At EduCon, a group of EduColor folks sat around a table at a Chinese restaurant. This idea comforted me. Generations of activists, from veterans of the teaching activism game to an infant with her fist raised. We sat there, saddened by those who couldn’t join us, excited at possibilities for resistance, and united under this thing we call a movement. What loomed over us, however, was this strange sense that we were each dispossessed of something post-election. Maybe our communities felt less safe. Maybe our bodies felt more vulnerable. Maybe our schools felt like the foundations would shake from under us at any given moment.
But in times of uncertainty and vulnerability, it’s important to have communities of folks that want to address the danger of Trump head on.
What kept nagging at me throughout that fateful January was how flawed and vulnerable human beings would so easily embrace messages of separatism and fascism even while fighting for their own respective humanity. The president-elect might have dog-whistled to white nationalists all over the world, but he also whispered tweet nothings in the form of isolation, authority, and toxicity. He would be the president for anyone who believed in closing the borders on anyone who didn’t fit his line of thinking. He would be the president for anyone who thought they were the one representative for a specific ideology. He would be the president of “That’s just x being x” without accountability towards the ways that those flaws bully and harangue fellow community members.
In short, he is not just the President of the United States. He’s also the symbol for those who secretly cheered his approach, even if they don’t believe in his ideas.
What are the parts of us aren’t allowed to heal? What parts of us won’t seek restitution because we don’t love ourselves enough? What parts of us don’t see other people as human beings? What parts of us want to love ourselves by hating other people? What would it look like to build spaces that sustain us? When we envision a collective love and who’s most deserving, what, then, does our truth look like? Can we hold a system of truisms strung together by assumptions and declarations and still lie about our very existence?
Certainly. Trump teaches us that that’s a winning strategy. Human beings can be seduced by ideas that seem similar to theirs, but, in proof, are the antithesis of what leadership looks like. The ideals of inclusion, diversity, collectivism, socialism, and organizing are the strongest ideas we have for action against the current administration and the ideas they espouse. Yet, I’m also concerned about what happens when movements don’t have the love, empathy, and compassion necessary to do thankless work. Fascism abounds.
But I didn’t mind that for the moment. The night was made for us. It was wonderful to imagine a better world even as we knew the tenor of the country would get invariably worse. We saw the inherent flaws that our current empire espoused before January 20th and saw the potential for a multiplier in the wrong hands. The stratification of the super-rich and abandoned poor. The justification of the military and prison industrial complexes. The brutality of our paramilitary on bodies of color, and the white people who don’t see themselves affected by it. The constant surveillance of our kids in the name of data collection. the coherence of the word “disruption” in neoliberal circles of education reform, education technology, and education activism. All the while, our reality as people in this work consistently disrupted and confounded our visions.
It was too much, so we went back to family talk, and building for better futures. I went about finishing my house special fried rice. The strength it’ll take to overthrow fascism was worth fulling my stomach.