As college students, we often feel helpless in the face of large changes occurring in our country. We are mostly trapped to a specific campus with little means of getting out, have little money to travel or donate, and hardly any time to join marches closer to Boston or other major cities. Personally, I have felt angered at myself for not working harder to find the time or money to help out. When I spoke with friends and other college students, they all felt the same urge to help so badly, but had nearly nothing to offer. It may feel like there is literally nothing for us to do, but in this position, we actually can do the simplest things that will help in the biggest ways.
1. Be aware.
Just by understanding what is happening in the world, nationally and internationally, is the first step in becoming a helpful force. I have taken up watching the news every morning to try and stay up-to-date with what is happening with the travel ban, the repeal of Obamacare, WikiLeaks, etc. Especially in recent weeks, the news feels out of control and it has helped to watch or read the news every day in order to stay on top of it all. Of course, for some, the negative news can feel overwhelming, but I believe that even staying aware in smaller doses still makes a difference. By just making yourself more aware, it will definitely set you aside from the “helpless” category.
2. Speak out.
Another thing you can do with no cost and no time wasted is to speak out whenever you hear or see harassment to minorities and other groups under persecution in the weeks following the election. Just in NYC alone, there have already been 56 hate crimes as of Feb. 12. It is now crucial to defend people who are being harassed, more than ever. Even if you do not see it, but overhear a friend saying something racist, sexist, or homophobic, it is your job to call these people out and correct them. This may feel like a hard task, especially when it comes to calling out friends or family members, but even with these people, you can tweak how you correct them in ways that will not cause too much damage.
3. Listen and learn.
This step can go hand-in-hand with speaking out. You may not know exactly when or how to speak out against people and one of the ways to learn is to listen to people who face discrimination or harassment. There may be ways in which you believe you are right, but your actions or language can still cause harm in some cases. If not through a direct conversation, it helps to find guides online on how to act as a bystander in situations where you can speak out. For example, here is a guide on how you can help fight against Islamophobia if you encounter it in public.
4. Support the people who can help.
Be loud and proud for the people who can donate and travel to protests and marches. By showing your pride and support, you show the solidarity you feel for the event without being present. I was disappointed when I could not find the time to join in the Women’s March of 2017, but by speaking about it with others during the day and blogging about the event online, I felt like I was at least a little bit part of the movement.
5. Use social media.
Make social media your resource for news and spreading the news. Whether this is through Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, or Instagram, we have grown used to social media as our method of staying connected to our world. By retweeting or sharing a post supporting the American Civil Liberties Union or Planned Parenthood, you are spreading the word to any of your followers on these sites about the groups. These simple clicks on a phone can lead to your followers learning about these groups and how they might be able to help. Social media is the new way to spread important information and we should absolutely take advantage of it.
6. Make plans.
One day, we will be out of college and into our lives as working adults. We will slowly begin to have the means to donate, participate in protests, and attend events that can help shape the future of our country. A small step can be making the plans for your future, like how much money you want to save for protest travels or how much knowledge of an organization you want to gain over time in order to help them more in the future. Especially for groups that will continue to stay under attack in the future, make plans to focus in on these groups and to one day give your time and energy to their cause. We can start small for now, but we can make plans for our bigger actions in the future.