Here at the Herald, we’ve been thinking a lot about what we are supposed to be doing. A week ago today, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, and in the time since it has become clear that he intends to do much, if not everything, that he said he would during his campaign. Which leaves us wondering: how do we respond? This week, we asked an assortment of people and organizations on campus to answer the question, “What now?”
Dave Bercovici, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Geology & Geophysics
Understandably, the worry is that when everyone goes home to their regular lives the momentum is lost (and of course the opposition counts on that). It even happened in the sixties when student protesters had to go take finals. So, along those lines, I often advise students about to take an exam to do the easy problems first, because if they first insist on tackling the hard ones, then they might get hung up, or burn out, and then will miss out on the low-hanging fruit. The first thing for us to do is to take care of the easy problems first. So, for example, subscribe to a REAL newspaper and/or join the ACLU. If you belong to a professional society that spearheads petitions and letters (e.g., my society, the American Geophysical Union, just released one an hour ago about the suppression of EPA scientists), then sign them, don’t just delete those emails. These are organizations who are doing critical work, but who also need numbers, in subscriptions as well as signatories. Not everyone needs to start a march or a petition, but every march or petition needs people, and lots of them; so at the very least be counted. Once you do the easy problems, then move on to the hard ones.
Makayla Haussler, Legislative Coordinator of the Yale Dems
There are two things that we should be focused on doing over the next four years (although people should be engaged regardless of who is president). First, we need to be playing hard defense at the national level to try and prevent Trump and Congressional Republicans from enacting their harmful, regressive agenda. Before an important vote comes up, say ACA repeal, call your home state’s senator and let him or her know that they stand to lose your vote in the next election if they vote for the bill. The Yale Dems are working with 20+ other College Dems chapters from across the nation to organize a series of Capitol Call-ins leading up to these important votes, during which we’ll mobilize thousands of students to call their congressional representatives and pressure them to stand up for justice.
There are also important opportunities to keep pushing for progressive change here in Connecticut and in New Haven. We need to be fighting as hard as possible to protect and expand the rights of marginalized people at the state level, especially because these groups are already under attack by President Trump and Congressional Republicans. This semester, the Dems will be fighting to expand access to financial aid for undocumented college students, strengthen equal pay protections, regulate the dangerous false advertising of crisis pregnancy centers, and bring progressive tax reform to Connecticut. If formal political advocacy isn’t your thing, I would encourage everyone to consider volunteering or donating money to an organization that works on issues that they are passionate about. Lastly, don’t let up on the protest! Trump’s downplaying of the Women’s March shows that he knows that protest has power to create change. The longer that protests continue, the more difficult it will become for him to claim that he has a mandate.
Vicki Beizer, Women’s Center PR Coordinator
Asking what the most important issues to focus on made me laugh, not because it’s a silly question, but because it’s the opposite. Importance is a relative term, that’s why actual allyship is key to making sure that it isn’t the whitest, straightest, cis-est, richest, population whose needs get heard the loudest. Actual allyship involves literally getting your body out to fight for causes that might not be your own, but they sure as hell are important. We don’t win if some us of lose our ability to remain in this country. We don’t win if some of us can’t marry the person we love, we don’t win if police brutality wrecks men of color across this nation, if there are no abortion clinics in Texas, if some have to carry identification of their religion. It doesn’t take much to get angry nowadays, pick up a paper, listen to your peers in fear of their family getting deported. Anger is only so good, activism is another thing; get out there, physically, literally pick up the phone and call congresspeople. Don’t wait for the bomb to hit before we start to think about how to protect each other.
Maraya Keny-Guyer, President of RALY
I think there is a lot of exciting energy surrounding reproductive justice, as well as intersectional issues within social justice as a whole. There’s no better time than now to get involved in groups on campus that align with your values and are poised and prepared to fight back strong. Speaking on behalf of RALY, we are excited to get involved in statewide legislation, with goals of working on a number of bills including equal pay, regulation of crisis pregnancy centers, and the expansion reproductive access. In partnership with PP, NARAL, and other local reproductive justice groups, we’ll have phone banking events, protests and counter-protests, etc. Individually, one of the best things you can do is call your representatives and senators. Call call call!! Look out for events you can get involved in. Show up at a march. Be a presence and voice that must be seen and heard.
Frances Rosenbluth, political science professor & speaker at the Women’s March on Yale
We academics have been saying that overt sexual discrimination has diminished and now we have to be alert for subtle bias. But the demeaning language we heard from Trump is not subtle! It is clearer than ever that gender equality is incomplete, fragile, and needs nurturing. Long term gender equality requires a more equal sharing of family work. When employers see people as equally likely to miss work to take care of a sick child or ailing parent, they can hire and promote on the basis of merit, not hidden cues about lower female productivity on account of the “second shift.” Volunteer in election campaigns; at least get friends to vote. Petitions and lawsuits are good too. Above all, our representatives need to know the issues that will swing our votes!
