The Choice by Keah Brown

On resistance, black joy, disability and work to do by #DisabledAndCute creator Keah Brown.

There is a choice we must make. The choice isn’t between Democrats or Republicans or right or left. It is about right versus wrong and good versus evil. This statement may seem dramatic, but we are living in times that call for dramatic flair. We are only 15 days into the new administration and so much irreparable damage has been done. By the end of January, at least 18 executive actions had been signed, including: an executive order to move forward with the Dakota Access pipeline, a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a freezing of all regulations, an illegal Muslim ban, threats to the DREAM Act and a freezing of the federal workforce. (The full list is here.)

Keah Brown

With his crude, false, defensive, insulting and threatening tweets to and about “Saturday Night Live” cast members, leaders of other countries, actresses, reporters and press outlets — and now to a federal judge who ruled against his unchecked, anti-American, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee travel ban — the president spends far too much time concerned with how he is seen by other people and too little time concerned with people themselves and the devastating national and international harm he is causing. Instead, he is focused on a proposed investigation into voter fraud of the election that he won (despite the fact that he lost the popular vote). Instead of denouncing the the Ku Klux Klan, he downplayed the importance of the Jewish people on Holocaust Remembrance Day and gave an uninformed appreciation to former slave and abolitionist hero Frederick Douglass on the first day of Black History Month. He is tone-deaf and dangerous.

The truth is, the election of our current president drudged up the ugliest parts of American history and championed them. A spike in hate crimes almost immediately followed the announcement that Trump had won the presidency. America, despite its many faults, should be a place for and of all people. Instead, America is a place that punishes black and brown people at alarming rates for doing almost anything and has a known white supremacist, Steve Bannon, playing a significant advisory role in the White House. News shows now feature politicians and their spokespeople calling outright lies “alternative facts.” We stopped having the luxury of ignoring politics, of trusting the process and hoping for the best, on Election Night. We can no longer sit idly by while America tears itself apart, from the inside out, while its “leader” boasts about ratings and crowd sizes.

Knowing what we know so far about the new administration and its plans for the next four years, we can do three things to fight, survive and thrive:

First, resist. Allow yourself room to say, “No, this is not OK and I will not stand for it.” Resistance happens in protest — make your voice heard and your opinions known as well as lifting up the voices of those outside your community.

Second, support reputable news organizations, the same ones that Trump and his supporters have waged war against: The New York Times, the Washington Post and Teen Vogue. Let them know that you value the work they are doing, that in choosing to spread the truth and call racism, xenophobia and hatred by their true names, they are leading the resistance, too. We cannot let facts become alternative or exchange the truth for lies. We must be smarter and remain critical of the new administration.

Finally, we must make the time to take care of ourselves. We can’t fight and resist if we are not at our best, and being at our best means taking breaks and finding joy amid all of this.

Speaking of joy, as we enter February, it is important to give black people the space to have and feel joy. We get only 28 days to celebrate ourselves and our people and now, more than ever, we deserve that.

While letting black people have our joy, we must all also remember that the fight is far from over. If anything, it has just begun, and while the women’s marches across the country were important and necessary, there was an erasure of black women’s voices, a dismissal of our stories and the wars we have already been fighting. Attending the Women’s March was a step in the right direction, but it is important to spend Black History Month raising and championing the voices of all black women and people. In order to push the movement forward, it is imperative that we go beyond women’s marches, that we show up for Black Lives Matter protests — that we care about black lives before they are taken. If you are an ally who can’t attend protests due to physical or invisible disability, you can donate to causes that support the Black Lives Matter movement; talk to your friends, family and acquaintances who are perpetuating stereotypes about the movement and amplify our voices using your platform.

The same support should be extended to our Muslim brothers and sisters and everyone affected in the seven countries on the ban list, whose families have suffered, regardless of whether they had legal visas — even though no known terrorist has come from any of the countries on the list.

The time is now to fight and work toward an America that aims to be “The Dream,” that allows black and brown people the right to live freely and well. The America that ends the wage gap and affords every woman and gender-nonconforming person access to healthcare and does not infringe on our reproductive rights. The America that treats people with disabilities like people, not stories of inspiration or pity. People with disabilities in all our intersections deserve the right to healthcare that will not only allow us to live but to live full and long lives. Throughout history, the American dream has only truly been accessible to white, able-bodied people, and it is time to change that.

Yesterday, justice won when Federal Judge James L. Robart temporarily halted the president’s travel ban and lifted restrictions, starting immediately. Today is Rosa Parks’ birthday and the freedom rider would be proud. She stood up by sitting down. But there are still miles to go in this fight. How will you stand up?

There is a choice we must make: the choice to be on the right side of history or the wrong one, to say, “I fought in the face of fascism” or “I just went along for the ride.” I have made my choice. Will you?

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Keah Brown reads a lot of books and watches far too much TV. Music is her third favorite thing after cheesecake and pizza, of course. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Literary Hub, Catapult and Lenny Letter, among other publications. She is the creator of the #DiabledAndCute hashtag, promoting visibility and self-acceptance for people with disabilities. Follow her on Twitter: @Keah_Maria.

Image: Detail from “More Than Love” featured with permission by Haitian artist Watson Mere, creator of “My Brother’s Keeper.” Learn more about his work at his website, artofmere.com, and follow him on Instagram at @artofmere_.