The shockwaves from the November election and the subsequent ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency have impacted communities differently. As Dr. Krystal Redman, the executive director of Georgia-based SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, pointed out, “This is not the first time we’ve ever had a racist president.”
That sentiment might seem out of sync for some on the left, particularly newly engaged activists who have been energized precisely because they view Trump as a step back or a break from the path America was on. For instance, after the election, many white women were shocked to find a majority of their peers voted for Trump.
As many folks join local resistance groups, the influx of new people on the left will inevitably lead to larger conversations about the values and strategies of progressives.
Dr. Redman was recently featured in a report from the Ms. Foundation for Women and the Roosevelt Institute titled, “Justice Doesn’t Trickle Down: How Racialized and Gender Rules are Holding Women Back.” The report addresses the need for the left to continue to center race and gender in conversations about justice, and resist the pull towards a framework that only looks at issues through an economic lens.
Just before the report came out, Dr. Redman sat down with Better Georgia to talk about her own perspectives on building power and resisting Trump.
Her organization, SPARK, primarily works to build the leadership of women of color, and queer and trans people of color through a reproductive justice framework — meaning that they try to see how issues as diverse as mass incarceration, living wages, access to healthcare and housing policies are interrelated, and impact people differently based on their identify, geography and history.
“I think it’s really important to note that since this shift in our political environment and the election, a lot of communities of color and people of color led organizations have been in deep conversations about how do we build power — our own power — within our communities as individuals, as collective groups, and as organizations,” Dr. Redman shared.
By her analysis, groups — whether it’s the White House administration or local organizations — should reflect their communities, particularly the people most impacted by the decisions being made. When that doesn’t happen, important perspectives get left out.
“You know like the White House table, who all is sitting in these seats of power? Making decisions about education, about healthcare, about our environmental health, about all these different things,” she said. These people, she added, “do not at all represent what our community looks like, or even what our nation looks like.”
Dr. Redman was critical of how this dynamic plays out, expressing concern when the people at the literal and metaphorical table, “all look a certain way but maybe are not directly affected by the roll-out of these policies or what have you, then there’s a problem.”
She also shared her thoughts on the ways the resistance to the Trump administration has been organized. She was concerned about the ways people of color and people of color led organizations have not been included — or have been included last minute — in, for instance, The Women’s March.
“But because of the actions that took place after [Trump’s election], like all these marches, and understanding that this disalignment, it seemed, with white allies and communities of color. I mean with all good intentions of ‘we need to stand up against what’s going on’ and everything. But there’s this unalignment,” Dr. Redman said.
She encouraged newly engaged activists, particularly white folks, to think about the ways they have access to power and opportunities to influence others. Folks can be mindful to pass the mic, so to speak, and share those opportunities, bringing in people who are the most directly impacted.
“I think it’s important if they want to be allies or advocates or whatever, to understand when and if you should speak. Like ‘hey, look, I have the ability to access this level of power, let me connect the individuals that are directly affected by this and the leader within that movement and bring them to the table,’” she said.
Dr. Redman’s group is going to continue to focus on building power within their community, as they’ve been doing.
“This is the time to build our own power,” she said.