Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
What can I do? How can I help?
After the election, these questions echoed across the dinner tables and Facebook pages of well-meaning Americans. They emerged again after the violence at the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
For many longtime activists, the influx of eagerness is welcome but bittersweet. As musician/comedian Jean Grae tweeted:
It’s good to see you here.
It is. I have good tears abt it.
Just….it’s been so long…we’ve been screaming and dying for SO LONG.
— Juror no.59 (@JeanGreasy) August 16, 2017
With that in mind, there are a variety of ways to help, both for Charlottesville specifically and to fight racism in general. This is not only about one incident, it’s about how America got here in the first place, and the difficult but essential work of confronting and fighting racism, within ourselves and in our country.
What You Can Do to Provide Immediate Support to Charlottesville Organizers and Those on Their Side
An article by Solidarity Cville, a coalition of anti-racist Charlottesville activists, including members of Black Lives Matter, offers eight suggestions on how to help. We’ve listed two below, but encourage you to read the entire piece:
2. Call the offices of Judge Richard Moore, Charlottesville Circuit Court at (434) 970-3766, and demand that he dismiss an upcoming case that disputes the ability of the city council to remove the Robert E. Lee memorial that set off the violence. Solidarity Cville provides a sample script:
I’m leaving a message for Judge Moore regarding the upcoming Monument Fund hearing, scheduled for August 30. As someone concerned about community safety, I strongly urge you to join the city of Charlottesville in dismissing this case, which will continue to sow violence in the community. Thank you.
You can also donate to the Charlottesville chapters of the NAACP, the ACLU and a variety of crowdfunding platforms to cover medical expenses for activists injured in the attacks, including Natalie Romero, Deandre Harris and a general medical fund for all 19 people injured.
Want even more organizations? There’s a continuously updating Google document of resources you can add to. Comedian Sara Benincasa has also compiled a large list of everything from the Legal Aid Justice Center to the Black Student Alliance at UVA.
Not in Charlottesville, But Related
Student activist Takiyah Thompson, 22, was arrested for taking down a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina. She was charged with two felonies for inciting and participating in a riot where property damage exceeds $1,500, plus two misdemeanors for disorderly conduct and damage to property. She was able to post $10,000 bail, but you can donate to the Durham County Freedom Fighter Bond Fund to help her and other low-income North Carolinians post bail and recoup legal fees.
On the morning of August 17, protesters demanding that the charges be dropped streamed into a Durham Country sheriff’s office, turning themselves in.
Walking in to sheriffs office to collectively turn ourselves to say: targeting racial justice organizers? arrest me too! pic.twitter.com/YtTTDEQv20
— ben carroll (@bncrrll) August 17, 2017
To Join the Long-Term Anti-Racist Fight
There are countless options for a first step. Here are some ideas.
Holding your elected officials accountable: Want to start local? Find out if there are any Confederate statues in your town or city. Then ask your mayor, city council members, even your governor to take them down.
Then, contact your state attorney general and ask that they investigate local white supremacist groups. When you’re ready to go national, Indivisible has a guide with multiple asks for your members of Congress, including:
- Demanding the firing of white nationalists who work in the White House like Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Miller.
- Including funding in the 2018 budget for combating white supremacists. As the guide notes, “Trump’s budget cuts funding to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Community Partnerships, which supports the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. The program is designed to battle all forms of domestic extremism.”
- Protecting DACA and other programs that give undocumented immigrants protection from deportation and provide a path to citizenship.
Protect voting rights: In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which guaranteed the right to vote for every American. In 2013, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in Shelby v. Holder to gut key provisions of the act. This included the rule that states with a history of voter suppression pre-clear changes to their voting laws and procedures with the Department of Justice, to make sure the changes were not interfering with any citizen’s right to vote. They did so, as the ACLU noted in a recent blog post, “even as they acknowledged that voter suppression and discrimination still occur.” Gerrymandering and voter ID laws flourish.
In 2017, Donald Trump still claims that three million people voted illegally, and even created a commission to investigate these thoroughly debunked claims. In addition to the ACLU, organizations like Let America Vote, Mi Familia Vota, Voto Latino, and the Brennan Center for Justice are great places to go for information on how to protect the right to vote.
Attend school board meetings and make the case to ensure history is being taught correctly, with an accurate portrayal of white supremacy, oppression and slavery.
Take the conversation home (and to schools, religious institutions, local coffeeshops): Call out family and friends who still support Trump or haven’t yet grasped the concept of white privilege. Hannah Giorgis’ BuzzFeed essay from just after the election is an excellent primer on the long, hard work of allyship.
The Safety Pin Box is a great resources that has guides for starting the conversations, and a subscription service that provides opportunities to financially support black women, and gives those of us with privilege concrete, measurable tasks to help use that privilege for good.