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Smarter, Harder, Blacker: My Guide to Being Black in the Trump Era

When I started to write this, it just wouldn’t flow as easily as previous blog entries had.  I didn’t like the tone – me pontificating on what we as black folks need to do to get through the oncoming Trump era.  I realize now why I didn’t like the tone:  I’m not qualified to pontificate on what black folks should do. 

Remember, I’m the one who called for a boycott on Colin Kaepernick’s birthday in support of Black Lives Matter, and that fool didn’t even vote.  I bought his jersey and everything.  Posted a picture of myself on social media wearing it and taking a knee.  Damn.

So instead of me telling you, Gentle Readers, what you should be doing to survive Trumpocalypse as black people, I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do.  And it’s not much different than what I am doing or have already done, if you remember from my blog posts in 2011 about my family’s revolution to be smarter than Wall Street during the Great Recession.  First, let me tell you want I’m not going to do:

I’m not going to hate.  I have white family members I love and conservative friends I like.  Hate, like guilt, is a pretty useless emotion.  As my husband Black Man Not Blogging said, “What you saw in this election isn’t hate; it’s fear.  What passes for hate is really fear.”

I’m not going to go all separatist.  I’m not going to give the Trumpeters the pleasure of my retreat from this nation.  In fact, I’m going to get louder, prouder, and more present than ever before.  That’s the “blacker” part of my strategy.

And I’m not going to be afraid.  I come from people on both sides of my family who are just this side of crazy.  What our ancestors put up with during Jim Crow, well, we’re just not having it in 2016.  Our family motto is, “Don’t start none, won’t be none.”  We’re the kind of people who, if faced with death by murder, would try to kill our murderer on the way out because we wouldn’t want to die without getting revenge first.   It’s just who we are.

In that spirit, here’s Black Woman Blogging’s Guide to Being Black in the Trump Era.

I.               Black Woman Blogging’s Prime Directive in the Trump Era:  As much as possible, protect my family and myself from the effects of racism.

I define racism as the harming or disadvantaging of someone based solely on their race.  That harm or disadvantage can be physical, mental, financial, educational, or economic.

And why am I limiting my efforts to my family?  Because I think we as people either don’t do enough or try to take on too much in advancing our people.  If every black person would simply start with his or her own family, the entire race would be okay. 

Now, I’m not so stupid as to think I can completely insulate my family from racism.  What I can do, however, is reduce the odds and attempt to put them in a position to withstand it.  How so, you ask?  Here’s where I’m putting my efforts:

·      Health – to withstand the stress of the days to come and do the work that’s necessary
·      Financial stability and literacy – to protect against racism in the marketplace
·      Education – to overcome or at least withstand racism in the job market
·      Conscientious consumerism and entrepreneurialism -- to be less vulnerable to racist economic policies
·      Supporting and strengthening the institutions that support and strengthen black people, for obvious reasons
·      Staying out of the criminal justice system – ‘nuff said
·      Political engagement – to police the government and, when possible, shape its laws and policies.
·      Knowing my history
·      Spiritual warfare – because I know where my strength comes from.

II.           Black Woman Blogging’s Guiding Principles for Being Black During the Trump Era

My grandmother, a widowed mother of eight, survived the Great Depression in the Jim Crow South.  How?  She owned her property, she lived off her land as much as possible, and the entire family pulled together to get out of poverty and leave the Jim Crow South for California, where greater opportunities existed. She was an educated woman – she attended Spelman College but had not finished – and she was a God-fearing woman.  I come from her.  If she could raise seven boys and one girl, not lose a single boy to lynching, and still have enough Christianity in her to feed homeless white people who came to her back door begging during the Great Depression, I, with my Ivy League degrees, house in the ‘burbs, 401(k) and fairly secure government job, can survive the Trump era.  The key: Being prepared for the worst but hopeful for the best.  To that end, my guiding principles during the Great Trumpcession are as follows:

·      Every tub must set on its own bottom.  Everyone must prepare to or be able to take care of himself or herself, and quite possibly others who can’t take care of themselves.  If you are able-bodied and between the age of three and retirement, you need to be doing at least one of three things:
o   Getting an education.
o   Working.
o   Starting and running a legal business.

·      Some people are going to get left behind.  No matter how much you encourage, cajole, teach, preach, cry or yell, there will always be able-bodied family members who don’t want to take responsibility for themselves.  The question I ask when trying to help someone is, “Are they coachable?”  If not, I move on to the next.  There are too many people who are coachable.  Even Malcolm X acknowledged that some people would be left behind.  Word.

·      If you are able to work, I’ll teach you to fish, but I won’t give you one.  I’m not trying to support a perfectly healthy person while I get up every weekday and work for The Man.  I’m willing to help you help yourself, but I’m not willing to help you mooch off of me if you’re not doing anything to help yourself.

