Concrete steps that Americans who care about social justice can take now

What now?
What now?
Image: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
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Two days after Donald Trump pulled off his election victory, an old friend, a tech company executive, sent me a note.

“I’ve always considered myself fairly progressive, but this election has been a wake up call,” he wrote. “Truth be told, I’ve never actually DONE ANYTHING to champion the causes and values which are now so gravely under threat under President Trump (and I stare in slack-jawed astonishment at those two words even as I write them). So yes, his victory is partly on me. I’ve always talked a good game, but really I’ve dropped the ball.”

He, like others who opposed Trump’s candidacy and values, heard the election results as a call to action. As Quartz’s Jenny Anderson put it, “We will fight to make the country better, a country where hate has no place. We will show respect, kindness, and resolve.”

But how? As the initial shock wears off, it’s a question many are asking. There are some excellent guides out there already, including this one by Anil Dash and this one by Aaron Sorkin. Here are our strategies.

Help elect people who stand for your ideals

By all means donate to your favorite candidates and public office-holders, but money alone won’t do the job—as Hillary Clinton, whose campaign outspent Trump’s two to one, found out. Trump relied on a cadre of loyal supporters, which turned out to be much broader and deeper than pollsters predicted.

“What Trump’s supporters just did, you can do,” wrote the blogger David Wong. “Next time, that groundswell movement against the powers that be can be coming from your side. I personally believe it will, that this will be remembered as the dying last gasp of the worst part of America, one final stand against the bigotry and ignorance that has plagued us since the day we decided to build this nation on the backs of slaves.”

“But,” Wong wrote, “it won’t happen on its own.”

Organizations dedicated to getting women elected include Emily’s List and She Should Run. The Black Lives Matter movement has chapters across the country. Avaaz is a global political organizing association and grassroots activist network that takes on causes “from corruption and poverty to conflict and climate change.”

Many of the decisions that most affect your community are made at the local level—by school boards or city councils. Even if you’re not ready to serve, you can at least educate yourself about the issues, attend meetings, and support the candidates who represent your views.

To play a hands-on role in preventing voter intimidation or irregularities in the next election, apply to become a poll worker in your community.

Be an ally, and support vulnerable groups

As reports of racist attacks roll in, many already are scared, as well as dismayed, by the direction the country has taken.

Within hours of the election result, a colleague reached out to me and others in our office who are of South Asian descent. “If people feel unsafe EVER walking outside the office, commuting, etc., I am happy to collaborate and find ways to make sure people feel safe and empowered,” she said. Her kind gesture moved me to tears.

Jamie Utt offers a useful guide to the do’s and don’ts of allyship in Everyday Feminism, including reminders that “being an ally is about listening,” “allies don’t take breaks,” and “allies don’t need to be in the spotlight.” Other good tips on being an effective ally can be found at GLAAD and on the Root. Children need allies too, as this piece by the mother of a black boy explains, and there are plenty of resources online to help you teach your own children to be an ally to those they see bullied, attacked, or insulted.

Be vigilant. If you see a person under attack, don’t be a silent bystander. Intervene strategically to keep yourself and others as safe as possible, as described by my Quartz colleague Akshat Rathi.

Connect with people when it’s most difficult to

Even as our world becomes more electronically connected, the US remains disconcertedly dividedas this election illustrated all too clearly. The comedian Stephen Colbert pointed out during his election-night special that people on both sides of the country’s political divide are actually afraid of those who disagree with them.

This isn’t a problem that’s easy to fix, but it certainly helps to reach out beyond your circles and diverge from your beaten paths, both on social media and in real life. Engage meaningfully, even—especially—when it’s most difficult to do so.

Say hello to the young mother from a different culture, race, or religion from yours who drops her child off at your child’s school; maybe arrange a playdate. Engage with and listen to that passionate Trump supporter on your Facebook page, instead of blocking him. Turn off your phone and talk with your family, your children, about what you find terrifying and inspiring in this world. Reject fear and embrace courage.

Donate to groups that reflect your ideals

In the day following Trump’s election victory, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU ) received a record of almost $1 million in online donations. Plenty of charities and advocacy organizations would make good use of a similar post-election windfall. Other worthy groups you might consider include:

Volunteer your time

Many of the organizations above offer volunteer opportunities. Here are a few other organizations seeking volunteers:

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of America (provides safe, constructive environments for children when they’re not in school)
  • AmeriCorps (a national community service organization)
  • Border Angels (advocates for human rights and immigration reform with a focus on the US-Mexico border; volunteers maintain water stations and do outreach to migrants and day laborers)

It’s also worth looking closer to home. Some of the most rewarding opportunities to volunteer are at local community organizations, churches, schools, or other institutions.

And you don’t have to go through a formal organization. Keep an eye out for people who need some extra help in your neighborhood, whether it’s a child who could use a mentor or tutor, or an elderly person in need of companionship or groceries. You might well end up with a new friend, to boot.

Step back and look at the big picture

As dispiriting as this election was to many, there remains plenty to be optimistic about for champions of social justice. As Wong points out, the US continues to move toward more progressive values with each generation:

Gay marriage has overwhelming support nationwide—55% are for it, versus 37% against.

Legal abortion is favored by 56%, with 41% opposed.

The vast majority of the population—up to 90% in some polls—supports background checks for gun buyers.

A majority of Americans—58%—support some kind of universal health care. Only 37% oppose the idea.

64% of Americans are worried about global warming. Only 36% are not.

And—get this—Americans overwhelmingly agree that immigration helps the country more than it hurts, by a 59% to 33% margin.

The next few years will likely be infuriating for liberals—just as the last eight years have been frustrating for conservatives. But the forces that are shaping our new global economy are powerful, and the country’s overall trajectory is toward inclusion, diversity, and pluralism. There’s not much Trump can do to stop that.