Millions of people across the county have participated in protests against Donald Trump and the oppression for which he stands. Many protesters say that Trump’s election finally shook them from their complacency, made them realize how much in this nation must change, and inspired them to take action for the first time.
Protests help energize the resistance, but they’re not enough on their own. They’re also not accessible to everyone. People with disabilities, parents with very small children, those who can’t risk arrest, and numerous other groups may not be able to participate in protests. That doesn’t mean they can’t be activists. In fact, some of the most important activism is the kind that happens behind the scenes, without media coverage and without inspiring photos that you can slap on social media.
A true resistance movement is long. It’s multi-faceted. It encourages everyone to do what they can—not waste precious resources feeling guilty about what they can’t do. No matter how old you are, how brave you are, how healthy you are, or how little time you have, there’s something you can do. So stop stewing. Stop arguing on Facebook. Stop feeling bad. It’s time to take action.
If you have additional ideas or want to share details on a worthy organization, share that information on the comments.
Activism in 10 Minutes or Less
Time is a privilege. People who work long hours, those who must hold down multiple jobs, parents to very young children, people with disabilities, and numerous other groups may be short on time to get involved. If you can commit just 5-10 minutes, though, you can still help. Try taking one of these actions daily, weekly, or even monthly. Every little bit helps.
- Call your senators to vocalize your concerns. Each state has two Senators, so plug in your state here and call the listed number.
- Text Resist Bot to directly contact your representatives about issues that concern you. Simply text resist to 50409 for easy, fast questions that will automatically send a fax.
- If you have white, male, or other forms of privilege, use it for good. If you see a woman or a person of color getting piled on on Facebook or social media, step in. You’re more likely to be heard than an oppressed person. Speaking up instructs others that bullying and oppression are not acceptable. It can also give a person facing online aggression a sliver of hope.
- Share useful, actionable information on social media. Stop telling people things are hopeless. Stop sharing think pieces about how bad the Trump administration is. This hopelessness demoralizes activists and paralyzes everyone. It’s what the Trump administration wants. Give people something to do instead. Try sharing a link or charity every day or every week.
- Contact your local representatives. They’re often more responsive. They also have significant power to set local policy, push back against Trump, and directly affect the lives of people in your community. Find a list of representatives at every level of government here.
- Lift up the voices of people the Trump administration wants to silence. Share commentary by women, refugees, people of color, poor people, and other marginalized groups. Help them become a strong counterweight to the blathering of privileged, rich, white men.
- Punish businesses that endorse or practice bigotry. Write letters to owners when you see bigotry in action. Leave negative reviews if that doesn’t work. And when a business enacts bigotry on a large scale—a la Hobby Lobby—boycott them, leave them negative reviews, and make their online reputation synonymous with bigotry.
- Contact businesses that give money to problematic candidates. Leave public comments on their social media pages, and if the offense is egregious enough, boycott them.
- Sign up for action alerts through an organization you believe in. Numerous organizations offer daily or weekly alerts for things you can do in 10 minutes or less. The American Association of University Women, for instance, offers a newsletter providing two-minute activism strategies. Amnesty International offers a round-up of actions that you can do from home in less than 10 minutes.
Excise the Darkness from Your Own Heart
We live in a society that has raised us all to endorse various forms of oppression—the notion that deserving people are never poor, that people of color deserve to be disproportionately incarcerated, the idea that women can avoid violence if they just think, act, and dress correctly.
That means we all must work to eliminate the darkness in our own hearts. It’s an ongoing project that will never be done. So invest in improving yourself. Some strategies:
- Focus on being actively opposed to oppression rather than just appearing that way. If someone accuses you of racism, sexism, or another form of oppression, sit with that allegation. Take it seriously. Don’t attack and attempt to silence the messenger. Each of us is capable of cruelty and oppression. Each of us is also capable of listening, learning, and changing.
- Join a group that is committed to unpacking oppressive thoughts. One great starting point is Unlearning Racism on Facebook. Men Stopping Violence is another great resource.
