The last few months have been incredibly challenging for the world. In the middle of a global pandemic, human rights violations abound with governments silencing critics, taking away healthcare and even coddling those who abuse power.
Many of these issues sparked a lot of online conversation and coverage, with widespread protests (both on the street and on the internet) being hot topics online. However, as a new month rolls in and these issues slowly move out of the trending lists, it might look like resolutions have been met and these issues are no longer worth talking about.
But for the minorities protesting and fighting for issues like Black Lives Matter and Pride, this is their everyday. For them, the fight never stops. The news cycle may slow down and media coverage may turn their attention to other “hotter” issues but that doesn’t make their cause any less important. When that happens, the responsibility to keep the conversation going falls solely on the shoulders of the people fighting for it and their allies. It’s a pretty big responsibility, especially if you’re not used to it. So here are some ways you can help keep the conversation going.
Discriminatory practices are learned, internalized and rarely questioned. Our society has been shaped by and continues to benefit the norm which excludes women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, the poor and oppressed.
Recognizing the small and seemingly simple instances where your internalized racism, homophobia or apathy comes out is the first step to eliminating them. Look at your belief systems and recognize how they can sometimes be informed by discrimination—getting too tan is ugly, gay people will hit on you unprovoked, speaking out isn’t necessary because it doesn’t affect you directly. Then, take that difficult but important first step in unlearning these behaviors.
Seek out educational materials for yourself
Information about important issues may not always appear on your timeline or newsfeed, especially when the people you follow don’t talk about the issues important to you anymore. That’s when we have to start actively seeking out information. It’s important to engage people who are part of marginalized communities in discussions to know more about their fight and how you can help, however, the burden of educating yourself falls on your own shoulders. You can follow and learn from activists and friends who are leading conversations about difficult issues but never demand them to take your education into their own hands.
We’re privileged to have information easily accessible to us—now’s the time to use that privilege into actively seeking out books, films, songs, podcasts, documentaries and articles that can help you understand the history behind the struggle of oppressed communities and how best you can challenge and work against those biased notions.
Walk the talk offline
You’ve done it: clocked your discriminatory behaviors and informed yourself as much as you can on how to be a better ally. But it doesn’t stop there. Activism and allyship don’t stop when you log out and put your phone down. Diversifying your reading lists, playlists or feeds is just one easy step.
Go out of your way to support indigenous-owned businesses. Don’t alienate LGBTQ+ acquaintances. Donate to organizations that need it. Reduce your fast fashion shopping spree. Educate friends and loved ones about issues. If you can, join protests. Make space for these marginalized communities in your life, whether by listening to them, befriending them, supporting them or even simply knowing about them. Don’t forget that the goal of fighting for equality is for everyone to have a seat at the table.
Understand that it’s not about you
Your mindset in educating yourself, changing your behaviors and diversifying your circles isn’t meant to be self-gratifying. If you’re doing this to make yourself look smart, to make you popular or for people to perceive you as “woke,” then you’ve already failed. The objective of these is to create a better society; one that does not alienate any community.
Allyship is continuous and always directed outward. You better yourself in the process, sure, but you also have to better the world around you, the systems that inform you and the institutions that lead you. Activism is not just a trend, it’s a lifestyle directed toward making life for others better.
Art by Dana Calvo
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