Hearts open, fists up


I won’t lie. On Tuesday night as Donald Trump’s path to the presidency became ever clearer, I drank a bunch of bourbon, felt my ribcage tighten and my heart break. It was hard to breathe. I texted people furiously asking what we could push Obama to do in his final days in office. How would we keep people safe? Trans people, Black people, Muslims and Sikhs, undocumented people, people with criminal records, queer young people… people I love. What obstacles could we throw in Trump’s way before he takes office?

I woke up the next morning and heard from loved ones about how they had to explain Trump’s election to their children over breakfast and on the way to the bus stop, reassuring them that they would be safe, that their family members would be safe. I sat on my balcony and wept.

But now I’m done. We have to fight like hell and never forget our power, and we should remember this: Trump won the Electoral College, but he lost the popular vote. We must face the outcome and lean into it, but part of that outcome is the potential for a new majority of resistance. En masse, we can’t call those who voted for Hillary Clinton a coalition, and we must never credit the Democratic Party or Clinton herself for those votes. This was a referendum on extreme racism and xenophobia. Majorities of Black, Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Indigenous voters showed up to reject hate, fear, violence, racism, Islamophobia, and misogyny. Many did so in spite of the more polite racism of Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment. As people of color, we must never let anyone forget that we overwhelmingly voted to prevent a massive threat to democracy and to the soul of this nation. And we, the nation, and the world were profoundly betrayed by white voters across class, gender, and geography.

Most people of color have always known that post-racialism was a myth. This, the world in which a far-right, authoritarian candidate wins the presidency, propelled into office by racist appeals calling Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, calling for a ban on Muslim immigration, associating peaceful Black protest with violence, is the real world. It always has been. For white progressives appalled at Trump’s election, it is critical now to face race not as a special interest issue that only matters to us, but as the core of American politics that affects you, too. You have ignored it and pushed it aside not only to our peril, but also to yours.

I am furious. The majority of whites, including the majority of white women, chose a candidate who promised to bring down the hammer on law and order at the border and in “inner cities” using language of extreme domination and subjugation to promise safety, security, and dignity for the “silent majority”, promising to punish people of color on behalf of whites who feel victimized by globalization and changing demographics. As one comrade said recently, it is hard now not to walk down the street, sit on the subway, go to the grocery store, pick up your child at school, and see a white person and wonder, “Did you just sign my death warrant?”

Two-thirds of Latino and Asian American voters voted down Trump’s bigotry. Powerful grassroots organizing, amid intimidation and severe anti-immigrant hostility, turned out Latinos in record numbers in several states, most notably to oust longtime racist Sherriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, AZ. There were other local progressive victories as well, from New York to California, in the South and Midwest, due to Black voters and, more than ever before, due to API and Latino voters. Still, 29% of Latinos and Asian Americans voted for Trump. Is this the warped reflection of the allure of racism? Do so many of us believe that the blustery and domineering rhetoric of fear mongering, masculinity, and whiteness will carry them into prosperity and uplift? I am furious with them, too.

And yet… we must be ready when some of those who voted for Trump, whites and people of color, start having buyer’s remorse. This will happen in the sure-to-be dark days ahead, especially when Trump fails to deliver on the economic relief he promised, and instead delivers on extreme repression in Black and Brown communities. This will happen when he arrests and deports millions of immigrants, punishes Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, makes Supreme Court appointments that will shape the legal landscape for decades to come, eliminates the Affordable Care Act, eliminates abortion access, unleashes the full force of police power, and more. We will need the largest, strongest front possible to turn this tide, and social movements led by people of color will be more critical than ever before. We cannot let our anger get in the way of building a different future.