- Stop tone policing. I continually hear Democrats telling people of color that they are alienating voters. They seem to believe that marginalized people should unquestioningly check the “D” box at every election. But our party has a long history of racism. We’re the party of Andrew Jackson, the Trail of Tears, and lynching. We’re the party that did nothing to stop segregation. We’re also the party that elected the first black president. So I know we’re capable of much more than our past might indicate. We need people of color, women, and other marginalized people to tell us when we’re screwing up. That’s not divisive. It’s a gift that prevents us from going backward. Wanting people to get along won’t force them to get along. Wishing there was no racism in the Democratic party won’t make it so. The divisive forces in the Democratic party are not people calling out oppression, but those who would ignore that oppression and treat the needs of marginalized people as a trivial sideshow.
Take Direct Action
Direct action directly confronts bad actors in a way that encourages them to change. Some strategies include:
- Showing up to confront your representatives. Find your representatives. Then follow their Facebook or other social media pages to learn about upcoming appearances. Show up to ask pointed questions. Film it and post on social media for increased visibility and to shame your representatives for bad behavior.
- Visiting your representatives. In-person visits take a lot of effort, and so are a lot more compelling than a letter or call. Check your representatives’ social media pages to see when they’ll be in their office. Then schedule an appointment, or show up unannounced to talk to them.
- Stage a sit-in outside of your representatives’ offices. If your representatives are unresponsive to you, get a group together and sit outside with signs. Call the media for more visibility. Shaming works—especially on people who are up for re-election.
- Show up in person to confront problematic companies. The same formula that works with representatives often works well with companies that have engaged in racist behavior, made donations to problematic candidates, or otherwise harmed the cause of liberty.
Get inspired by this list of 198 nonviolent direct action ideas. Direct action can be fun and even celebratory. So get a group together and take action.
Use Your Skills for Good
A lot of the activism that garners the most attention—especially going to protests--requires little skill. Changing the world, however, requires a wide range of skills and talents. So if you don’t want to or can’t protest, find a way to use your talents and resources for good. Some options include:
- Offer your services for free. Lawyers, doctors, social workers, therapists, accountants, and anyone else who provides a service can make life better for the least among them by offering—and advertising—free or reduced-cost services. Consider also volunteering with a local organization that needs your specific skill set.
- Raise money for a cause or individual. Donate a portion of your profits, or participate in an auction of your products or services.
- If you have an office space or other useful location, consider donating it to a charitable cause when you’re not using it. Your local Legal Aid, for instance, might need a place to meet with an influx of clients. A small reproductive justice organization could need a meeting space.
- Offer useful information for free in a public forum. Immigration lawyers can assemble simple fact sheets. Social workers and therapists can offer information on helping someone in crisis or managing politically driven panic. If you have useful tools, make them free and readily available. It’s likewise important to correct incorrect information when you see it. Every protest lawyer has seen organizations instructing protesters that this protest is “safe,” when no protest is. Every therapist has seen inaccurate information about PTSD. Be direct, but gentle, so that organizations can do better by knowing better.
- Offer your services to those providing direct care to people in need. For example, a therapist might offer free or discounted help to a lawyer suffering from the vicarious trauma of working with immigrants.
Give the Gift of Time
We all want to feel valuable to the cause. It feels good to get a public thank you or be on the news. That’s not the only way to be of use. If you know a dedicated activist—an immigration lawyer, a civil rights attorney, a social worker who specializes in trauma, a doctor offering free medical care to refugees-give them more time to do their work.
- If you’re good with kids and the person trusts you, offer free childcare. Or consider paying for their childcare.
- Offer to run errands, pick the kids up from school, or take the dog to the vet.
- Help clean the house. When you’re working 16 hour days to save refugees, it’s easy for a home to fall into disarray. And it’s not fair for someone to be punished for their hard work by returning home to chaos.
- Bring by a meal, groceries, or basic household supplies like paper towels.
- Mow the lawn, weed the garden, or pick up the mail.
