It's a brand new week, and in some ways it feels like the start of a new chapter. (Speaking of chapters, pictured above is The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy and Thick: And Other Essays by Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom).
I hope many of us took a moment this past weekend to celebrate the Biden Harris win, or at least appreciate this historic moment.
Aside from Senator Kamala Harris becoming the first woman to serve as Vice President, voter turn out was incredible!
States like Pennsylvania and Georgia, which have been red for as long as I know, inched closer and closer to blue and Pennsylvania even flipped! This is all due to the work of local organizers. Voter suppression is not an easy battle, it's deep rooted and been around forever in some form or another. But their blood, sweat, and tears paid off. And because of their work, we all benefit.
I do not wish to diminish their efforts and achievements. And I do not want to ignore the impact of this election on the mental and emotional well being of the people in this country.
But, I do not want us to go to sleep.
Already, I have seen individuals exclaim that "the nightmare is over!"
But Trump was not the beginning of America's problems and electing Biden is not the end. Electing Biden is simply a band-aid. It's an attempt to stop the excessive bleeding that has been the past four years. The real healing is only just beginning.
This election brought wins for Democrats in the Senate as well, and it's time to hold them all accountable. It's time to demand the change we were promised, and continue to advocate for the change we want to see.
If you're someone who doesn't want to think about all of that or someone who wants to continue to savor this moment, because figuring out what to do next is hard, this post is for you.
First, you have to commit, and not just to paying attention. You have to commit to listening, to checking your privilege, and being open to learning when you are wrong.
Think back to the black squares that everyone posted to their Instagrams in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. What started as a plan to amplify Black voices, took a performative turn and quickly drowned out those voices. The hashtag was flooded with black squares, making information related to protests lost in the void.
So often, I see people double down, rather than be open to learning, or willing to change course when they realize there are harmful consequences to their efforts, no matter how well meaning they are. If we are truly going to learn, we need to be willing to put our pride aside. We need to be willing to acknowledge our mistakes and make amends.
Next, make a plan. This means figuring out the topics you aren't knowledgeable about, the amount of time you can commit to it, and identifying reliable resources and organizations.
Understand that no one becomes an expert overnight. But if you consistently allot time to learning, and building on it, you'll retain more of the information you're consuming. And you'll be able to build a more meaningfully knowledge base.
One good way to do this is with newsletters, the key being, not to ignore the emails.
Needs some recommendations to get started?
The Beginner: Try signing up for the Skimm. While you won't become an expert in any one topic, it's a great way to build a practice and stay informed. One email, each weekday, with one main story to focus on. You'll get some background, why it matters, and what to keep an eye out for. This can also be a great starting point in identifying the topics you don't know a lot about yet.
The Worldly Feminist: Because the world is so much more than the U.S., and because we should all be feminists, I recommend signing up for the Feminist Giant Newsletter by the amazing Mona Eltahawy. If there's one thing I hope to leave behind in 2020, it's White Feminism. We need to understand the different layers to oppression, because we are not all oppressed in the same way. It's the only way we'll get to a solution that addresses everyone's needs. Eltahawy is an incredibly knowledgeable feminist and her analysis is always intersectional. Bringing her experiences as a freelance journalist, Eltahawy created this newsletter to share that knowledge, without financial barriers. Her book, The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, is also pictured above. Sign up and start getting weekly columns! If you are able to help fund the newsletter, please do! Work done by activists is grossly underpaid.
The Specialist: As you identify topics you need to learn more about, chances are there is a newsletter or podcast specific to that topic. For me, that topic was immigration. A little over a year ago, I signed up for Border Lines, Immigration News in Context. This weekly newsletter provides updates on immigration policies, broken out in three key sections, "Big Picture," "How we got here," and "What's next?" You might not have time to read whole books on these topics, but a little bit of time each week, reading an update, can make a huge difference in how knowledgeable you are.
I recommend newsletters for two reasons: because that email notification serves as a reminder, and because I've seen numerous booksellers disappointed at the number of people who placed orders for books about being anti-racist in June, only to never pick them up or cancel their orders in July.
Maybe you were that person in July. Maybe you bit off more than you can chew. And maybe those books are still sitting on your nightstand, waiting to be opened.
We've all been there, but we can be better than that. Make your plan. Figure out what is manageable for you, and start there.
You have your plan, but how are you going to set yourself up for success? Give yourself space to succeed.
Block off time on your calendar or in your planner.
Clean out your social media. Content overload is a thing, so take a look at who you are following. Unfollow the people who aren't doing anything for you. Unfollow pages or accounts that do not fact check, or are kind of sketch. Then you can make room for academics, experts, and journalists.
Build a buddy system, and get an accountability partner.
Lastly, what do you do with all your newfound knowledge?
Hopefully, through your research you've identified key organizations you can support. And hopefully you've done a quick search to make sure they are legit.
Remember that we don't all have the same strengths or resources. You may not have a lot of time to contribute between work and kids, but you might have financial resources you can donate. Or money is tight right now, but you can volunteer a few hours on the weekends.
The actions you take will be dependent on the resources you have, but also keep in mind, that change needs to happen at every level. Local governments and grassroots movements are important too.
While I do not understand how to Defund the Police well enough to articulate what that would look like to someone who opposes it, I do understand the prison pipeline in this country is inhumane. And I have given my time and resources to supporting Books to Prisoners, which helps those incarcerated gain access to books, so that they can continue to learn and gain skills that they can hopefully use in the workforce when they are out of prison. I'm not leading the charge to Defund the Police, but I am helping to alleviate some of the pain, for those who are impacted.
Four years will have come and gone before we know it. We don't want to look around and realize not much has changed. We don't want to settle for "not Trump."
Find what you can give to, and then give it your all!
Note, links to purchase books throughout this blog post are affiliate links with Bookshop.org. Bookshop.org supports Indie bookstores across the US. If you are able to, please consider shopping for books through a site that supports mom and pop shops in a time where sales are suffering due to Amazon, and now the pandemic.