III.         Black Woman’s Blogging Plan for Achieving Her Prime Directive During the Trump Era

·      Health

Black people are going to be stressed by the unrepentant and audacious expressions of racism that have become normalized as a result of Trump’s election.  Stress is a killer.  I know I’m easily prone to anxiety and physical illness when I’m stressed.  My goal is to be in the best health possible during the Trump era to do the work I’m called to do.  I intend to achieve better health through healthier eating, regular exercise, rest, meditation, rejuvenation, mindfulness, and, if necessary, therapy.  Yes, I said it.  Therapy.  IMHO, we as black people don’t give mental health the respect it deserves and we dismiss mental illness of any type as the province of weak people.  Mental illness runs rampant in my family and I’m not foolish enough to think I’m immune or that only weak people have anxiety or depression.  What I don’t want to have happen is to have to invoke an insanity defense when a Trump supporter says that one thing that makes me reach for a weapon and then black out about what happens next.

·      Financial stability and literacy

Financial stability and financial literacy will be weapons, but not absolute shields, against racism.  The Trump era will mean deregulation writ large.  I’m predicting the repeal of Dodd-Frank, the rolling back of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the resurgence of all the shady financial instruments that led to the Great Recession.  In 2011, Black Man Not Blogging and I held a series of family meetings and talks titled “Something to Think About” to promote financial literacy so that our family members, many of whom lost their homes due to bad mortgages, would not be taken advantage of again by unscrupulous lenders and mortgage brokers.  We are considering bringing back those talks and our family sou-sou, but the materials are already on this blog, so they may not be necessary. We do plan to take those talks to another level – financial stability -- by teaching anyone in our family who is interested how to get a civil service job with the State of California. 

o   Civil Service Jobs with the State of California

Why a civil service State job, you ask?  Because during the Great Recession, the State of California laid off, for the most part, only non-essential positions – temporary positions, student positions, retired annuitants—and furloughed the rest.  Yeah, we State workers got paid less for the duration of the furloughs, but we kept our jobs and, more importantly, our benefits.  Plus, the benefits paid, regular raises, opportunities for advancement, and civil service protections against capricious termination make civil service State work appealing in tumultuous times.  Finally, banks and lenders are more willing to lend to State workers because their jobs are considered more secure than other jobs.  My goal is to get everyone in my family who wants such a job hired within the next two years.

o   Home Ownership

My second financial stability goal for my family is to get as many adult members of my family as possible owning their own homes.  As my uncle put it, renting is just another form of sharecropping, putting you at the mercy of your landlord.  You cannot control your housing costs if you don’t own your own home, and you can be subject to housing discrimination.  Those very family members who lost their homes in the Great Recession? They are the ones I want to help get back into home ownership.

o   Sitting Out the Stock Market – For Now

 Our Idiot-Elect still hasn’t gotten a lid on his tweeting.  What he doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about is that a single flippant statement from the Leader of the Free World can make markets drop in an instant.  Talking about trade wars with Mexico and China doesn’t help.  I remember when the stock market dropped in 1987 and my law school professors fled their classrooms to talk to their brokers.  I’ve worked too hard to regain the ground I lost in my 401(k) during the Great Recession to lose those gains in a volatile Trump market.  Like Jim Cramer, I don’t think the current “Trump Rally” is going to last.  And, as Jim Cramer says, “Bears make money, bulls make money, pigs get slaughtered.”  I’ve achieved a very healthy return on my 401(k) investments since the Great Recession.  I’m good.  I’m cashing out the stocks in my 401(k) and sitting on the sidelines until I figure out how crazy our future POTUS really is.  I’d rather not lose money than hope that I will make money.  I’m not going to be a pig about this.

o   Paying Off Credit Card Debt

I have more credit card debt that I’m comfortable with.  My goal is to get it all paid off by the end of Trump’s first and only term. My dad always says that debt is just another form of slavery.  Word.

·      Education

In my view, education is going to be indispensable for the next generation to be competitive in the job market, to be critical thinkers capable of seeing through Trump’s rhetoric, and to understand the effects of Trump’s policies on black people.  Black Man Not Blogging and I have taken it upon ourselves to provide advice, and, when possible, financial support to the young people in our family who want to go to college.  We have provided tutoring, supplemental educational materials, and insight on the college application process and preparing for college.  We will continue working to ensure that the young people in our family – and some of the older ones, too – who want to go to college can do so.

We don’t believe solely in college education as the only means of advancement.  Vocational education, trades, you name it – if it will help someone in our family get a stable job and earn a livable wage, we’re down to help.

·      Conscientious consumerism and entrepreneurialism

My intention during the Trump era is be conscientious about how and where I spend my money and to get my side hustle on so that I can do what I’ve encouraged others to do – to have more than one source of income.

