Feeling hopeless after Charlottesville? 16 ways you can make a big difference.

This was the scene on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Those are rescue workers aiding an injured, shaken woman who was plowed into by a car driven by an alleged white supremacist. In 2017. In America.

It's a difficult photo to see — as are many of the other photos taken over the weekend — but it's important we all see it and recognize this image for what it is.

The terrorist attack, allegedly carried out by a 20-year-old from Ohio who was in town supporting the "Unite the Right" white nationalist conference, left one victim, counter-protester Heather Heyer, dead. It injured 19 others.

It's easy to feel helpless in the days following an event like Charlottesville. If you're in a position of privilege, it's maybe even easier to intentionally tune out — to put on your headphones and ignore the bigger problems waiting outside your door. But it's important we act.






If you're feeling hopeless after the events in Charlottesville, here are 13 ways you can help make a difference:

1. First and foremost, make sure you are OK.

If you're a person of color or part of another targeted marginalized group, the events in Charlottesville may have been exhausting and painful to see on TV or witness firsthand. DoSomething.org has a coping with discrimination self-care guide that includes tips like mindfully disconnecting from our often chaotic world and finding ways to channel your anger into constructive actions.

2. Become a member of the NAACP.

The NAACP is working tirelessly across the U.S. to counter the hateful forces like the ones on display last weekend. Join forces with the national group or find a local chapter — like the one in Charlottesville — to get involved.

3. Follow Sesame Street's lead and go out of your way to do something nice (big or small) for someone each day this week.

Give an extra big tip to your barista, call an old friend to say hello, hug your mom a little bit tighter; a simple gesture goes a long way.

4. Donate to the victims of the Charlottesville terror attack.

Beyond Heyer's tragic death, the violence on Saturday left 19 others injured. Community group Unity C-ville has set up a GoFundMe page to help with their medical costs.

5. If you're not a person of color, take 10 minutes to learn about allyship.

A 10-minute cram session certainly doesn't mean you'll become the perfect ally overnight. But listening to members of an oppressed group — or learning from resources created by someone or people of that group — will give you a good start in understanding the do's and don'ts in allyship.

6. Speaking of being an ally — signing up for a Safety Pin Box subscription is a great first step.

The service, run by black female activists, informs users about the various systems of privilege and oppression that disempower certain groups, while also giving specific tasks on how subscribers can challenge the status quo as allies in the real world.

7. Find out how your own representatives reacted to Charlottesville.

Then make some phone calls.

If they condemned white supremacy and are actively fighting for policies that promote racial justice — from criminal justice reform to affirmative action — let them know you proudly support their agenda. If your representatives didn't speak out, remind them that their silence speaks volumes.

8. Help the country Swing Left in 2018.

Racism certainly isn't confined to one party, but the GOP — led by a president who has been disturbingly connected to the KKK and other hate groups — is emboldening bigotry in ways we haven't seen in recent American history.

Progressive group Swing Left is focused on flipping the House in 2018 by zeroing in on swing districts where the GOP is vulnerable. Even if you don't live in such a district, you likely live near one that could use your help.

9. Find a protest in your own community with the Indivisible Guide.

Progressive group Indivisible is mobilizing supporters to take part in local protests in response to the white nationalist gathering in Virginia. Learn more.

10. Report harassment online, or call on the allies at White Nonsense Roundup to step in.

Social media has become a breeding ground for racist and misogynistic attitudes. If you see others being harassed — or you're being targeted yourself — don't be afraid to report it. (Here's how you can do it on Twitter and on Facebook).

Alternately, if you're part of a marginalized group and feel targeted by others online — or even just find yourself batting away well-intentioned but problematic rhetoric — you can call on White Nonsense Roundup. If you tag the volunteer-run group, they'll jump into the comment thread to defend you and educate other commenters. Because, as the group notes, people of color already have enough on their plates — they shouldn't have to worry about educating the world, too.

11. Tune in to TV shows that tackle important issues of racial and social justice on screen.

The Trump era has given new meaning to series that routinely parse social justice issues via comedy or drama. Shows like "Black-ish," "Dear White People," and "Fresh Off the Boat" aren't just good TV — they're making a positive impact, with people of color working behind the scenes and in front of the cameras to tell their stories. Support these types of series and see what the world looks like in someone else's shoes.

The cast of ABC's "Black-ish." Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards.

