In Defense of Post-Election Movements of Resistance
Tiara Sharma | Dec. 2, 2016, 10:34 a.m.
It has now been three weeks since the presidential election, and like many, my Facebook newsfeed is still inundated with news about Donald Trump. His election is an inescapable reality, and although time has passed, the wounds of marginalized communities have yet to heal. And how could they?
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were 867 hate crimes reported within a span of ten days after the election. Individuals of color and other marginalized identities have reported being harassed and told to "go home," receiving death threats, being physically assaulted, and being called a variety of derogatory slurs in public places. What's more, members of the so-called "Alt-Right" political group have interpreted Trump's victory as validation for their deeply bigoted agenda, and have already mobilized a movement, according to Rolling Stone.
Within this toxic framework, it becomes harder for people of marginalized identities to find solace and comfort regarding their futures in this country. How then, are these endangered communities supposed to find solidarity and closure regarding these issues?
One method is through collective resistance, participation in protests and demonstrations against the bigotry that Trump and his supporters embody. For example, just two days after the election, 5C students came together to peacefully march and chant in condemnation of the election results and the systemic hate that pervades this country. The protest, organized by Jacquelyn Aguilera PZ '19, consisted of approximately 800 students who marched from Honnold-Mudd Library through each of the Claremont Colleges. After the march ended, participants gathered outside the library to hear speeches and statements from various student leaders, communicating and physically creating a firm stance against Trump’s vitriolic ideologies and a commitment to ensure that the Claremont Colleges fully support the marginalized students who will be most affected by the new presidency.
As a South Asian woman and an immigrant, I felt more supported and empowered by marching than I ever have so far in my time at the 5Cs. I found the protest to be a more interactive, visceral way of engaging in my community and the politics that are changing it than simply discussing the events. Engaging in constructive dialogue and reform can only do so much to empower students like me who were emotionally affected by the election. Instead, it is often more important to prioritize community solidarity before pushing onwards in the fight against oppression. Fortunately, this protest served as a method for the healing and expression of frustration and anger that many students needed.
However, not all resistance to systemic oppression looks like the peaceful march in Claremont. In the aftermath of the election, communities across the country gathered in violent protests in places like Portland, Oregon, which drew media and public criticism for destroying cars and property. Similar acts of violent resistance are often seen as irresponsible and criminal by those who lack an understanding of how society hears and validates certain perspectives and experiences over others.
These reactions to the election are part of a long history of violent protests in America where communities have resorted to violent resistance because previous attempts at nonviolence went unnoticed. The civil rights movement could not have been as successful had it not involved more violent methods of protests.
It is often a luxury for one's voice to be heard through mainstream modes of public discourse. During the march in Claremont, I noticed certain individuals ridiculing the event from outside their dorms. If you are a person of color, an undocumented immigrant, a Muslim, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or have been marginalized simply because of your identity, your human rights and political concerns are and will continue to be trivialized and ignored during Trump's administration.
For certain marginalized communities, such as the black community following injustices in Ferguson and Baltimore, the only way to make the rest of the country acknowledge your pain and suffering is through radical methods of violence as a last resort. In this way, rioting can serve as a form of agency and self-affirmation in an oppressive framework that does not grant certain groups basic human rights and a voice.
An article published by The Claremont Independent before the election expressed an outcry against a so-called "death of dialogue" in regards to politics and issues of identity. The writer pushed members of the 5C community to engage in more civil dialogue, regardless of differences in political beliefs. While I agree that productive, constructive conversation would ultimately be ideal, we cannot easily expect that from all members of our community.
After all, how can we expect people whose safety and livelihoods are threatened by the vitriol that Trump has endorsed to engage in "peaceful" discourse with those who challenge the legitimacy of the terms of their humanity?
Like many violent protestors, there are members of the 5C community whose concerns have not been addressed or even recognized in the media or the public sphere. Of course, because we are part of a college community and active participants in our society, we have certain human standards that we must uphold. I am not encouraging violent verbal or physical confrontation as a means to resolve conflict.
However, what is important to recognize is how certain voices both nationally and locally are prioritized over others, and how those who are marginalized often cannot rely on their concerns being heard and addressed without more drastic measures of resistance. Even though there have not been—and hopefully will not be—reported incidents of violence perpetuated by those against Trump at the Claremont Colleges, we cannot police marginalized members of our community into constantly tempering the ways in which they express their anger and fear over issues that threaten their safety in this country.
Tiara Sharma SC '20 is from Braintree, Massachusetts. She intends on majoring in English and maybe politics.