Feeling helpless over the state of the world? Terrified on behalf of others and no idea how to help? Losing sleep trying to catch up with everything that’s going on? Me too! Read on! Here’s a few suggestions of easy, but helpful ways, to increase your activism.
There’s absolutely no precedent for what’s happening at the moment. I feel like I can’t comment in passing: it’s too complicated and I’m too conflicted. A lot of people who previously have been uninterested in political events are now speaking out and finding their voices.What I can do is try to pull together some practical advice. The current climate is inspiring more and more people to get
They. Work. For. You. Say it louder for the people in the back. UK readers: does Theresa May check Twitter to see who supported her USA visit? No. Does Theresa May read every opinion piece and blog on her actions? No. Does Theresa May listen to one of her own MPs who says “Mrs May, this week I received thousands of e-mails from my constituents and on behalf of them I need to discuss this with you”? I’m not sure, but it’s a hell of a lot more likely. Never, ever forget that MPs work FOR YOU. Contact your local MP with your concerns – not just once, but as many times as you can. How is your MP voting on Article 50, or on Trump? Ask them what they are going to do. This is applicable for international readers as well.
I have two contrasting points to make here. The first is that if you don’t know something, that’s ok. A
friend asked me the other day why I was marching; “I thought women were equal? What’s left?”. Internally I was shocked, but I tried not to viciously attack back and instead have a discussion. Making friends feel like idiots is not the way forward. I’m no expert, there’s a lot I don’t know – and I want to feel like I can ask my friends questions if I’m confused over something. I want them to feel the same towards me.
It’s ok to have gaps in your knowledge – we all do – so don’t beat yourself up if you feel that is you. The trick is recognising your lack of knowledge; it can be painful and humbling to do so. But, if you can do that, and find ways to learn, grow, and educate yourself, we’re going to get through this. Discussion is welcome, as is research. Nobody is expecting you to become a professional analyst overnight – but equally, you can’t expect to sit around waiting for somebody to school you. If you read a particularly illuminating piece and feel like you learned something, then share it.
HOWEVER. If you’re a person directly affected by recent political events, then chances are you are reserving all your strength to keep your head up and hold on to some shred of morale. Chances are that the last thing you want to do is repeatedly explain yourself, and the issues connected to you and your identity, to others. These other people may be willing to learn and assist, but also probably haven’t thought about when and when is not an appropriate time to ask. I don’t expect all my friends to know what it’s like experiencing racism, which is why I wrote a post about it. That doesn’t mean I want to be a fulltime spokesperson for race issues, or that I am a one-stop encyclopaedia. I am neither of those things. We are affected by huge, complex issues, and there is no “single” voice for any of them.
Related: What It’s Like Not Being White
Last week, a lot of people asked: what will marching do? What do MPs debating a petition achieve? Of course it won’t mean legislature gets rewritten overnight. People marching in the street won’t reverse hundreds of years of a ingrained thinking. But it sends a message. People around the world get the message that something is not right in society. Vulnerable groups everywhere get the message that somebody is on their side. Politicians and governments get the message (whether they acknowledge it or not) that we are not happy and we will not stand by. Even if one single person feels a tiny bit more supported or welcome because you walked, it’s worth it.
Use your audience! Don’t be afraid to stand for what you think is right. Yes, you may lose followers. I’ve lost about 100 this week. It’s upsetting, but I’m going to stick to my guns and share information and hope that maybe, eventually, other people who feel the same will find me. At the end of the day it’s not exactly the most important thing happening right now. If your primary concern is your audience then recognise what a huge privilege that is.
Much of the administration and right wing media are playing a staggering game of smoke and mirrors type misdirection. Have we forgotten there’s still no plan for Brexit? There’s so much news that it’s stay ahead of the game. Try not to get wrapped up in minor arguments, and learn to recognise a shallow, ignorant troll from a misguided, uneducated person. Focus on specific issues that are important to you. If you fought every blistering battle with the same intensity, you’d burn out.
Also remember that you can’t categorise every piece of news as outright good or outright bad. Did the Women’s March have some flaws? Yes. Was it an overwhelmingly good and positive action? Yes. Nuance and vocabulary are important: but events are moving at the rate of knots and you have to try to stay abreast. There’s literally no time to argue: we need to organise and stick together. Recognise people may be more concerned over things that you consider less important. That’s ok.
Similarly, keep up to date with the news. I’ve taken to ignoring my usual Twitter feed and sticking to my “News” list. I’ve read less blogs this week but I’ve at least largely kept on top of what’s happening. I’m also RTing a LOT more than I normally do. I’ve lost many followers due to this but I want to help spread information for those who check their phones less. There are huge numbers of people who only check the news once a day. How can you cover all that ground in such a short space of time?
Related: Here is my news list – a random mix of news outlets, journalists and MPs – most journalists and news outlets have their own which you can subscribe to (I recommend)
This is the very first “rule for life” I learnt aged 8. You want to help globally, to show your support and alignment with certain ideas and opposition to others, right? Act locally. If you think there are too many people with backwards, uneducated views, then great: find one and talk to them. Treat your family and friends as your problem – start with your nearest and dearest. Talk about media, about policies, about who is and isn’t supplying fake news. It’s tough, but you CAN do it. Spread information – RT the news, sure, but follow it up with in-person discussions. Take care of your own; don’t expect somebody else to come along and sort it for you.
Another thing you can do on the Acting Local front is show support for people of colour, for immigrants, for Muslims. These can be tiny, simple actions. RT a blog post of a Muslim blogger. Support a local black-owned business. Follow more PoC and diversify your feed. Representation begins at home. Make it YOUR problem and work at it daily. I’m not suggesting you burn yourself out – but remember, there are people out there for whom this is urgent, and life-altering, and they are affected right now. We owe it to them to help.
We can’t all write an in-depth article exploring the nuances of race in today’s society. God knows I’ve tried, and it’s beyond my ability. What I CAN do is share my own experiences, or compile a list of practical ways to help such as this. Similarly, I am not a human rights lawyer able to drop everything and head to JFK to assist passengers. What I CAN do is take an hour of my wages and send it to a charity that helps support and connect these lawyers with people who urgently need help. Donating money is an incredibly easy and effective way to offer support. Trust me: I earn very little, but I know that even a £1 donation will help to add up.
You may think there is nothing you can do, but guaranteed there is something you’re good at. Case study: my Aunt lives in the middle of nowhere in a white, small American town. There are no marches or rallies, and she doesn’t use the internet. What she did over the weekend was write stacks and stacks of letters to send to her local MP: she used her time and her understanding to do something productive. However far removed you think you are, I guarantee, there is something you can do to help.
Volunteer your time: DOST centre (Londoners only but google for similar near you).
This weekend I received a lot of messages asking more about “standing up for things” – is it draining, will I get attacked, where can I learn more? I’m not sure if I seem like a grizzled soldier from the frontline of justice, but the truth is: I don’t know. I live by my morals and beliefs, yes, but I’m not half as active I would like to be. I GUESS: try to find patience. Constantly remind yourself what is and isn’t ok. Look after yourself, take a break if you need, but recognise that being able to do so is a MASSIVE privilege. Don’t normalise things that terrify you, don’t pick up every argument. It gets easier to stick to your guns, and helping even 10% more than you did yesterday is a positive move. You’re not alone – strength in numbers. We can do this X
p.s. you can ask questions here – and leave your suggestions for others. x