And we must begin now. We can make demands of the outgoing Obama administration to, in the words of Mijente’s Angelica Chazaro, “unload the gun.” Obama must do everything possible to dismantle the enforcement and national security machine he has built in the time that he remains in office, and avoid handing over the keys to Trump. The apparatus can surely be rebuilt, but Obama has the power to give Trump the rockiest start possible. Before January, he could sign new repatriation agreements to limit the deportation of refugees. He could use the power the Constitution grants him to pardon individuals for “offenses against the United States” including civil immigration violations that make people deportable. He could release Leonard Peltier and all political prisoners. He could purge terrorist watch lists and the the records of everyone who has applied for DACA. It may be unlikely, but it’s a possible set of immediate demands.

In the long term, we will need a different kind of politics fueled not by rage but by a deep-seated belief that the future belongs to us. A younger, more progressive, more inclusive, and more diverse generation is already here. The path forward will require a truly and deeply feminist vision that goes beyond simply electing female bodies to office, and instead reaches past the logic of brutal domination and rivalry toward interdependence, humanity, compassion, and respect for the earth. This feminism has its roots in Black feminist traditions and Indigenous world views, and has no meaning without race at the center.

We will need to draw on all of our resources – the deep knowledge of survival in queer and trans communities, in Indigenous communities, in criminalized Black and Brown communities – to build the alternative services and systems we will need in this coming period as access to existing services gets dismantled. We will need the humanity of whites who want to live in a different world, one shaped not by the rivalries of race but by the wholeness of justice. We will need to forge a vision for a new economy and society. This will take work, but I know we have the immense talent and fortitude we need in our movements to achieve it.

When we do this, we will have arrived not as Asian Americans, not as immigrants, not as people of color, but as a nation that finally acknowledges that society functions best and security can only exist when we all have what we need: home, health, family, education, culture, community, creativity, and spiritual growth. We will have arrived as a people who understands that you are not me and I am not you, and because of this, we need each other. We will understand that our collective survival hinges upon understanding, confronting, and dismantling race.

The future is ours. But for now, we must build the unity and genuine capacity we need to declare clearly: No one comes for any of us without going through all of us. Hearts open, fists up.

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By Soya Jung

Soya has been active in the progressive movement for over 30 years. During the 1990s she worked as a reporter at the International Examiner, communications and policy staff for the WA State House Democratic Caucus, and executive director of the Washington Alliance for Immigrant and Refugee Justice. She was the founding chair of the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition, which formed in 1996 to restore food and cash assistance for low-income immigrants and refugees in Washington State. During the 2000s she worked at the Social Justice Fund, a public foundation supporting progressive organizations in the Northwest, and consulted for various institutions like the Western States Center, the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, the Nonprofit Assistance Center, the City of Seattle, and the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.

At ChangeLab Soya has authored two research reports: "Left or Right of the Color Line: Asian Americans and the Racial Justice Movement" and "The Importance of Asian Americans? It’s Not What You Think", and co-authored the Asian American Racial Justice Toolkit. She has convened numerous public events uniting scholars with social movement activists to explore race, gender, war/empire, and Asian American identity. Her writing has been published in Othering & Belonging: Expanding the Circle of Human Concern, and cited in places like the Routledge Companion to Asian American Media, ColorLines, and The Guardian.

4 replies on “Hearts open, fists up”

Hi Soya, this is an extraordinary article and the title of it is the best rallying cry I could imagine for those of us who are struggling to find our way, to be warriors of the heart, to fight hard as we can without shutting down. I have shared the article on facebook and have found that many other people also find in Hearts open, Fists up a slogan that they can stand behind. Do I have your permission to continue sharing the slogan? I am just an individual who fights for the rights of all human beings in the ways that I can, but I might ask an artist friend to make a visual image to match the power of those words and would of course share it with you as well so that you can use it. I just think we need a constant reminder that our hearts must remain open as we fight injustice and you have created a few words that can remind people in a visceral, poetic but unmistakeable way. Thank you from the depth of my open heart! Kato Ps. I am a neighbor of Sharon Kyle.

VERY well stated!!! I am sharing with my network and finding ways to get involved locally in DC.

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