In the early fall of 2016, French artist Marie-Shirine Yener, aka Maeril, had her first viral hit with a comic about how to stand up to Islamophobic harassment.
Maeril channeled her own experiences with street harassment as a woman of mixed Iranian, Turkish, Kurdish, and Armenian descent into the illustrated how-to guide for helping Muslims. But she also understood the irony that her voice as an ally resonated more loudly than the voices of actual Muslims who have been targeted.
"There is a tendency people have not to believe a minority group when they speak of oppression," she wrote in The Independent. "We always rely on some sort of a 'bridge' — a more familiar, non-Muslim person like me, in this situation — and I wish we didn't have to."
Maeril's first comic was meant to address the specific issue of Islamophobia. But readers realized that the lesson could apply in other situations, too.
Muslims are hardly the only marginalized group to suffer from unfair bullying, hate, or harassment. So rather than detract from or erase their unique and very-real struggle, Maeril created another illustrated how-to guide for being a better ally overall, especially at a time when hate crimes are on the rise.
"We need to protect those who don’t have the privilege of not fearing for their lives from now on," she said on Tumblr. "If we don’t have any support in the authorities, we must at least have each other, and stand strong in the face of adversity. I believe in you."
So if you want to be a better ally to people of color, people who are LGBTQ, people with disabilities, women, and others, these four steps are a great place to start:
Across the world, people are waking up to the need to stand in solidarity with marginalized people. Lip service alone is not enough for equality.
Maybe recent events have made you aware of how many people in the world are still suffering. And maybe you're feeling a little overwhelmed by it all — you want to do your part to help, but there are just so many different words and terms to memorize and learn, all these different groups and identities to keep track of and try understand.
With so much ground to cover, it's tempting to just throw your hands up and say, "Forget it! I can't keep up! They don't need me!" But remember: A lot of people don't have that option. Their mere existence brings them hardship and struggle every day. Which is why they need your support — perhaps now more than ever.
Don't start from a place of "I am one of the good ones." Start from "what if I am one of the bad ones" & work upwards from there— Anne Thériault (@Anne Thériault) 1479148467
So listen: You're gonna screw up. You're gonna make mistakes. That's OK.
But as this comic shows, if we truly believe in a better and more equitable society full of equal opportunities for everyone, then we all need to step up.
We need to do the work, learn, speak out (but not over other people), screw-up, get better, and keep moving forward, together. Let's get to it.