In terms of conscientious consumerism, I’m going to be a lot more careful about the corporations with which I spend my money.  I will be spending a lot less at companies that supported Trump and more with those that didn’t.  I’m not going to work hard only for my money to be an instrument of racism, sexism, and any other of the isms to which our President-Elect is prone.

I’m also going to try to consume less.  I’ve been pretty good at shopping at thrift stores, clipping coupons, and keeping my costs low.  I’m just going to do less consuming of stuff and possibly more consuming of experiences.  Experiences, like travel, make me happy.

And when I do buy stuff, I’m going to actively seek out black businesses first.  I tend to do this with brick-and-mortar black business, but not as much with internet black businesses.  No more. I know better and intend to do better.

As for entrepreneurialism, I’ve got an iron in the fire for a new venture which should be taking off before the new year.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I would encourage everyone to have more than one source of income.

·      Supporting and Strengthening the Institutions That Support and Strengthen Black People

Every year, I receive a call from Harvard Law School asking for a donation.  I give.  Every year I am asked to do admissions interviews for Princeton.  I usually do.  But even without my minimal donations and participation, these institutions will endure.  They have, for hundreds of years.

I’ve decided to redirect my giving to those institutions that support and strengthen black people because those institutions may be under attack.  So instead of donating to Harvard Law, I will donate to an HBCU or the NAACP.  Instead of doing admissions interviews for Princeton, I will direct my time towards other institutions that support and strengthen my people.  Mind you, I’m not anti-Harvard or anti-Princeton, but as I learned from my parents, you give where the need is. All things black are now targets for unrepentant racists thanks to Mr. Trump, and they may remain so for a long time to come.  But they’re not going down.  Not on my watch.

·      Staying Out of the Criminal Justice System

I definitely intend to stay out of the criminal justice system, but I also intend to keep those I love out of it, too.  I voted for California’s Proposition 64 not because I love weed – I hate it, actually – but because of the provisions that allow for the expungement of criminal convictions for possession of marijuana that would now be legal.  I will have “that talk” with young people on what to do if they get arrested.  I will make myself available to help with expungements for my family members.  And I will keep my criminal defense attorneys on speed dial.  Yes, any attorney worth his or her salt has a criminal defense attorney friend.  Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.

·      Political Engagement – To Police the Government and, When Possible, Shape Its Laws and Policies

More than at any time during my existence, I am compelled to become politically engaged because our federal government is in the control of liars, demagogues, and those who stand for no principles whatsoever.  I’ve watched as people who rightly called out candidate Trump during the campaign have now deigned to entertain joining his administration or have joined it.  I’ve seen how the press has woken up too late to the normalizing of Trump’s racism, sexism, xenophobia and attacks on fundamental rights.  Now, more than ever, I am compelled to get and remain politically engaged, to raise my voice, to write this blog, to march, to support Black Lives Matter, and to stand up for those who would be the targets of Trump’s toadies.  Part of my approach in this regard is to tell people what they can do when they or their family is subject to discrimination in their schools, places of work, or public accommodations.  I went to law school to become a civil rights lawyer.  Although that is not my field of legal practice, I will be using my legal training to inform people who are under attack because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or place of birth of their legal rights.  I will be writing opposition letters.  I will call out racists, sexists, homophobes and xenophobes when they show their bias.  What I won’t be is silent.

·      Knowing My History

I know I draw great strength from learning black history and critical race theory.  The more I learn, the stronger I feel.  When I think of all that my ancestors came through, I can’t help but know that I’ll get through the Trump era.  I’ll be dusting off all of my Derrick Bell books, Bayard Rustin’s writings, Dr. King’s speeches, and black history tomes and immersing myself in the strength of my people. 

·      Spiritual Warfare – Because I Know Where My Strength Comes From.

I don’t have a church home, but I hope to find one.  But I don’t need a church home to wage spiritual warfare.  I’ve heard it said that there is nothing more powerful than a child of God with a made up mind, and that’s what I intend to become during the Trump era and beyond – a spiritual warrior on the side of righteousness, justice, equality and fairness.  Although I respect the right of atheists and agnostics to not believe, I can’t imagine having the strength to deal with what is to come without a belief in a higher power.  I know in the days to come I will be called to stand up not only for myself, but for others who can’t stand up for themselves.  I’ve already had to do this with my own Facebook family. Knowing that I’m doing the right thing and that God has my back makes it so much easier.

All in all, the days ahead will prove to be challenging.  I’m up for the challenge.  Are you?

I had a conversation with my 91 year-old dad, who has dementia.  I try to bring him good news about how our family is doing well and moving forward.  My father’s eyes have seen far worse than what Trump and his people are capable of inflicting.  We were talking about Trump, and he became very serious, saying, “Black people .  . . . we have to be strong.  We have to be prepared.  We have to keep on moving forward.”

I replied, “Because we’re not going back.”


He chuckled, “Oh no. We ARE NOT going back.”

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