Feeling shy about politics?
First of all, me too.
I’m a girl who’s always been very passionate and opinionated about politics inside my own head: I keep up with the news, I vote, I get angry, I rant to my other liberal friends. But at the same time, I’m also a girl who avoids conflict at all costs and really hates arguing. I know I should speak out, post on social media, and go to protests, but up until recently, I didn’t. Honestly, (and I know this sounds stupid and feeble, but it’s just true) I was kind of afraid.
I’m terrified of getting into arguments that I don’t feel well informed enough to win, but also really don’t want to lose. I have trouble trusting my own knowledge enough to speak confidently about something, even if I’ve done my research. Also, as a white, upper-middle class woman with a lot of privilege, I’m genuinely afraid of saying something wrong or offending someone (which I really, really don’t want to do). I know many people have experienced injustice that I’ll never be able to completely understand or fathom, and I don’t want to belittle anyone’s experience.
If you’re feeling the same way, I totally get it. But you and me, we’ve got to realize something: while we’re sitting here, silently seething about the injustice in the country and being too nervous to do or say anything, other people are getting their lives torn apart. Our well-meaning quietness is doing absolutely nothing for them. They don’t know how guilty we may feel, or how much we may ‘care’. If we’re not doing anything, we’re just helping the problem. Period.
I know that might make you feel kinda bad. But here’s the good news: You have the power, access and ability to start genuinely helping out if you chose to.
Seriously. I’m going to give you a whole step-by-step list of things to do in a second. And if you’re still feeling shy or worried that you’ll end up saying something wrong, that’s okay. I’m afraid of that, too. I’m admittedly one of the shyest and most awkward people I know. But I also know that there are many things that matter a whole lot more than my discomfort. I can be nervous as heck about calling up my senator, and still do it. I can have some anxiety about going to a protest, and still go. I can experience moments of discomfort and moments of being wrong, and I’ll be okay. I’ll learn my lessons and swallow up my frustrations and remind myself that, as a person with a lot of privilege, these things matter more than me.
So, without further ado, here is a list of simple things you can do right now to stop being a bystander and start doing your part. You’ve got this, girl. Be on the right side of history.
You’ll feel a whole lot more confident in taking action if you understand what’s going. To keep up with day-to-day news you can sign up for a daily briefing newsletter, such as The Skimm or Quartz, that relays the biggest current events of the day.
I’d also encourage you to ask yourself, “what is one thing I’ve heard about in the news that I don’t understand?” Personally, I knew pretty much nothing about the conflicts in Syria. I didn’t even know what Aleppo was. So, step one: I literally googled “a guide to understanding conflicts in Syria.” Step two: I read. And watched a few videos. You have all the information at your fingertips to be more well informed, you just have to take a little time out of your day to do it.
2. Donate a few dollars.
Okay, so you’re a broke college student or recent grad, I know that. But chances are, you also probably buy yourself a $6 coffee or a $10 movie ticket once in awhile. Why not donate this week’s ten dollars to an important organization? Here is a list of ten organizations you can donate to that are more important than ever. I just donated ten dollars to the ACLU and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
3. Call your senators and congressman/women.
Chances are, you’ve heard that it’s important to call your senators and representatives. Chances also are that talking on the phone to strangers is one of your least favorite things to do. Good news? It’s really quick and simple. Here and here are two really easy guides about calling. Here are the phone numbers of your senators, and here are the numbers of your congressmen/women. Here are even a bunch of scripts about specific issues that you can simply read off. Done.
4. Go to every local event you can.
A good way to find out about local events is to follow local organizations on social media. Your state probably has an ACLU page you can ‘like’ on Facebook. Since I’m currently living in Indianapolis, I also liked the Muslim Alliance of Indiana, SURJ Indy, Naptown Don’t Sleep, and the Indiana National Organization for Women chapter. Doing this has allowed me to keep up with a bunch of events happening near me; from protests to vigils to white ally trainings.
Lastly, a sure way to become more educated and more active in politics and social justice issues today, is to really listen to people who are experiencing injustice, and support any work they may be doing. As activist/scholar/artist Su’ad Abdul Khabeer said in a viral tweet earlier this month, “You don’t need to be a voice for the voiceless. Just pass the mic.”