The world we are living in is one that Hollywood could never have dreamed up. A global pandemic ravaging the US because of governmental incompetence and active rejection of science and even common sense advice. Black and brown people a small fraction of the general population but grossly over represented in the mortality statistics. Suffering, not because of some sort of genetic predisposition but rather because of a broken healthcare system where Black and Brown people have high incidences of poorly managed chronic diseases and when they do get to the hospital recieve substandard care because of healthcare provider bias. In the setting of this, we hear stores of and watch videos where Black people are hunted and lynched in the street by civilians and policemen alike who receive no punishment for snuffing out the life of an innocent person. It is no surprise that tensions have exploded into nation and worldwide protests demanding for justice.
It is a whirlwind of emotion. Angry, sad, scared…fed up. Sometimes when there is so much to do, we wind up doing nothing because we don’t even know where to begin. Maybe it is not meant for you to be the next Fannie Lou Hamer or Stokely Carmichael. There is no ONE way to resist. There is no one way to be a revolutionary. So how can you help?
Ask yourself amongst all of the injustices, is there one in particular that most resonates with me? Just as saying that #BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean that other lives do not matter, you choosing to help in one part of the resistance doesn’t mean that you do not care about another part of a resistance. Give yourself the permission to focus on just one thing and shut out the outside noise.
What are my natural skills and gifts? Are you crafty? You can sew masks and donate them to a community clinic or a shelter for those who do not have stable housing. Are you extremely detail oriented? You can volunteer to help with administrative work in an organization that is doing work you want to support. Are you artistic? Pour your emotions out in your writing, drawing or paining. There is a reason dictators seek to censor the arts along with the news. Art causes people to look at old things in new ways. It encourages people to think outside of the box and motivates them towards action.
What are everyday issues to which I am exposed? We all know the refrain of “Don’t waste your food, there are starving children in Africa who would love to eat your dinner.” What about the starving child on the next block or next door? Why are we more comfortable donating money to the Red Cross than buying an extra meal for a person we see asking for food/money outside of the restaurant that we are about to enter. I would argue you make a bigger impact by acting locally than thinking that your every act of resistance needs to be on a global scale. Local activism can be more immediately effective and rewarding. If I buy someone dinner that person doesn’t go to bed hungry tonight. You improved their quality of life immediately.
Be honest with yourself about the time, physical and emotional bandwidth you have available. Take care of your personal obligations and figure out what you have left. Your contribution could be money, time, physical labor or even simply your physical presence. All of these things are needed at different times. If you are not up for walking for hours in a protest can you spend a few hours making phone calls in the telephone tree for an organizer or politician you believe in? Find out when your town or city council has meetings and show up. Even if you do not feel comfortable speaking the first time you show up, there is benefit in just being present for the discussion. It lets the council know that members of the community are actually paying attention to what they are doing and you also learn how they are thinking and what they are prioritizing.
The take home point is that there is no one perfect way to help. There are, unfortunately, so very many things that need to be fixed. There is no exact point of entry into or exit from “the struggle” we find a place that looks reasonable for us and jump in. Do what you can and take a break when you need to. Maybe exactly where you take your break there is someone waiting to jump in and pick up where you left off.