12. Use VolunteerMatch.org to commit to volunteering once a month with a group doing social justice work in your area.

You could be an ESL tutor to immigrants in Chicago, for example, or volunteer with the Boys & Girls Club in Naples, Florida. There are plenty of online tools like VolunteerMatch.org that can pair you with reputable nonprofits in your own backyard.

13. Systemic racism is one thing. But what should you do when bigoted harassment or violence is unfolding right in front of you?

This helpful guide by the Southern Poverty Law Center, "Ten Ways to Fight Hate," details how each one of us can respond in concrete ways when we witness bigotry in our neighborhoods.

"Slurs often escalate to harassment, harassment to threats, and threats to physical violence," the guide reads. "Don’t wait to fight hate."

14. Sign up for Common Cause's Sessions Watch to keep an eye on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Jeff Sessions was too racist to become a federal judge in 1986. Yet, thanks to Trump, he's our attorney general, heading the Justice Department.  

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Sessions' racist (and homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-Muslim) history is alarming for many marginalized groups. To help keep him accountable, sign up for Common Cause's Sessions Watch, where you'll get up-to-date notifications regarding his actions as attorney general, as well as ways you can stand up to his agenda.

15. Boost the Black Lives Matter movement on social media.

There's a good chance a Black Lives Matter local chapter is active in your neck of the woods. Find out how you — as a person of color or an ally — can help the movement grow. Aside from donating or attending events, you can Like, comment, and share the messages BLM publishes on Facebook and Twitter.

16. Help Charlottesville rally past this dark period by supporting one of its incredible local nonprofits.

Author and Twitter personality Sara Benincasa shared a thread on Twitter (and then wrote an article in the same vein) listing a number of Charlottesville organizations making their corner of the world a better place.

Like the local Planned Parenthood.

Or the neighborhood Meals on Wheels.

If we've learned anything from U.S. history, it's that white supremacy can't be stomped out overnight.

It will take years of painful, exhausting work to break down the systems that keep black and brown people disadvantaged at best and, at worst, intentionally oppressed.

We have our work cut out for us. But if America truly is better than what happened in Charlottesville, now's our opportunity to prove it.

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Inclusivity

Anyone who's done yard work on a hot day can tell you that it can be just as good of a workout as playing a team sport.

You're down on your knees pulling weeds, up on a ladder lopping off errant tree branches, and pushing a heavy lawnmower that never seems to start on the first try.

Unfortunately, because lawn work is so physically intense and not everyone can afford a gardner, the elderly and disabled sometimes have to let their lawns and backyards grow wild.

An alternative learning center in Dubuque, Iowa is helping its kids stay physically fit while helping out their community with a new program that gives them high school PE credit for doing yard work for the elderly and disabled.

The Alternative Learning Center is for high school juniors and seniors who are at risk of dropping out of school.
As part of the program, the teens visit homes of the elderly and disabled and help out by raking leaves, pulling weeds, cutting grass, and cleaning gutters.



Teacher Tim Hitzler created the program because it helps the students get involved in the community while helping those who need it most.

"The students aren't typically too excited at the beginning but once they get involved and start doing the yard work they become more motivated," Hitzler told KWWL. "What they really like is A: helping people. They really like giving back to people and meeting the person."

Nick Colsn, a 17-year-old student at the learning center, told NPR that the program allows him to meet people he wouldn't have otherwise. "I'm more of like go-to-school-go-to-work-home-repeat kind of guy," he said. "So to me, I probably would not have met any of these people."

The end-of-year program has been so successful, Hitzler hopes to expand it next year. "You know, in education, a lot of times, there's so many different gimmicks and curriculum packages you can buy and things like that," he told NPR. "And something like this all you need is a few garden tools. You know, I mean, it just makes sense. It's so simple. And it works."

Recommended

If you're a white supremacist, I imagine drinking beer (or any other alcoholic beverage) is a nice way to relax and tune out the fact that you're a terrible person who's helping set human progress back at a rate the bubonic plague would be proud of. But for some self-professed white supremacists, it wasn't quite so easy on a June weekend in Germany.

According to Newsweek, the hundreds of neo-nazis who flocked to the "Shield and Sword Festival" in Ostritz found themselves uncomfortably dry when a court imposed a liquor ban at their gathering of hateful bigots who also like to listen to awful music together. The ban's aim was to prevent any violence that might erupt (you know it would...) and the police confiscated more than a thousand gallons of alcohol from those attending the weekend-long event. They even posted pictures on Twitter of the alcohol they'd removed from participants.



