On January 21, 2017, I joined an estimated five million people across the globe to raise my voice in solidarity against the dangerous racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist and classist rhetoric and behavior of President Donald Trump. For me, there was no question about whether or not I would show up or if I should bring my seven-year old twins with me to the Women’s March. It seemed urgent and an imperative for us to be there—to be a part of the groundswell of resistance.
I was also heartened to see that after many decades of struggle within the women’s movement to honor the leadership and work of women of color organizers and leaders, the march was organized and led by three women of color: Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez. The dais was also overflowing with trans women, queer women and many of us who live at the intersections of many of these identities. They led the charge, and we answered.
Since the march, there has been significant conversation about the potential long-term impact of the gathering on the current administration and what concrete steps people should take to continue to stay engaged. I have also heard conversations and read articles that have been critical of the march or expressed cynicism about the people who did or reportedly did not turn out. For the record, women of color, trans women, gender non-conforming people, the differently-abled, the elderly and the poor were there too—sometimes in one body.
Nevertheless, these are all good observations and conversations to have as we think about what an inclusive and just society can and should look like moving forward. In other words, I’m here for all of it, with a few caveats:
Rule #1: You don’t get to talk sh*t if you didn’t show up.
The beginning of any meaningful or sustained movement for social change is showing up. We need all people—not just the “woke” ones who believe they have “done the work”—to check their racist, classist, transphophic, xenophobic, classist, ableist and ethnocentric attitudes at the door. Frankly, these “woke” ones are often the most dangerous to coalition and bridge-building because they serve as gatekeepers to the movement and make it harder for those who want to be engaged or do better to show up. Stop that. You’re slowing us down with your self-righteous, woker-than-thou behavior. We need everyone on deck—no matter when and how they show up and how much they need to learn.
Rule #2: The more tactics and strategies, the better.
If you want to march, march. If you want to start a petition, start a petition. If you want to run for office, run for office. In this political climate, we need people contributing their skills and abilities to the activities and actions they feel good about or can do within the constraints of their daily lives.
Too often, we opt out of opportunities for action because we disagree with the strategies or tactics, or because we feel slight discomfort with the message, or because we believe something is wrong with the platform. For the most part, we can turn away, disengage or let others fight the battles for us.
Don’t leave—stay. We need your voice, constructive criticism and ideas on how to strengthen and amplify existing efforts. There is a certain kind of luxury inherent in being able to choose when you will or will not engage—and it is one that we cannot afford in this particular moment.
Rule #3: Let’s do a better job at showing up for one another.
The same tools that maintain racism, homophobia, and xenophobia in our society are the same ones that maintain sexism, ableism, and patriarchy. As such, if we are willing to March for all women, we must also be willing to use our social and political capital to show up for immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, the economically disenfranchised and the many others who are denied rights and freedoms in our society. This is non-negotiable. The divisive tactics employed by the new Administration will require that we reach across our differences and identities to show up even when it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient.
Rule #4: Talk to the people who look like you.
While working in coalition is one of my favorite things in the world to do, I believe it is equally important to do my own personal work and to work within my community to dismantle systems of oppression. Stated differently: White people and women should work within their communities and families to initiate difficult conversations about race and class without the assist of people of color. It’s your work. I have mine too, and I appreciate the beauty of where our work intersects and when it parts ways.
Rule #5: Believe your eyes and ears.
In this political moment, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to distinguish between truths and lies. Can we believe our eyes and ears and hearts when we are told to doubt them in favor of what is being laid before us and presented as facts?
Yes, we can. We know the truth. We know why we resist and why we march. It is because our humanity continues to be denied and justice delayed. We are witnesses. In the coming months and years, we must to continue to be truth tellers and fact checkers. We must continue to make moral and material claims for our full humanity and bundle of rights. It is the promise of democracy.
Although we are living in tumultuous and uncertain times, we must stay vigilant, engaged and hopeful. We cannot turn back. This is only the beginning. The Women’s March initiated the resistance. Today and tomorrow, we continue to wage it.