Garfield High School Multiracial Student Union protesting Trump‘s election / photo by Sharon H Chang
by Sharon H. Chang
Where does a biracial activist stand in “Trump’s America”? As one of my so-called sides in solidarity with everyone else? Or as nothing in solidarity with everyone else? Perhaps I can only stand in alignment with monoracial movements now because times are urgent, crises are at hand, there’s only space for frontline issues in chaos, and mixed-race isn’t a real racial group anyway (or if it is, it’s not a politicized, radical, justice-seeking one)? Maybe I just don’t get to be my whole self for the next four years or however long this shit show lasts?
Been a long while since I’ve wanted to write much. After being towed miserably along the roller coaster of the last months–well let’s be honest the last year–I feel more/more that I don’t trust words. I don’t trust the English language. I’m not sure I trust anyone else’s ability to use or read it reliably either, from political right to middle to left. After a tumultuous presidential campaign, election, inauguration and now early Trump presidency that can only be best characterized by gaslighting–words feel like they easily threaten to betray me, you, all of us. What’s up? What’s down? What’s real? What’s not? As our sanity unravels with the truth it simply becomes hard or just impossible to know what to say anymore.
Cue massive system overload and shutdown. Paralysis imminent.
If you aren’t familiar with gaslighting it’s easily searchable on the web. Basic premise: a strategy in which an abuser, to gain more power, manipulates a target by making them question their own reality. Basic characteristics: engineering confusion and divisiveness, blatant lying, denial of proof, hypocrisy, wearing the target down over time and accusing the target themselves of being the liar and crux of all problems.
Sound familiar? Let’s put it plain. Donald Trump is a textbook gaslighter which many of us know, or don’t know, or refuse to believe. Or whatever. I don’t really care. But wherever you stand I hope you can at least admit that facts, numbers, realities and truths hold (frighteningly) very little weight in this moment. Meanwhile we’re getting assaulted from every direction at once: the travel ban, the wall, Dakota pipeline, Bannon, DeVos, Sessions, and, but of course, Trump’s cleverly crafted decoy twitter timeline. The narrative has shifted monumentally and quickly with the conduit for most of the change, being words.
The (probably intended) side effect of this maneuver is that there are words I suddenly don’t hear anymore. Much-needed marginalized voices–their rich, nuanced think-pieces, activism, stories and testimonials–which emerged with ferocity during Obama’s presidency and which I lovingly treasured, have disappeared from my feeds. I assume those words still exist somewhere but they’re not popping up much across social media anymore or being shared (even by marginalized folks themselves). Why? Because my feeds are suddenly crammed instead with the images, acts, news and words of white people; whether it’s judges or attorneys, Pence snickering or Warren raging, Trump’s administration, the Senate or House, or how Ivanka’s stupid stupid fashion line is fairing. It’s still mostly–not all, but mostly–white people.
So now. Big sigh. We’ve receded to a place where dominant groups are seizing back national narratives removing a lot of the little give there might have been; where the illusion of no-space-not-enough-time for people in the margins has become heavier and more pressing; further, where that squeeze is compounded by a inter- and intra-group fighting which is being encouraged, engineered, enticed by those in power. So I ask again, where does a biracial activist stand in “Trump’s America”?
After months and months of laying low crippled by depression and anxiety I’ve decided I certainly don’t stand in silence–though I may sometimes need silence to heal and that is my right. I’ve decided I do stand by words–though words are so vulnerable to being co-opted and may fail me and others at times I will always remember their power to change. And I’ve decided I don’t stand with anyone or anything that would pressure me with “there isn’t enough room” to be biracial/multiracial/mixed and political and radical and in solidarity with others. Because (a) that’s just plain bullshit and worse (b) that’s a narrative pushed by those in power to weaken people of color via bickering among themselves. As long as race exists, mixed race exists, and sitting with young mixed-identifying folks over the last years (who are one of the fastest growing youth groups in the country) has shown me repeatedly that our issues do not just evaporate when other people ask them to.
So where do I stand in this new time? To quote many others who’ve come before me: I stand in my power. I live in a mixed racialized body in a racialized place through no choice of my own and I will not be co-opted by Neoliberal or Nazi agendas or subsumed by marginalizing politics out of the right, middle, left, outer-space or wherever. I have work to do and I’m going to damn well do it. Sometimes it may be for “my issues” and oftentimes it will be in solidarity or allyship with others. But whenever I do it, it will not be in bodied fractions, forgotten pieces, or a forgone whole. It will be as me, myself and I.