empowers with disinformation and gives strength to people's dark fantasy. These recent series of violent acts have happened before, but since Trump's election we are seeing it more often and less veiled because as a threatening letter sent to a San Jose Islamic center stated ‘there is a new sheriff in town.’

Trump's election turned a ripple into a wave of violence. Every street in every town has become home to longer and darker shadows. There is a looming fear of trigger happy, short tempered Trump fanatics and supporters in our communities some of which are quite possibly your teachers, friends’ parents, coworkers even. It’s a safe bet to say that their vote, their help in collectively tossing that rock in the lake blinds them in a way that they indirectly regard your family or friends safety as inevitable damage. It’s hard to know where to look for support at the moment when out and about. I want to know how I can show my support in solidarity, in liberation from these assumed future trespasses when they occur in front of me.

There are a lot of dynamics at play and I thought some examples might help people, because responding in physical violence isn’t what all people want, even though this would be my go to. I polled a few friends anonymously about how they would like to be supported in a harmful situation or threat of violence. These are some responses:
 

How do you identify?
A gender-neutral hafekasi; half-Tongan, half-Irish/Italian. They/them pronouns. A child of immigration, assimilation and cultural diaspora.

How would you like to be supported in a harmful situation or threat of violence?
Support in a harmful or even potentially harmful situation means taking the fears and worries of at-risk folks seriously. Listening is imperative. Asking questions, understanding and trust are imperative. Checking-in with or showing up for people in appropriate ways and identifying yourself as someone who is in full support for their safety is important. Acting because of your compassion and not your ego.

Indigenousaction.org published "Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex" in May 2014, where they illustrate and present a new definition of allyship. With the threat of violence comes the potentials to create or initiate our own violence in order to protect ourselves and, I believe, allies must be accomplices in those actions of defiance and resistance.


How do you identify?
A Chicano/Mexican-American. Male.

How would you like to be supported in a harmful situation or threat of violence?
I would feel more supported if I knew my white friends and allies would be more vocal and willing to take the lead in situations where I may be targeted. There have been too many times where I have been singled out because of my racial background and those who I trust are silent. In these instances it feels like it's my fight and mine alone.
 

How do you identify?
A Middle Eastern woman.

How would you like to be supported in a harmful situation or threat of violence?
If someone was threatening me or if I felt like I was in a dangerous situation I'd want someone to ask if everything was ok. Or maybe to sit next to me and talk to me, but it probably depends on the situation. For example if it was a person saying racist shit I'd want someone to back me up in calling them out, or say something for me if I felt threatened. If a person that was creeping on me, I'd want another woman to sit next to me. Most of the time I don't want to throw blows, just avoid awkwardness and get out of the situation. I mostly just want to feel heard and justified in my actions and supported in doing what makes me feel better.
 

How do you identify?  
A Black mixed race male. I understand that I’m of mixed race (African American and Greek) but to the world I’m viewed as a Black male or a man of color since I’m racially ambiguous

How would you like to be supported in a harmful situation or threat of violence?
To be honest, just step up when you know something is wrong. Support me and have my back if any violence is coming my way. We as people need to stop the people that are doing wrong and set an example. Support me by comforting me and being able to hold a conversation that holds compassion.
 

How do you identify?
A Brown queer/recovering punk

How would you like to be supported in a harmful situation or threat of violence?
I would like folks not to stand by and just watch if someone is verbally or physically attacking me in public, it's not enough to ignore it. Interfere. Make me feel like I'm not on public display for your entertainment. Did you pull them off me? Did you tell them to go away and shut up? Did you throw something at them from across the room? Just don't stay silent and watch. Have my back.

Once at a punk show, I saw this guy yelling at his girlfriend, semi pushing her against the wall. I interrupted and asked if she needed a ride home. I didn't know her but she said yes. That stayed with me because as soon as we got in the car she said, “thanks, what makes me feel more uncomfortable is that people are ok with watching, you stepped in.”
 

How do you identify?
A first gen Mexican womyn, xicanx femme, artist weirdo

How would you like to be supported in a harmful situation or threat of violence?
Lately I have been thinking a lot about my own agency in dealing with situations of conflict/tension. Physically, I am small, female, and in the past it has been assumed by others around me that I can't hold my own. In a harmful situation or threat of violence, I would like for my loved ones to not ignore my own agency and strength, and to allow for me to assess my own situations. However, I also know that situations can escalate quickly, if it is obvious that I am struggling or that I need help I would want my friends and family to intervene whether it be physically or with language. I wouldn't want to be left alone. Even in the case that I would deal with it ‘by myself’ knowing that people who are important to me are by my side and have my back makes me feel safe in confronting potentially threatening situations. Personally, I think that in the current climate it is extremely important for me to feel like I can be at the forefront of confrontation if it came to me. It is a sort of catalyst for relieving tension, and is affirming of individual power in the face of those who want to erase our humanity.
 

