For those of you who aren't aware, I am a proud Canadian citizen, but I recently moved to the United States to attend school in Manhattan. I am a visa holder. I have always been involved in politics and have worked on campaigns and in government summer jobs back in Canada, in addition to having volunteered on Hillary Clinton's campaign twice prior to the election. Democracy is important to me and I was raised to understand the privileges and agencies that I am afforded as a result of it.
Flash forward to today. In the last week, we have witnessed the institutionalized dissolution of fundamental rights for every identity group from Muslims, immigrants, undocumented folks, LGBTQIA+ folks, indigenous peoples, and women. We have witnessed attempts to separate families and exile individuals on the basis of skin colour or religion. We have witnessed bigotry culminate in violence north of the border in Quebec City, where six innocent Muslim immigrants were killed in a terror attack on Sunday night.
These politics are by and large unrepresentative of the world that my generation wants to live in, the generation who will pick up the torch and run things before we know it. But the politics that we see emerging as we become adults and enter the workforce, college, and the voting system, are politics that scare and confuse us. The rise of neofascism and white nationalism is not exclusive to the United States; it is a systemic trend taking hold globally, whether evidenced by a terror attack in my home country of Canada, the insurgence of Front National in France, Brexit, or the outcome of the American election. It is our duty to demand equality and to reject apathy. I recently read that 13,000 people voted for Harambe in the U.S. election, a margin that could have made a difference in certain battleground states. I urge my generation to seek an informed opinion and to stop throwing away the power of the vote and of political advocacy.
Since not all of us have access to American public faculties such as congresspeople, I encourage you to advocate for equality in your everyday actions. Firstly, know that words count and that using inflammatory language is never ok; if you make a mistake and you didn't know, apologize, and learn form your mistake. It happens, but there is pretty much no excuse for resisting when others tell you that your actions have made them feel marginalized. Secondly, remember that liberal discourse should be a plurilogue and not a dialogue (shoutout to Talking Visions: Multicultural Feminism in a Transnational Age by Ella Shohat for that nugget of wisdom) and that there is room for a multiplicity of narratives; intersectionality and listening are going to be key in the coming years. Think and listen before you speak and try to favour a levelled and well-informed response before resorting to anger. And thirdly, put your money (or other means) where your mouth is and step beyond the screen with your advocacy. Volunteer for a refugee resettlement agency (if your country is still accepting them), donate to political and legal advocacy groups, give supplies to women's health organizations, read up on ways to stand with undocumented folks, research what your legal, constitutional rights are so that you can stand up for yourself and for those around you, and attend a local protest. Sign a petition, learn more about your local political representatives and what policies they stand behind, call their office and express your concerns, volunteer on election campaigns, read the newspaper (not just Buzzfeed), attend a teach-in, make critical artwork, use your social media platform to call for justice, and most of all, be present in every step of the political process. This, more than anything, is your duty.