9 Moments That Gave Us Hope This Year

Image via Flickr user seaternity

One year after the 2016 election, political action, activism, and social engagement have remained areas of staunch resistance. While we play the long game to get rid of our Tweeter-in-Chief and his ilk, we’re celebrating some of our touchdowns along the way. Here’s a list of huge moments of spontaneous resistance, premeditated badassery, and unexpected solidarity we saw this year.

1. Women’s March assembles a movement of resistance

On January 21st, people across the world took to the streets in protest of Donald Trump’s inauguration and the threat his administration poses to human rights. What began as the Women’s March on Washington drew solidarity worldwide as a pledge of resistance against President Trump. It was a moving expression of community and reminded us to look to our neighbors, coworkers, family, friends, and complete strangers for strength in solidarity. The marches turned victimization into dissent, the marginalized into a plurality

2. Maxine Waters reclaims her time, drags the Trump administration

It’s hard to contain Representative Maxine Waters in a single moment of resistance. Her whole career has been predicated upon a refusal to sit down and shut up. Beloved of activists young and old, Waters has ignited a spark with her unremitting condemnations of Trump—she did not attend his inauguration, she continues to drag Trump’s entire administration on national TV, she insists on resistance to Trump as a point of policy. Waters has shown up first, loudest, and most frequently on causes big and small, demonstrating a remarkable political foresight only obvious to most lawmakers in hindsight. As for what we can look forward to from Maxine Waters, she said it best when she said it herself: “I have to attribute to this president that he so offended me that he inspired me. He inspired me to do something about him.”

3. Elizabeth Warren reads Coretta Scott King letter

Elizabeth Warren, queen of the timely takedown, reminded everyone of the racist legacy of Jeff Sessions during his June 2017 confirmation hearing. She attempted to read aloud Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter concerning Jeff Sessions’s nomination to become a federal judge, which cited his efforts toward systematic suppression of the Black vote. Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to silence Warren, dismissing her from the confirmation hearing altogether because “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Senator Warren finished reading the letter in full at the senate doors.        

4. Carmen Yulin Cruz wears “Nasty” t-shirt

Seven weeks after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is still experiencing limited electricity and access to medical supplies. On September 20th, the day the storm made landfall, a nightmarish relationship began between local officials and the Trump administration. When the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, pleaded, in tears, for help that should have been extended by the federal government, Trump took it personally and, as he is known to do, proceeded to tweet about her. Trump, repeating his usual sexist characterization of women who challenge him, called her criticism of him “nasty.” The following day, Cruz proudly wore the epithet on a t-shirt during an interview for all the world to see.

5. Pramila Jayapal responds after being called “young lady” on the House floor

When Representative Pramila Jayapal appeared on the House floor in September to debate a wildlife management amendment to the 2018 spending plan, Representative Don Young of Alaska cut her off, saying Representative Jayapal “doesn’t know a damn thing what she’s talking about.” He topped off his condescending remarks by referring to the congresswoman as “young lady.” Without missing a beat, Jayapal demanded Young’s comments be stricken from the record and called him out on his unprofessional conduct. This exchange came as no surprise, but speaks to an atmosphere of bold and brazen sexism in Washington, exemplified from its highest ranks on down. When Jayapal, or any woman, shuts sexism down without apology, we are reminded: This is not acceptable, this is not normal.

6. Jemele Hill calls Donald Trump a white supremacist

When the ESPN sports anchor Jemele Hill tweeted, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists,” the White House called her expression of free speech a “fireable offense.” ESPN suspended Hill for two weeks, stirring followers and activists to speak out on the hypocrisy and baselessness of her punishment. After all, the president himself faces no consequences for prolific and unprofessional tweet storms, not to mention for his shameless attempts to silence dissent. But Hill will not be silenced, though she recognizes Twitter as an imperfect platform for nuanced conversations. “This is not,” she writes, “a time for retreating comfortably to a corner.”

7. The NFL finally takes a knee

Colin Kaepernick’s #TakeAKnee demonstration started as a protest in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement last year, but not many people followed his lead. It wasn’t until Trump called on NFL owners to fire any player taking a knee during the national anthem that over 130 players, as well as several NFL franchise owners, knelt or linked arms the following Sunday. As Trump becomes an increasingly egregious symbol of white supremacy, escalating and goading racial tensions, even America’s sacred darling, football Sunday, can’t stay quiet. (But let’s not forget that none of those teams hired Kaepernick after he was left out to dry for his original protests.)

8. Senators speak out against the Graham-Cassidy Healthcare Bill

U.S. Senate Floor

The second and final attempt (for this year, anyway) by Republicans to repeal and maybe replace Obamacare was met with criticism from politicians, comedians, and activists. As rights to the minimum of health coverage became subject to a disastrous effort to roll back the Obama administration’s achievements, unexpected voices rose to speak passionately on behalf of a universal right to health care. After Senators John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins killed a “skinny repeal” in late July, Senators Lindsay Graham and Bill Cassidy returned a couple months later with an even worse version of the Republicans’ defeated proposal that received immediate pushback.

9. U.S. mayors defend sanctuary cities

Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened in late March to reduce funding to “sanctuary cities”—cities that break with federal immigration enforcement and offer a refuge to targeted immigrants. Withholding federal funds is not the brainchild of the Trump administration, but has resurfaced with vigor as Trump fans the flames of anti-immigrant sentiment in fear-mongering rhetoric and lazy appeals to nationalism. The mayors of the United States’ current sanctuary cities stood unmoved by Sessions’s threat, coming out publicly in unflinching support of all who call these cities home. “Today, we heard from the U.S. attorney general on his plea to sanctuary cities to uphold the law,” said mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville, Massachusetts. “Well, we have a plea to him too: Uphold the U.S. Constitution, uphold the truth, uphold our American values.”

by Sabrina Nelson
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Sabrina Nelson is a senior at Reed College, studying for a degree in Sociology. She is interested in the disparity in access to healthcare, food security, and education, and is writing her senior thesis on menstrual inequality and the emerging menstrual movement. When not immersed in those worlds, she spends her time laughing really loudly, writing poetry and reading books about witches. Sabrina loves the ocean, really long walks and baking without a recipe. 

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