Speak up, just do not forget to act

Immediately after I got the news last Wednesday morning that Donald Trump had won the presidential election, I started seeing calls to action. Online and in person, people were encouraging one another to continue the fight to make the world a safe place for everyone, despite the dismal outlook that the election brought.

I found myself sharing things online about the election before the results had really set in.

“Elections are commas, not periods,” said one tweet by @WhitfordBradley on Twitter. “The people we love can’t afford cynicism and apathy. Action is the antidote to despair. Re-engage. Now.”

However, many don’t know how to be there for the people they care about who are most affected and marginalized or what to do if they are the ones on the margins. Wearing a safety pin to show support has gone viral recently, as well as significant pushback against the idea by people who say it doesn’t do anything.

In short, people are confused about how to be effective allies or how to help marginalized people from positions of privilege. So here are a few suggestions from someone who is also still learning. I got many of these ideas from @siliconphospho on Twitter, who did an excellent job of consolidating many ideas into one tweet thread.

And forgive me if I’m blunt. In the wake of an election that truly has dangerous implications for significant portions of the population, I think the time has come for a little bluntness.

First, do your homework. Reading Buzzfeed headlines and keeping up with your liberal friends’ Facebook newsfeeds is not enough to call yourself “woke.” Learn about the root causes of the problems we face, from neoliberalism to white supremacy to patriarchy. Look up what intersectional feminism actually means. This will prepare you to do the real work.

Next, have real conversations with others who are like you. If you are white and your uncle starts saying things you disagree with about Black Lives Matter at Thanksgiving, do something about it. If you want him to hear you, start by listening to what he thinks and calmly asking questions that help him think critically about his opinions, then offer your own point of view, aiding your argument with points you know you both agree with and real stories of people that you both know.

And don’t just call out close friends and family members, engage with everyone you know. Be willing to shut down jokes, point out falsehoods and stereotypes and even step in when you see someone being hateful to someone from a marginalized group. Call your lawmakers and engage with other people in power as well.

Also, show up when people of color, LGBTQA people, disabled people and others ask you to. Whether that means going to a protest nearby or showing up to dull meetings that get the work done behind the scenes.

The most important thing is to center the voices of those who are most ignored, marginalized and threatened by societal forces. This means listening to what people have to say, changing your actions if asked, working on your own to do better, amplifying voices speaking truth to power and checking in to offer your support.

When you decide to speak up about injustice, you can’t allow your social media posts or a safety pin on your shirt to speak for you. Let your actions speak.