But that's only half the story.

Residents of the town of Ostritz, who've had to deal with the bigots before (they threw the same festival last year on Hitler's birthday), knew that the ban wouldn't stop the festival-goers from trying to obtain more alcohol while in town. So the townspeople got together a week before the festival and devised a plan which would truly make the white supremacists focus on how terrible neo-nazi music is: They bought up the entire town's beer supply.

"We wanted to dry the Nazis out," Georg Salditt, a local activist, told reporters. "We thought, if an alcohol ban is coming, we'll empty the shelves at the Penny [supermarket]."

"For us it's important to send the message from Ostritz that there are people here who won't tolerate this, who say 'we have different values here, we're setting an example..." an unidentified local woman told ZDF Television.

At the same time the festival was going on, residents also staged two counter-protests and put on a "Peace Festival" to drive home the point that bigotry wasn't welcome. If the festival is held in the same town again next year, ticket-buyers should be aware that Ostritz isn't playing around when it says that white supremacists aren't welcome.

There's some good news, too: Aside from the fact that residents aren't afraid to send the message that they're intolerant of intolerance, attendance to the far-right music festival has drastically decreased in the past year. In 2018, 1,200 people attended, according to the BBC. This year? Approximately 500-600. Here's hoping the festival won't have a return engagement next year.

Culture

I sent both of my children on a bus on Tuesday. I knew where they were going.

The morning started rainy, buggy, and too early. To be fair, it always feels too early.

My husband and I waved from across the street as the buses pulled away, our kids, along with a hundred or so others, behind tinted glass. We waved like we were excited. Our son was likely not looking. Our daughter may have been, but she also could have not been paying attention until the bus started into motion. We won't know for sure if she saw us waving until she returns.

Returns.

Every day when I leave the house, I expect to return.

That's the default.

It's so much the default that realizing it is actually stunning. We run our lives as though anything else other than what's in our head, our routine, our privilege, is what will take place. There's that little truism that a worrier shines like a pebble in the hand: you're more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash. Yet we are much more likely to be worried about flying because it is out of our routine. Being out of your routine awakens you to the precariousness we completely shut out in our day-to-day lives.

I put my children on a bus. My oldest will be gone four weeks, my youngest, two.

What should be normal: sending your kids to sleep away camp. What feels wholly unnatural: sending your Jewish kids to a Jewish sleep away camp in the world we're living in now. Even writing those words: JEWISH SLEEP AWAY CAMP make my fingers seize at the knuckles. I don't want you to know there are such things as Jewish sleep away camps. Even having others know that they exist feels like a danger.

I'm used to my feelings and my instincts seeming like hyperbole to others. I'm emotional. I'm tuned in. I'm hyperreactive. I have a hair trigger. I have anxiety and depression.

I also come from a genetic and cultural history of people who ended up in this country because we were hunted and pursued and needed to escape. Over and over and over again. The cells that have come to build the tissues and structures of my body and my brain have been organized by UNSAFETY.

In "normal" suburban upper-class life, this can be a huge detriment. A handicap. It can manifest in the most unhelpful and frankly, startlingly blind ways. I've spent so much of my life reacting and feeling and then trying to understand what makes me tick. I've spent so much time learning to train and control and ignore and channel.

I wasn't made for easy times. I was made for survival. I was made, like an animal, to intuit danger and get the hell out, fast. I was made in the image of fight or flight. I do both better than most people. It's not something I brag about, because it doesn't feel like a good thing most of the time.

I put my kids on a bus to Jewish sleep away camp. Because when my husband and I got married (I'm Jewish, he's not), our pact was this: if our children live in a world where historically they could be targeted and threatened because of their Jewishness (regardless of their actual observance of religion or customs), they deserved to know that being a Jew is not negative. We should give them every opportunity to be proud and happy about their Jewishness. Their belonging should help them to feel good about themselves and the world. It should help them seek connection and understanding of the human condition. They should know songs. They should sing full-throated. They should feel comfort in our traditions when they are useful to them, but never feel threatened or unnecessarily constrained by them.

Research funded by Jewish institutions and communities suggests that the number one way to help ground kids in their Jewish identity is to send them to Jewish sleep away camp. It's the glue.

