Small Acts Of Resistance Make A Big Difference

by Noor Al-Sibai
Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

There's no doubt that things have gotten much darker in America since Donald Trump was elected president in November. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate crimes and public acts of bigotry rose in the immediate aftermath of the elections, and President Trump and the newly-emboldened Republican Congress wasted no time introducing legislation that will severely limit the rights of the most vulnerable Americans. But there has been a silver lining — people have begun participating in small acts of resistance against bigotry in Trump's America to let those most affected by the rising tide of hatred know that they aren't alone.

Ahead of Trump's inauguration on Jan. 21, Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice, called for small acts of daily resistance to counter the effects Trump and his ilk will have on the presidency. Although organizations like NARAL, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, and many others are doing the legal and fundraising work to counter Trumpism, it's small acts like erasing anti-Semitic graffiti, showing support for Muslims, and boycotting Trump's televised appearances that will make a difference from the bottom-up. These small acts of daily resistance show that the fight against legalized bigotry isn't just for our lawmakers, but for everyone who wants a safer and more just America.

New Yorkers Scrubbed Nazi Graffiti In An Ingenious Way

When New Yorkers saw a train car full of Nazi-inspired graffiti, they were stunned — and, in classic "get it done" New York fashion, they decided they needed to clean it off. One person announced that alcohol gets rid of Sharpie, and another realized that hand sanitizer contains alcohol.

According to Gregory Locke, an attorney who was in the train car when this spontaneous cleaning occurred, people began pulling out hand sanitizer and wipes, and together, cleaned off all the swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti in the car. The story soon went viral, and people around the country began celebrating this small but powerful act of resistance.

An Author's Viral Campaign To Encourage #SmallActs To Protest Trump's Agenda

In the immediate aftermath of Trump's election, author Celeste Ng started the #smallacts social media campaign to give people ideas for everyday acts of resistance. In an interview with Bustle in Nov. 2016, Ng, who wrote a novel titled Everything I Never Told You in 2014, explains why she began the viral movement:

"In the face of such a huge problem, I felt powerless and demotivated myself. So I tried to think of small, tangible actions I and others could take to spread tolerance and fight the hate being fostered by the incoming administration, and started tweeting them out."

It worked, and in the first few weeks after the election, the #smallacts campaign brought a much-needed sense that Americans weren't going to allow Trumpism to flourish without a fight.

A Mini-Protest In The New York Subway

After the election, New Yorkers (like the rest of us) struggled to make sense of who and what our country had just elected to its highest office. To help his fellow subway riders deal, Matthew "Levee" Chavez began the Subway Therapy art instillation in Manhattan's Union Square subway station.

According to Chavez, the installation wasn't just meant to be about Trump or the election, but about "stress relief" and community as well. Subway Therapy became so popular and recognizable that Chavez created a second iteration of the instillation in lower Manhattan after the inauguration, and is reportedly saving all the sticky notes from the now-viral work of art to be housed in the New-York Historical Society archives.

A White Man's Olive Branch To His Local Muslim Community

A few weeks after the election, a photo of a cowboy-hat clad man holding a sign outside of the Islamic Center of Irving in Irving, Texas, went viral. The man's name is Justin Normand, and he told the Washington Post that he didn't do it for the viral fame he'd soon acquire, but rather to tell his fellow Texans that they belonged in their shared community:

It is the message — not me — that is transcendent. I just spoke what is on a lot of people’s minds.

This small act went viral because of how rare it seemed to many — a white person (in a cowboy hat, no less) proclaiming his support for Muslims in the face of extreme Islamophobia from Trump and his supporters.

Just a few months after Normand's show of solidarity, another mosque in Texas was set on fire, proving that the need for small acts of kindness and bravery like Normand's are so necessary.

Solidarity Between Jews & Muslims

When Trump issued the executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, people all over the country came together to express support for Muslims detained in airports and affected by the ban. One of the greatest acts of solidarity, however, came from another persecuted religious group — since the election, Jewish groups have begun protesting for the rights and safety of Muslims. The above photo from the Chicago Tribune perfectly captured the amazing connection between the two Abrahamic religions in their dual fight against legally-sanctioned bigotry, discrimination, and violence based solely on ill-conceived religious stereotypes.

After The Immigration Ban, A Growing Trend Of Donating To The ACLU

In the swift response to Trump's so-called "Muslim ban," the American Civil Liberties Union introduced the first legal challenged to the ban on behalf of two Iraqi men with valid immigrant visas who were detained on their way home to the states when the order came down. Their successful lawsuit, which became the first of multiple stays issued by federal judges on the ban, inspired many Americans to not only donate to the ACLU, but to match donations and donate the proceeds for various items to the legal rights group. These campaigns were so successful that the ACLU raised $24 million the weekend following the ban.

Successful Campaigns That Urge Constituents To Call Congress In Protest Of Trump Appointments

As news began breaking hard and fast about Trump's motley crew of cabinet appointments, people began calling Congress like never before. A few days after the election, Emily Ellsworth, a former Congressional staffer, made a now-viral Twitter thread on the best way to contact your representatives, and since then, people haven't just been calling more, but calling smarter.

It seems to be working — after the new Congress moved to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics weeks before Trump had even been sworn in, people deluged Congress with calls, and the House reversed their decision. People have been calling Congress so much, in fact, that Congress's phone system has experienced technical difficulties due to the estimated 1.5 million phone calls per day being made to Capitol Hill. As a political operative, I've never seen this much civic engagement, and grassroots efforts like 5 Calls that make it easier than ever to call your reps.

A Growing Need For Self-Care

In the activism world, the term "self-care" has long been a buzzword used to denote the time spent "off" from the hard and exhausting work of protest and resistance. As more and more people join the movement against Trump's agenda, the need for self-care is greater than ever. With constant bad news from the Oval Office, people have begun sharing their ways to stay sane in #TrumpsAmerica.

One popular article, titled "How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind," suggested excellent and simple ways to take care of ourselves in such troubling times. With more new activists than ever before, seasoned activists must share their means of survival with these green protesters.

There are so many acts of everyday resistance that people are now undertaking in the age of Trump. They are as individual and important as every member of this new movement, and whether you choose to donate your money, take care of your community, or call Congress, each little bit adds up to the larger whole of #TheResistance.