- Offer house-sitting to activists who have traveled to the border to help.
I’ve spent—I’ve wasted—endless days arguing with racists and misogynists. I have tried everything. I’ve empathized. I’ve given evidence. I’ve insulted them and listened to them, remained calm and gotten angry. Nothing works. If a person thinks that children belong in cages, that our Constitution should be shredded, and that black lives actually do not matter, they can’t be saved with gentle goading or aggressive arguing.
Stop wasting your time. Instead, shun people who represent and espouse bigoted ideas. We might not be able to change their minds, but we can punish them. We can make them think twice before acting on those ideas. Shunning is activism.
- End your relationship with racist relatives. They don’t deserve to be in your life, and they certainly don’t deserve any influence over your children.
- Don’t fight with people on social media. It’s wasted energy that you could spend on something that actually matters.
- Make life more difficult for bigoted people. Lose their paperwork. Drop their calls. Put them on hold. Whatever you can do to slow them down and make their goals harder to achieve, do it.
- If you see a member of the Trump administration in public, make their life as miserable as possible. They must face consequences for their actions.
Volunteering can open up a whole new world of activism. It connects you to a community of like-minded people, offers details on events you might not know about, and helps you directly impact the lives of people in need. Look into supporting your local rape crisis center, domestic violence shelter, homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or food bank. Some excellent starting points for volunteer work include:
- Become a Legal Observer through the National Lawyers Guild. You don’t need any legal training, but your work can prevent unfair arrests, support lawsuits following unfair arrests, and document illegal police practices.
Find and volunteer for your local ACLU chapter.
- Join Amnesty International, or sign up for one of the international human rights organization’s many volunteer opportunities.
- Volunteer for the American Immigration Council. While the organization presents numerous volunteer options, it desperately needs skilled immigration lawyers.
- Become an escort at your local abortion clinic. Find a list of abortion clinics by city here.
- Volunteer with the Transgender Law Center, or participate in one of its many actions.
Join your local NAACP. The NAACP hosts events, plans protests, sponsors volunteer days, and offers numerous other local ways to get involved in racial justice work.
Get involved with Planned Parenthood, which needs volunteers of virtually every skill level and background at clinics across the nation.
Volunteer From Home
You don’t have to be retired or a stay at home parent to volunteer. You don’t even have to leave your home. Volunteering with a hotline allows you to support people in crisis wherever you are. Some excellent hotlines doing meaningful work include:
Help People Vote
Voting does not always mean we get the perfect candidate—or even a great candidate. That’s no excuse not to vote. Voting is harm reduction. By continuing to vote in every election, it’s possible to slowly and steadily vote out bad candidates, vote in good ones, and use primaries to get the best possible progressive candidates into office. In a society that has disenfranchised 1 in 8 black men, those of us who can still vote have a moral obligation to lift up candidates who will push back against Trump and all that he stands for. Here are some ways to help people vote:
Get involved with Emily’s List, which inspires and supports women to run for office. Emily’s List is also a great introduction to local politics. If you hope one day to run for office, it’s an outstanding resource.
Volunteer with Rock the Vote to help register voters and engage people who have lost interest in voting.
- Organize a voter registration drive. The American Association of University Women offers a how-to guide here.
- Ask a community organization to sponsor a shuttle to take people to vote.
- Ask your friends and neighbors if they’ve voted. Offer to drive them to polling places or watch their kids while they vote.
- Post detailed information about registering to vote on social media—ideally several months ahead of an election, since many states require voter registration well in advance of the election.
Educate yourself about voting rights. Offer to help a friend who has lost their voting rights work to regain them—including paying any applicable fines or attorney’s fees.
It feels good to go to protests and to volunteer. But one of the most effective ways to support the resistance is to give money to organizations that are already doing the work. Give as much as you can afford as frequently as you are able. Here are some excellent options:
- Abortion clinics across the country are under attack. Republican anti-choice laws targeting abortion clinics in Indiana, Mississippi, and across the nation are designed to make it more difficult for poor women to get abortions. They require multiple clinics trips, long waits, or overnight stays. Help someone in need afford an abortion by donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds.
