Rebel Well: How to Help Each Other & Improve This Godawful Mess
This piece is part of Rebel Well: a Starter Survival Guide to a Trumped America for Teens and Emerging Adults.
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’― Fred Rogers
• Stand up for other people. Period.
• Be a safe haven. When you have to pick a seat on the bus, and see a woman sitting alone in hijab, sit next to her since you know you’re safe, and someone else might not be. If you see a woman alone in a group of men looking at all cagey, go stand next to her, or walk near her until they vamoose, something you can do without even interacting with her or bothering her at all.
• Don’t enable or ignore hate. Call it out whenever and wherever you can (with the understanding and given that sometimes it is too risky to one’s personal safety to do so). Call it out when it’s casual, call it out when it’s intense. CALL IT OUT. And if you can’t do any of that, do not actively contribute to it.
• If you’re white, you have white privilege — power, advantages, and benefits given to you by society because of the color of your skin. This is just one kind of privilege, and you can have white privilege while still being marginalized in other ways: For example, you might be a white woman, a white disabled person, a white queer person, a white trans person, a white Muslim! Privilege plays a very important role in how we interact with each other and we all have to be careful with our privilege, whether we are using it for good or being careful to avoid taking advantage of it.
Please understand that people of color do not owe you jack. They aren’t here to do your own emotional labor, or to be called or compelled to action by you (actions they were probably already doing before you saw a need for them, no less). White people have more to do with this current nightmare than anyone, and some of you may be feeling bad, especially those who didn’t do anything to help prevent this, or, worse still, did things that got us here in the first place. You’re likely to start feeling worse as things get worse and your guilt amplifies. You will be looking for others to help you feel better and assuage your guilt. It’s up to you to manage that on your own time. Don’t expect or ask people of color to be your educators, handholders, or mentors — they need to take care of themselves right now. It’s on you to do extra work, not them.
The same applies to other privileged relationships. Marginalized people are fighting hard for their survival right now, and remember the ring theory when you interact with people, whether they’re people of color, Native or Indigenous, disabled, LGBQ, trans, Muslim, poor, or any number of other things. If you want information and you want to help, that’s great! Take advantage of resources like Google to learn more about what communities are doing and how to help. Try searching for things like “how to help [community]” or “things [people like me] can do for [community],” or read books, websites, and columns like some of those we list below to learn more about what communities are experiencing and what they need. Attend community meetings when they are open to all. Volunteer with community organizations. Build trusting relationships, but be prepared to own your privilege, and don’t make promises you can’t keep.
The likelihood that your acts of resistance cannot stop the injustice does not exempt you from acting in what you sincerely and reflectively hold to be the best interests of your community. ― Susan Sontag, At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches
You may have some skills or access to privilege that can help others:
Privileged? Be a listener. Marginalized people often feel the need to self-censor or suppress their thoughts after a lifetime of being silenced. Be a person who is happy to sit and actively listen, without commenting, judging, or arguing: Be friendly, encouraging, and supportive to affirm someone’s humanity.
Bilingual? Offer to help monolingual immigrants navigate bureaucracy, schools, and other needs. Assist local groups with translation to ensure all their resources are available in multiple languages, and consider volunteering on hotlines or with direct service groups to ensure they always have someone bilingual on staff.
Experienced with kids? Offer to babysit so parents can accomplish critical errands or just get a little break.
Good at cooking? Organize a food or soup exchange so people in your community can take advantage of batch cooking to make nutritious, affordable food inexpensively by working in bulk, and trade it around so they’re not stuck with 10 gallons of bean soup at the end of the day.
Have a room to spare? Offer shelter to someone who doesn’t have one, whether driven out by transphobic family, fleeing a homophobic home, or seeking refuge in the wake of an immigration action. Or offer up the room for storage, a workspace, or temporary meeting place.
Have money? Pick a local community organization and donate to their work.
Have time? Volunteer for community organizations and local networks — drive people to abortion or other healthcare appointments, help parents pick up their kids from school, go on grocery runs for elders in your community. Consider making yourself a presence at government and community meetings, too, so you can advocate directly with the people who set policy.
Have a loving, safe family? Talk with them about what you can do together. Ask them to get on board with things like being willing to offer up a safe place for more vulnerable people, or to pitch in with your volunteering. Ask if they’ll provide respite for friends or neighbors hit harder by this change with something as simple as bringing by the occasional meal, a ride to a healthcare appointment, or walking someone feeling unsafe to or from school or work.
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. ― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
all of rebel well: front page • why we made this guide • for everyone • healthcare • relationships & sex • conflict resolution • for those suffering harassment online, at school or at work • for those in abusive/controlling relationships, or who are homeless, transient or in the foster system • for those who are trans or LGBQ • for those who are of color • for those who experience religious intolerance or who are undocumented citizens • for those who are disabled • for those interacting with the justice system • for those engaging in active protest • when everything seems terrible or nowhere feels safe • how to help each other & improve this godawful mess • resources and helplines