And yet.

I put my kids on a bus to Jewish sleep away camp at a time when our government is putting migrant children into concentration camps.

I bought all the supplies on the list. I washed and labeled and sorted and packed. I zipped up those bags to accompany my children. And then I dropped my children off and couldn't see if they were waving back as the buses drove away.

Of course, the camp I'm sending them to has a stellar reputation. Every day they post updates on a special web site, along with hundreds of pictures of the kids in action. I send emails to the kids which are printed out and given to them. I send packages with stickers and trading cards and all sorts of goofiness so that they know they are loved.

Migrants from central America have made their way to our border with just what they could carry. (My children's bags were so heavy that neither of them could carry them. Likely at least 1/4 of what I sent will come back unused or untouched.) Migrants are following the rules of asylum seeking. They are fleeing violence and intimidation and abuse far greater than I will allow myself to imagine. They are separated from their children by a government that has no business doing so.

I, an upper-class white woman, expect my voice to be heard. I expect to be able to vote and call and hold my elected officials accountable. I know what to say to get my point across. I've given money to candidates and I know how to threaten that support in the future. I also have the privilege of time and energy with which to do it. My underlying expectation is that there are very few problems that I don't have some redress for.

Asylum-seekers, in good faith, and following the rules, have nothing left to lose. They are coming here seeking something less life-threatening than what they're fleeing. They're seeking some good will. Or, at the very least, safety. Or relative safety.

I put my children on a bus to Jewish sleep away camp knowing that in my daughter's cabin of 8 girls, there are 4 young adult counselors who are there to make sure that she's safe, happy, and her needs are being met.

I also know that last year, an asshole white supremacist antisemite decided to go to a synagogue on shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, and turn it into a bloodbath. Well before that ever happened, well before the era of mass shootings and Columbine, Jewish institutions like synagogues and preschools and JCCs have needed extra surveillance. We've had police guard our religious services and social gatherings. Even (and perhaps especially) seeking out Jewish belonging, Jewish joy, has always been a reckoning with danger and threat.

After I sent my children on that bus—the one I knew where it was going—the one where I'd shoveled their overpacked duffle bags into the bowels of the bus—I came home to a house strewn with the remnants from packing. Laundry bins with unneeded t-shirts and shorts and single socks. The cat—he normally comes to greet me when he hears the garage door open—was nowhere to be seen. I called for him. He still did not come. I came upstairs and looked in my son's room. No cat. I looked in my daughter's room—with its orange and pink somewhat darkened by the rainy skies—and there he was, tucked into a furry circle in an eddy of her duvet. I laid down next to him and lost control. The control I never really had.

Twitter this week has erupted in a jagged back-and-forth between politicians and pundits and opinion-havers about whether or not it is appropriate to call the migrant detention centers run by ICE and our government "concentration camps." I, and most other Jews I follow and know, agree they should be called exactly what they are.

Non-Jews (and, to be fair, some Jews as well), like to tiptoe around the Holocaust and any words or imagery which may in any way encroach upon the historical accuracy or singular legacy of that horrible period. To a degree, I might agree when the comparisons are used flippantly or improperly.

But the legacy of the Holocaust, we are all reminded, is NEVER AGAIN. And NEVER AGAIN means that we don't wait until something worse happens. What's happening RIGHT NOW in the United States shares that DNA.

In the same way I understood or had an inkling in my bones that the election might go a way I didn't want it to, I know this same thing: we are not ok. This is not just the start. This is halfway down the road to the place where we lose not just perceived control, but real control. For all the current administration's lies and purposeful incapabilities, know this: the cruelty that comes out of the mouth of our president and those who continue to support him in the government and in the populace is not a lie. It is predictive. They're telling us in advance what they intend to do. And then they are doing it.

In a world where I still have the ability to put my daughter and son on a bus with all their toiletries and know that they will likely arrive at their destination, I also know that our government argued for the legal right to deny soap and toothbrushes to migrant children. When anyone's children are denied such basics—human basics—no one is safe.

I know it will sound like hyperbole. I know that those who so easily dismissed my concerns early on—before this administration even took office—will still attempt to dismiss my warnings now. But do so at your own peril.

I was not built for normal times. I was built for times like these. And I haven't been wrong yet.

This post originally appeared on Outside Voice. You can read it here.

Inclusivity