- Reproductive justice is about far more than abortion rights. Right wingers have opposed virtually every measure to reduce maternal mortality, ensure healthy children, and support families. Give to organizations that are pushing back on multiple fronts. Some excellent options include SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, Human Rights in Childbirth, Improving Birth, and Sister Song.
- Activist attorneys have long bent the arc of history toward justice. Help them keep going. Donate to Pro Bono Net, Immigration Advocates Network, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Women’s Law Center, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), the Disability Rights Legal Center, the Transgender Law Center, or National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
People of color, poor people, and women who don’t conform to gender stereotypes are forced to pay higher bails when they’re arrested. Most are arrested for minor offenses. Many are arrested under laws—such as drug laws—that were designed to penalize, and which disproportionately impact, poor people and people of color. The most common reason women are arrested is for bouncing checks. These nonviolent, presumed-innocent people can languish in jails for months. They may lose their jobs and their children, all because they can’t raise a few hundred dollars for bail. The effect? A minor annoyance in the life of a middle class white person may permanently destroy the life of a poor person. So help bail someone out of jail. After a major protest, go to the arraignment and offer bail money. Show up in court one day during arraignments to see who has been arrested, and help get a few people out. If direct activism is too time-consuming or intimidating, you can still help. Donate to the National Bail Out. Give to the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. Or install the app Appolition, which uses spare change to help get people out of jail.
- Don’t forget about individuals in need of help. Not all charities have the ability to help all people. Consider finding an individual in need of help and supporting them. GoFundMe is a great place to start.
- Help a financially struggling person you love. The Trump administration wants wealth to flow to the top. Through its attempts to gut the Affordable Care Act, medical bills may skyrocket. Housing prices continue to soar. Wages are stagnant. You don’t need to go find a homeless person or a charity. You don’t need a tax deduction to help people. Look no further than your own family. Help your sister pay her childbirth bill. Pay off your cousin’s credit card debt. Give your niece a baby shower and help cover the basics her new child will need.
- Black people are still suffering the after effects of slavery, legalized non-personhood, Jim Crow segregation, and hundreds of years of disenfranchisement. Yet when people of color ask for the reparations they were promised, Republicans act like the request is absurd. A number of reparations groups have sprung up as an antidote. Help a person of color pay their rent, get an immunization, or afford groceries. Through Facebook reparations groups, you can read stories of people in need and donate what feels right. The website Reparations also offers numerous opportunities to pay white people’s collective debt.
Take Care of Yourself (and Others)
Some analysts have suggested that, if just 3.5% of the population actively resists, it’s possible to topple a dictator. So fighting back against an authoritarian regime in a democratic society should be even easier.
The Trump administration knows this. They’re working to make the left feel demoralized. That’s why they’ve enacted laws that are doomed to fail. It’s why they show such contempt for the American people. Make people feel hopeless and they stop fighting. When the goal is to demoralize people, self-care is a revolutionary act.
That means there’s no need to feel guilty about taking a break—as long as you plan to get back to work as soon as you are able. So try the following:
- Find strategies for dealing with your emotions about Trump. Therapy, support groups, deep breaths, and similar efforts may be helpful. You’re not of much use to the cause if you’re depressed.
- Keep your feelings in perspective. Many groups are threatened by Trump, but some are more threatened than others. Seek inspiration from activists who face even more challenges than you do.
- Take a media break. You don’t need to know about every atrocity. You simply have to take action when and where you can.
- Block people on social media who post things that paralyze you—even if you like those people.
- Don’t follow organizations that only post negative information. Follow organizations that inspire you to action.
- Stop telling people things are hopeless. Stop posting articles designed to make people feel worse. I don’t know how things will turn out. I don’t know if they will get worse. I know that if people are demoralized, there’s no way for them to get better.
Comments are closed on this story.