Janis Jin, member of the Yale Asian American Studies Task Force
What we want to focus on moving forward is political education, especially for the Asian American community at Yale. We find that in the past, there is a sort of tension between the fact that there are Asian American students who are very apolitical and don’t necessarily feel as invested in political resistance as some of us are. What we want to try to do is use the bodies of knowledge constructed in a field like Asian American Studies and Ethnic Studies more broadly in order to cultivate a sort of political study group that uses the theory and the history from these knowledge bases in order to think about a vision that we’re building moving forward. That means we’re looking at both texts that are rooted in philosophy, theory, history, but also looking at instructive texts. So, for example, what organizers are saying right now, what sorts of theories we can put into action—theories like those discussing anti-blackness in the Asian American community, discussing coalition-building along similar experiences around immigration and diaspora, finding shared links in history and using that to try and think about what sort of actionable items can come from political theory and political education [moving forward]. In our current political moment, it’s more obvious than ever that we need to be pushing for an ethnic studies requirement in universities and in high schools. In order to think about what sort of reality we want to imagine, we also need to have a comprehensive understanding of the histories of racial formation in the United States, exclusion from the U.S. political sphere for racialized communities, and think really critically about what history this state is built on. Thinking about the trends across history and why it’s so crucial to understand them makes Asian American Studies Task Force as a group really invested in promoting and defending ethnic studies at Yale and across the broader university system.
James Silk, Clinical Professor of Law at Yale Law School & Director of the Human Rights Program
How can we achieve solidarity to resist everything? I came of age in the sixties and learned, over the years, from the movement to oppose the Vietnam War, the anti-apartheid movement, the Save Darfur Campaign, all mass mobilizations focused on specific outrages. People coming together all around the world last Saturday in marches to support women’s rights, but expressing their commitment to racial justice, equality, combating climate change, freedom of expression and the media, a humane foreign policy, and basic integrity, reflected an underlying unity that can sustain broad-based activism. My work and teaching are in international human rights advocacy, not a perfect or even very effective means of achieving greater justice and human well-being. But it offers a language, a vehicle, for principled resistance to tyranny and barbarism and for building solidarity around seemingly disparate issues. So I believe that we in human rights will stay the course, not turning our backs on the atrocities and poverty that plague the world and that will persist, but turning some of our attention toward using the tools and powerful language of human rights to hold this government accountable, to build support for efforts to block its most egregious acts, to create pressure on it to live up to our legal and moral obligations.
Unidad Latina en Acción
Founded in 2002, Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA) is a New Haven grassroots organization devoted to upholding the rights of immigrants. As they write on their website, “many of us have suffered human rights abuses on the job and in the immigration system. We come together to address human rights abuses in our community and take action.” A spokesperson said over the phone that their focus at the moment is to work with other local organizations to ensure that both undocumented CT residents and refugees are still protected over the coming years. All of ULA’s work is volunteer work. There are opportunities to receive email alerts, learn about upcoming events, and get involved in volunteering on their website.
Rita Wang, Yale Women’s Center Political Action Coordinator
I helped organize New Haven and Yale, and specifically I sent emails to New Haven groups like ULA to get them to come out to the Yale Women’s March, because lots of low income women of color would not be able to travel to New York or DC for the march. And I try to make this a reciprocal relationship where I come out for their Atticus and Calhoun protests as well, because activism is about radical love and centering people and not yourself. Yale student issues and New Haven resident issues go hand in hand, and we as campus activists have to do both to help erase the Yale New Haven dichotomy. ULA chants “Sin papeles sin miedo” at their protests, and I think that making sure I stay empowered and confident enough in the Trump administration and empowering others to keep doing important work is my most important priority.
Countable: A website and app that provides summaries of legislative activities, with the option to immediately contact your lawmaker after you’ve read them. You can even keep track of how your elected officials voted. Called “Tinder, but for Unsexy Congressional Bills” by GQ.
Indivisible: A “Practical Guide for Resisting The Trump Agenda” that started as a Google Doc founded by former progressive congressional staffers. The guide “is intended to serve as a resource to all individuals who would like to more effectively participate in the democratic process” and includes an examination of the strategies that made the Tea Party’s grassroots advocacy work and a discussion of “local advocacy tactics that actually work.”
Daily Action: A phone service that texts you once a day during the week about an action you can take on an issue relevant to where you live. “You tap on the phone number in your message, listen to a short recording about that day’s issue, and from there you’ll be automatically routed to your Senator, member of Congress, or other relevant elected official. In 90 seconds, you can conscientiously object and be done with it.”
5 Calls: A site, made by volunteers, that presents you with five calls to make every day. When you click on one of the listed issues, you’re presented with an argument for why the call is important, a phone number to dial, and a script to follow. They also track the outcomes of calls made and the total number of calls made from the site.
Resistance Manual: Designed to look like a Wikipedia page, this site was founded by a number of civil rights activists and leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement. A “collaborative knowledge base,” there are pages for essential readings in resistance, outlines of GOP policy, as well as updates on new actions taken by Trump’s administration.
10 Actions 100 Days: In the wake of the Women’s March on Washington, its coordinators announced a new initiative for Trump’s first 100 days in office: 10 Actions 100 Days. Every ten days, they will present a new action that participants in the March, or others, can do in their own communities. The first action: write a postcard to your Senators about what matters most to you.