“RESIST” — with “persist” a close second, thanks to Mitch McConnell — is the word for 2017.
Everyone is telling us to resist, proclaiming the importance of resisting, and naming their own acts of resistance. More than a buzzword, resistance is a necessary part of our lives, particularly as we respond to regular attacks on our genders, sexualities, nationalities, religions, races, and classes. In recent weeks, we have seen the ease and frequency with which we can disagree on actions, and it’s become clear that no community can plan another community’s response. Two randomly selected people probably won’t respond to the same crisis in the same way. This doesn’t mean we have to be frozen, afraid of doing the wrong thing. It means we have to carefully consider the scale of our actions, whom they can involve, and whom needs to be brought to the table. Start thinking about what you can do, as an individual, and how you may be able to get others to take action too.
Here are four completely different ways you can resist, all year long:
1. Get social by starting new conversations
Are you on Facebook? How many friends do you have, and how much attention do they pay to your posts? Do people consider you to be credible? Are they willing to follow you? For most of us, it’s easy to post a status update about the current state of affairs, and it can be dismissed as lazy. It may be lazy if it is the only thing you do, but change begins with conversation. It’s likely that you, your family members, friends, coworkers, and old schoolmates don’t all think the same way. Social media platforms like Facebook give you the space to highlight news stories, share your point of view, and invite other people to share their perspectives.
Story-sharing is a powerful tool for change. Instead of sharing news stories everyone is seeing all the time, make personal appeals to your contacts. Tell them about the injustice you witnessed at the grocery store. Post about your friend’s teenager who doesn’t want to go back to school because of race-based or anti-Muslim bullying. Make an emotional connection, and call them to action. It can also be a space for organizing within a a small group of people. Maybe you want to start a small reading group for children of different backgrounds. Perhaps you’re hosting #100Days100Dinners event, and you’re looking for people to invite. Engage your social media connections, and encourage and invite them to do something, no matter how small.
2. Set a chain of events in motion, or springboard from others’ actions
Roxane Gay recently pulled her book — To Be Heard — from Simon Schuster’s imprint TED Books in response to their publishing deal with a racist misogynist. This was a bold move that caught the attention of numerous news outlets and blogs, social media users, and fans. As a black woman, self-proclaimed “bad feminist,” and role model for many, Gay sent a clear message that we need to be guided by our conscience.On Twitter, she reminded people that she is in a position to make this decision because she can afford it, recognizing that resistance does not look the same for everyone. It is restricted by our situations. Her act, however, may encourage other writers to do the same. It may even encourage people with different platforms to refuse to share them with representatives of the “alt-right.” Additionally, she boosted the signal on a story that died down, and could subversively move readers to look for books from other publishers.
3. Push businesses to exercise corporate responsibility
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stated that he would serve as an advisor to the U.S. President, and it was not taken lightly. #DeleteUber trended on social media with people posting screenshots of their final notes to Uber as they went through the process of deleting the app. This came right after the #MuslimBan, and Uber’s decision to continue accepting rides at JFK during a taxi strike protesting the detainment of international travelers. Lyft sent an email to its users saying, “We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.” The company also pledged to donate $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years. The CEO at Uber has since announced that he is stepping down from the President’s business advisory council, but not before over 200,000 users deleted their Uber accounts.
4. Interrupt a problematic narrative or activity
The Women’s March on January 21, 2017 was far from problem-free. The organizers made numerous errors, refused to acknowledge and remedy them, and continued along dangerous lines that alienated some of the most vulnerable people. While many of those women chose to boycott the march, others decided to join in protest of its cis white woman-centered agenda. They carried signs that reminded the people around them that 53% of white people voted for the current U.S. President, that the Million Woman March in 1997 was organized and led by black women, and that all women do not have pussies. They demonstrated the power of being present, visible, and non-violently disruptive. This is something that can be replicated in many ways, and is a challenge to be creative in the ways we respond to being shut out.