15 New Year’s Resolutions For Being A Better Ally, Because Now's The Perfect Time To Stand Up For All Communities
While the election has put somewhat of a damper on the holiday spirit, I've been feeling more motivated than ever to continue fighting for equality and respect of all people next year. If you're like me and want to a list of resolutions for being a better ally in 2017, but don't know where to start, I've got you covered.
Unlike most years when it feels like the last 365 days just zoomed by, I'm so ready for 2016 to be over. From Donald Trump winning the presidential election to North Carolina's governor signing the "bathroom bill" that discriminates against transgender people in March, it's terrifying to think where our country is headed. There is just so much uncertainty in the future.
On one hand, just thinking about Trump's inauguration as America's 45th president on Jan. 20 makes me nauseous. On the other hand, despite everything that's happened this year, I still believe that love trumps hate. As a disabled American and proud woman of color, I hope to use the next year (and every single year of my life after that) to be there not just for the marginalized communities that I'm a part of, but for people of all identities.
I used to think it was impossible for someone like little ol' me to create any sort of meaningful change or have an impact on politics. I would sit and wonder, Why would anyone listen to what I have to say? Unfortunately, I think this is a byproduct of being brought up in an overwhelmingly white, conservative community in the south. As a kid, I didn't think I could do something on an individual level that would make things better for people who, like me, are different from what society considers the "norm." To my younger self, I ask, "Why you? Well, why not you?"
Think one person can't make a difference? Consider these milestones that wouldn't have made it without the strength of individuals: In the 1950s, Rosa Parks's single refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man sparked the Montgomery bus boycott, which eventually led to a Supreme Court ruling against racial segregation. Two decades later, nearly 6,000 individuals voted to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association's official manual of mental illnesses. And, so far, more than 4.5 million people have signed a petition urging the Electoral College to vote for Hillary Clinton on Dec. 19. The truth is, anyone can be part of a movement for good.
Next year, make it a priority to stand up to hateful language, bigotry, and violence toward marginalized populations. If a coworker, neighbor, or even a loved one says or does something that's unacceptable, don't be afraid to call them out. Speak up for people who don't have a voice or, better yet, give them a microphone. Let 2017 be the year that, as First Lady Michelle Obama once said, when they go low, you go high. Here are 15 resolutions for the new year that will help you become the strongest, most supportive ally that you can be.
Psst! Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017 starting Jan. 1. Right now, tweet @bustle about how you plan to make 2017 the best year yet. Use the hashtag #2017IRL, and your tweet could be featured on our app!
Entrepreneurs who are also immigrants or people of color may struggle with additional challenges such as funding, discrimination, outreach, and access to other resources simply because of their identity. A tangible way to support minority entrepreneurs is simply by being their customers. Make it a goal to dine at a local Mexican restaurant that's actually owned by people from Mexico once a week, or buy clothes from a black-owned startup. Just remember to be aware of the historical significance behind what you're buying.
Looking to work with marginalized communities one-on-one? Resolve to join an organization in 2017 that supports a specific community or cause that you're passionate about, whether it's first-generation college students, South Asian immigrants, or under-served youth. Here's a great list to get you started.
There are many ways to engage on social media proactively without spending hours arguing with a troll. If you're a black feminist, perhaps start a blog about what that's like. For Facebook friends who, for example, just don't understand what's wrong with the phrase "All lives matter," consider sending them a polite private message asking them to consider alternative opinions, with links to helpful articles. It's all about respectful, meaningful discourse.
This isn't just about protesting, volunteering, or sharing articles. It's about breaking through those invisible barriers that prevent certain populations from receiving equal opportunities or the same respect as their peers. If someone is using a racial slur to describe others, tell them that's not OK. Notice manspreading on the subway? Kindly tell your neighbors that you need more space. If coworkers are ignoring a black coworker during a meeting, tell your supervisor.
Leading by example is powerful, but it's important to hold friends and loved ones accountable for their behavior, too. If they're good, decent people, they probably want to learn how to be better allies themselves. Perhaps you could make a list of resolutions to keep together throughout the year, and then check in regularly to see how you're both doing.
Not everyone has the resources to make donations, but for those who do, it's a great way to help financially support organizations that may become vulnerable during Trump's presidency. These include but aren't limited to: Human Rights Watch, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, and Anti-Defamation League. Pledge to make a substantial donation to one organization in need (or small donations to several groups) in 2017.
Unfortunately, thanks to systemic racism and white supremacy, too often are marginalized people silenced for trying to share their stories or perspectives on what it's like to live and work in America. Make it a resolution to help others get to a podium when they need it. Get their opinions, ask questions, listen genuinely, and make their voices count.
An excellent way to learn about people from a marginalized community is to read about them. No need to stick with just history books. Read poetry anthologies about feminism and novels that feature characters with disabilities, written by with disabilities. A great resolution would be to choose a book from this list to read once a month, for a total of 12 books by the end of 2017.
It's not enough to just wear a safety pin or share articles online if you're stuck at home all the time. Don't be afraid to go public about being an ally. Make a point to attend your city's annual pride parade, host a Black Lives Matter demonstration, or go to a spoken word performance by sexual assault survivors. Not only will you (probably) appreciate the experience and make new friends, but you'll more than likely learn about other people's firsthand experiences of what it's like to be marginalized.
When someone who's been marginalized points out something you say or do as being inappropriate, be open to changing bad habits and tossing harmful phrases, even if you didn't think they were that bad. People who don't know what it's like to be oppressed don't get to tell the underprivileged how to feel.
It's great to support feminism, LGBTQ rights, undocumented immigrants, and people of color. However, it's equally important to be there for people with multiple marginalized identities, such as undocumented youth and gay women of color. These people are too often forgotten, discriminated against, exoticized, used and abused, and/or shunned by society more than anyone else. Stand up for them, too.
While this may seem obvious, being an ally also means avoiding hypocrisy and not holding a double standard against certain groups of people. For instance, those who are dedicated to feminism should realize that slut-shaming sex-workers isn't OK. Next year (or better yet, start now), work toward expanding your definition of inclusive social justice.
I am a disabled woman of color, but that doesn't mean I'm not privileged in many ways. I live in uptown Manhattan. I can afford to pay my rent and dine out every few days. I graduated from a four-year university without any debt, thanks to my parents' support. No matter how many marginalized communities that I'm a member of, I remind myself every day that not everyone has the access to the kinds of resources that I have.
This goes hand-in-hand with being open to criticism and listening to others' perspectives. It's natural to get defensive while being called out or feel uncomfortable around people who are different from you. Accepting that kind of discomfort is a huge part of being a supportive ally. And, the truth is, simply apologizing for your privilege is not enough. It's about being aware of that privilege and using it to support others (directing attention toward causes that matter, donating to nonprofits, etc.).
If there's one resolution you decide to make for next year, it's resolving to stand up for people of all races, cultures, abilities, genders, religions, sexualities, and any other identities that have been particularly vulnerable to oppression. One of my journalism professors once said that it's my job as a reporter to "shine light in dark places." I'd like to extend that responsibility to everyone: Resist the patriarchy, fight invisible inequalities, and speak out against systemic oppression. Be an ally for everyone.
Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App starting on January 1 for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017.
Images: Hannah Burton/Bustle (4); Bustle (15)