How do you identify?
A Black, Nigerian American, cis woman

How would you like to be supported in a harmful situation or threat of violence?
I often think about this because I go to lots of places alone and am walking by myself. What feels supportive especially from strangers is an acknowledgement that if shit’s about to go down, I'm not going to ignore that you might be under attack. That can look like someone placing their body between you an aggressor, telling an aggressor to fu** off, or even whispering to you one on one that if someone is about to get buck they got your back. The scariest part of being under attack is not getting hurt or that someone will say something crazy, but is that you'll be in a room full of folks and feel like an aggressor's attack is warranted by their silence. That fu*** with you mentally.
 

How do you identify?
A first generation guanaca/flor de izote ~ mujer ~

How would you like to be supported in a harmful situation or threat of violence?
In a harmful situation or threat of violence, I want to know that there's a way for me to be safe and that there are people who will help me get there. If something is going down, verbal, situational, structural, physical harm – I want to know that there will be more people by my side to support my words and actions – that I'm not alone. Marching by my side, strategizing ways to feel safe without involving police, cooking with me, playing me a song - all big and small, as support and care. Whatever people are able to do, whether that be listen, amplify my voice, organize with me, or just offer a hug. One of my favorite quotes is “Do what you can with what you've got where you are.” It is everyone's duty to work at bringing safety to all marginalized people in our large society, especially with fascism showing its face.

It also helps to first ask people what they want. And who they want help from. You can be the liaison instead of the provider of care, it depends on the person.

I feel good when I know that people have my back, whatever I decide on. Just having people around who are not afraid to speak up and intervene in difficult moments, to not leave me out alone doing hard work, trying to survive.
 

How do you identify?
A woman (cisgender, she/her) Latina (Cuban, first-generation American) queer (distracted lesbian? who knows lol)

How would you like to be supported in a harmful situation or threat of violence?
I guess this is contextual (like all things), but if I was the target of violence or harassment, I would hope that a bystander would intervene in some way. Sometimes that just means creating a safe space around the target, for example: if a dude is saying gross shit to me on the subway, come up and sit next to me and start a conversation. Talk about literally anything, just maintain eye contact and help me ignore the harasser. Usually they will walk away once they realize their target isn’t reacting, or has some kind of support. That’s a relatively safe/easy way to help in a potentially scary situation. In more extreme scenarios, where I was maybe threatened by physical violence? I hope someone would help me defend myself. I guess that’s a lot to ask in an increasingly dangerous country, but there are probably some basic de escalation tactics that all folks should know – especially white/cishet folks who are hoping to ally themselves with marginalized peoples. I think most people don’t want to help in a hands-on way like that though; that’s why they just call the cops. I’m privileged enough (because I am an American citizen, and fairly light-skinned) that I can usually deal with police without issues, but that’s not the case for most people who are going to be targets. It’s important to remember that calling the cops isn’t always safe for people who aren’t white or straight-presenting.
 

How do you identify?
A white, cis woman, queer.

How would you like to be supported in a harmful situation or threat of violence?
Generally when I am verbally threatened, I do not want physical support in the form of folks stepping in, as I have found that sometimes that escalates things. But generally if other people perk up, shake their heads in admonishment, it seems to at least feel a little more visible and less scary. I definitely don't like when people say they will call the cops, etc. as it feels like a weird escalation. In instance of physical violence, I am all for assistance physically if another person will step in, block more contact, remove a person from a room, etc.

In both instances someone offering to remain with you so you aren't alone in a space post violence can be super important.  

A recurring response was: I hope this is a right response. Which was interesting to me because I think it shows that there's no one way to respond so it's good to have a resource of different responses to be better equipped. Maybe you could take this as a cue to ask your friends/family/loved ones now or today the same question so you know when you are out. It's good to be proactive in your response to hate. I've said it before that often marginalized folks are forced to live with the effects of the past and the inconstancy of the future it’s frustrating to do, but we must and we do.

This is a first in a series for the 100 days - a collective proactive response from San Jose and the South Bay to the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency in order to demonstrate unity against his hateful agenda.

 

Related Media:
The Crushing Sense of Nobodiness

No Need for Permission – Finding Liberation In Spaces We Create

Bringing Community Together to Fight Cat Calling and Sexual Harrassment

This article is part of the categories: Community  / Gender and Sexuality  / Immigration  / Law & Justice  / Politics 
This article is part of the tags: Bigotry  / Community Support  / Donald Trump  / Hate  / Violence 

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