People, what are you gonna do about it?

By Angelina Eimannsberger

Mychal Denzel Smith, I’m sure, was less surprised than many others when the election results came in. He asked on his twitter account on Nov 9, “This is how white supremacy works. Now, white people, what are you gonna do about it?”

If a Trump presidency (and as I write this I can’t believe I’m referencing a reality unfolding not a possibility) is good for anything, it is good for making clear that Smith and others are so astute in their analysis. It is good because it makes starkly visible the reality of this divided and violent country: and as terrible as I feel, as terrible as many of us feel, this forced honesty about how bad things really are.

Smith references a lot of pop culture, both because it made a strong impression on him and because many he and of his peers have found it a source of inspiration and support. Pop culture, moreover, is a very useful way for reaching people and unifying them in insights and feelings. One of the tv moments Smith recalls with great force happens after Hurricane Katrina: uber- famous musician Kanye goes off script and says, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” (51). Smith has a strong emotional reaction to it: “I was no longer alone” (52). We need tens of thousands of those “I was no longer alone” moments. They are instances of recognizing the brutal truth as something people share and can fight.

Chapter 6 of Smith’s book is an account of his own struggles with mental health. This past weak was often referred to as a time of experiencing trauma–often by relatively privileged people like myself, who have all the support and safety that you can reasonably ask for. This choice of word–trauma–makes me worry about people who have been struggling and who were hit by this election with maybe less surprise but more force. We need to take Smith’s words as the rallying call: What are we (white people) gonna do about it? People’s lives and health and well-being are at stake, so we need to come up with good answers fast.

For now, I’m going to indulge in some Sunday afternoon choclate-marshmallow-caramel cookies and coffee and think about how to fight the hate and fear that the past week has made not only visible but undeniable. Tomorrow, get up fierce and ready to draft your first version of an answer. Any baby step is ten thousand times better than no movement at all.

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