Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America. That’s a sentence that I prayed I would never have to write in my life. A reality that I thought wouldn’t have to face but here we are. But now that we are here, what can us as Black Americans and People of Color do? Do we resist the Trump presidency as a whole and completely refuse to engage whatsoever? Do we engage and then resist when we don’t get what we asked for? Who do we select as the engagers? How do we resist? Let’s ask History.
Recently, I rewatched the brilliant film Selma which covers the fight to get the voting rights of southern blacks honored through the Voting rights Act. I will spare you the long summary of the film because if you don’t know what it’s about you should be closing out this article and going to watch it now (Seriously, it’s on Amazon Prime get to it!) But one of the things I appreciated in this film was how it showed the hard task of being both a resister and an engager. It’s very clear in this film that MLK was both. The film opens with MLK meeting with President Lyndon B Johnson about the need for legislation that would force the south to honor the rights of Blacks to vote. LBJ pretty much refuses and then MLK walks out to his crew to whom he says “Selma it is”. I thought this scene was so important because it showed the organization that existed within the Civil Rights movement but it also showed that even when oppressed you have some sort of power and how you can both engage and resist to forcefully get what you want and need.
I think it’s important to acknowledge this at a time when you’ve seen the likes of Chrisette Michele, Kanye West, and Steve Harvey all get dragged for meeting with Trump. To which some have argued that we need to have folks engage with the President so we can be heard, this is a valid point. However, we need to have the right folks engaging with the President and we need to have a plan for resisting and fighting back if he chooses to ignore us. As portrayed in the film Selma, after LBJ’s refusal to take immediate action MLK went to Selma, Alabama did lots of organizing and ultimately applied enough pressure to force LBJ to change his tune and to pass the Voting Rights Act. Though it is obviously harder to apply this lesson to today’s time when we have so many varied issues to be concerned about (unemployment, public schools in black communities, police brutality etc.) I think the most important part of this lesson is that there has to be room for engagers, resisters, and those who are here to do both. The film did a great job capturing this through showcasing the difference of views between Malcolm X and MLK. Malcolm was very much a resister and didn’t care for MLK’s methods. However many will argue that both of them were needed during the movement, and the same goes for today.
I am not arguing for Chrisette, Kanye or Steve to be the voices of our movement. To be completely transparent I don’t believe any of them went to their “meetings” with clear intentions and ultimately all any of them got were photos that I doubt they will be framing anytime soon. I’m arguing that we need to be open to letting those who are qualified to engage to do just that and we need to be prepared to resist when the President fails to come through (which spoiler alert: he will fail). As stated in the film “We negotiate, we demonstrate, and then we resist”.