How You Can Stand Up for Civil Rights, Right Now

In the last week, a wave of hate crimes has been sweeping through the US. People have taken to social media decrying them, and trying to figure out what to do to help. There have been messages of both anger and support, with people organizing for rallies and donating to civil rights organizations in droves.

Regardless of who you voted for, it is our duty to take a stand for civil rights and against bigotry. But at this moment, it can be hard to know how to move forward. So here’s a list of things we should all be doing – and a few more to do if you can.

(Note: This list is not exhaustive and is likely to be updated. If you know something I should add or have a reason I should take something off the list, please let me know!)

We all should be:

  1. Signing petitions

    • Petition for Congress to ban assault weapons here.
    • Petition to declare the KKK a terrorist group here.
    • Petition against anti-LGBT laws being snuck into the annual defense spending bill here.
    • Petition to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock here.
    • Petition for Merrick Garland to be appointed to the Supreme Court here.
  2. Contacting our representatives in Congress

    • According to Emily Ellsworth, a former congressional staffer, your best bet is to pick up the phone and call them. Make sure they know the issues that matter to you! See her advice on making an impact here.
    • Not sure who to contact? Look up your representatives in the House and the Senate by zip code.
  3. Making sure we’re registered to vote – and so is everybody else we know.

    In 2020 the next decennial census gets taken. At that time, districts will be redrawn based on who is registered to vote. That means having everybody registered at that time will be crucial to the political map being redrawn accurately. If people you know aren’t registered to vote make sure they know how important it is. Keep at them about it!

  4. Improving ourselves, so we’re not the source of the problem

    Listen and believe

    When we’re told that we just did or said something sexist, racist, Islamophobic, etc. we need to believe it! Instead of getting defensive, we should seek to understand what we did and improve ourselves going forward.

    Educate ourselves

    We shouldn’t have to always be told we just did something bigoted. That’s a lot of work for the people we’re being awful to! Instead, we should be educating ourselves:

    Attend an anti-racism training

    • The National Coalition Building Institute and The People’s Institute both offer anti-racism training. Or look here to search for one more convenient to you. If you’re white, take one! Convince your white friends and family to go with you.

    Consume media (news, fiction, and nonfiction) from diverse creators and share that content with others. Here are some book lists to get you started:

    • See Huffington Post’s list of 16 books about race that every white person should read here.

    • For LGBT issues, check out PFLAG’s recommended reading list here.

    • To understand Islam (and Islamophobia) better, look at Charter for Compassion’s reccommended reading list here.

    • For reading on disabilities and the experience of having them, check out the NLCDD’s list of resources here.

    • To better grasp the immigrant experience, look at these 17 books.

    • For books on feminism, as well as a host of other topics involving implicit biases, check out these 101-level recommendations.

  5. Standing up to bigots around us

    We need to do this even (especially) when they’re family or friends! Be willing to have the hard conversations, making it clear that we don’t agree with bigoted beliefs. White people: talk to your parents about not being racist. Straight people: talk to your straight friends about not being homophobic. Etc. The work shouldn’t fall on the people who are the target of the hate.

    Learn about the concept of microaggressions – the small, everyday ways that bigotry gets expressed – so that you can stand up for people when they’d otherwise be hurt. (Look here, here, and here for good introductions to the concept.) If the bigotry isn’t aimed at you, your intervention will be much more effective than anything the target could do. Use that power for good!

    If you’re seeing more overt bigotry, take a stand. Overtly watching, filming, and giving expressions of support to the target can work wonders. Not sure what to do? Look at this comic on how to intervene when you see bigotry happening around you.

  6. Supporting people who need it

    Use the idea of concentric circles of support: give support to people more affected than you, receive support from people less affected than you. Basically, know when it is and when it isn’t about you and your feelings.

    When dealing with people more affected than us, it’s most important to acknowledge their experiences and validate their feelings. We don’t need to make it about us! Remember: giving other people support is about what we can do for them, not about showing off that we’re good people. We don’t need an audience or thanks for it to be worth doing.

  7. Taking care of ourselves

All of this is hard work! Make sure to take care of yourself (eat, sleep, do things that make you feel good.) Just don’t let that stop you from doing things which actually help others!

In addition, if we can, we should:

  • Organize to pass more city-wide non-discrimination ordinances. See if your city has one and, if so, whether it covers enough categories.
  • Institute non-discrimination policies in groups and workplaces we belong to.
  • Go to or organize a protest.
  • Explicitly mark places as safe: hang BLM signs and rainbow flags, mark bathrooms as gender neutral, etc. Then live up to that promise by acting in ways that keep your spaces safe.
  • Think about what you can offer people who need it. Expertise? A room? Time? Money? Take action to help others.
  • Donate to and volunteer at organizations working on issues you care about:

What do you do to stand up for civil rights? Are there resources/things to do that I should add to (or take off) the list? Please let me know with a comment below or by tweeting me @ShaerlinSpeaks. Thanks!

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