So you’re a middle-aged, middle class, white woman and now you’re aware. And you’re wondering what you do next. Go to the next peaceful protest? Post an inspirational quote on your Insta story?
When I was pulled into activism almost 8 years ago, I felt all of those emotions. You know what else I felt?
Shame that I hadn’t seen what was happening. Shame because I should’ve done something earlier.
I had seen and heard things, but they each seemed random. I didn’t see the pattern. Plus, you couldn’t really toss it out for nice conversation around the pool on Sunday afternoon with the other moms.
And then when I saw it? I was ashamed.
And then, I knew that I would never be silent again. No one would have to wonder where I stood on the issues.
So, can I offer some tips to help you move out of your white woman shame and into action?
1. Learn history. Educate yourself about the policies, social, and political pressures that got us to where we are today. You don’t have to be an expert, but you need to understand how it’s all connected.
2. Understand your levers of power. Protesting is good, voting is important, but so is calling your elected officials, sending them emails, being in conversation with them. Put their numbers in your phone contacts and call them every time you feel strongly about an issue. I promise you that the other side is calling. And political staff count the numbers. Every. Damn. Day.
3. Track the meetings, and track the money. Who is profiting, socially or financially, from the current situation? Those folks have lobbyists and influence. And you know what? You have influence too, but it’s a use or lose it kind of thing.
4. Show up for the big moments. And the small ones. It’s easy to feel righteous at a protest when you’re surrounded by people you agree with. It’s so much harder, and sometimes more important to stand at your Statehouse when laws are being made. And yep, it’s scary. Do it anyway.
5. Be resilient: there will be setbacks, and tragedies, and moments when you ask yourself, “How could this happen again!?” Be ready for those moments, grieve, and then let them fuel your resolve.
6. Are you a woman of faith? Find and follow faith leaders who are speaking out on the issues. And notice who isn’t, because silence is approval for things staying the whacked out way that they are.
7. Stay informed, but protect yourself from information overwhelm. Outrage is useful and important, and it’s unsustainable and toxic to YOU. Understand what fuels you, and know what drains your energy. As one of my mentors always says, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
8. Hug your kids and your spouse. Remember to laugh. Wash your face and put on something that makes you feel cute. Take a vacation. It’s okay to feel joy. Self-care is an act of survival.
9. Know when to step up to help, and when to step back and let someone else lead. Even if you think you could do it better.
10. You’re a whole complicated, messy person. We need you to bring all of your authenticity. Your love of neon colors and your in-depth knowledge about The Bachelor. Your grandmother’s recipe for corn muffins, and the first aid you learned in 6th grade Girl Scouts. We need all of it. We need you.
Be brave. Be loud about the things that are important to you. Take a stand and look cute doing it.