In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and countless other black people in the US, hundreds (thousands?) of protests have sprung up in every corner of the country demanding justice and accountability, and permanent systemic change to the structural racism this country was built on. During such a critical moment for racial justice and human dignity, the sheer amount of protest activity can make it hard to see and make choices about how you can support and participate.
For some people, attending a protest is not a viable option. But there are many roles to play in a protest, and we’re going to explore a few of them here. And as an explicit editorial note, I’m mostly speaking to white people here— this is your moment to show up in ways that you have never considered before. It is not up to black people, and other people of colour, to dismantle their own systemic oppression on their own. White people must be part of this fight, now.
If you can’t get your physical body into a protest, here are some other ways to help.
Giving money can sometimes feel like an easy way out, but it cannot be overstated how critical funds are for local movements right now. While it may seem straightforward to donate to large organisations with whom you’re already familiar, seek out the smaller, local community organisations who are organising and leading the protests you’d like to support. Here’s a link to bail funds, for example, for protesters around the U.S.
Getting arrested can be scary and exhausting; many groups often organise moral and material support for those who’ve been arrested. See if people are gathering outside the jails or courthouses to show support for protesters while they’re in, or after they come out. If you have legal experience, check with the National Lawyers Guild or local organisations to see if you can help there.
Can you get food to the protest area? (Don’t automatically send pizzas, though— try to find out what’s needed first.) Sometimes religious organisations who support social justice and/or who are nearby where the protest is happening will house food operations, for example.
Do you know people who would like to go to or work on a protest, but need help taking care of their kids? Or does one of the organising groups have a volunteer opportunity with kids? Childcare is an often-overlooked need in many mainstream liberal movements, and we should be centering these kinds of needs to make sure many different kinds of people can participate.
Do you have particular expertise that you can donate? Can you teach other people how to do what you know how to do? Often technology expertise is a needed skill, but there are many depending on the location and the moment.
Can you make phone calls or do text message work? Are you willing to clean up things needing cleaning, or move resources around town? Can you stuff envelopes or do door-to-door work? There are so many jobs behind the scenes to keep a protest healthy and moving! Check out this guide from Beyond The Streets for a comprehensive list; it was originally created for the Ferguson protests, but mostly remains frustratingly relevant today. (Thanks to Jasmine Burnett for that link.)
Don’t know where to start? If you’re not already connected to your local racial justice activism scene, there’s no time like the present! You can look up a local Showing Up for Racial Justice chapter; I also recommend following and supporting the work of as many Black people as possible, who often link to local action. Some of my favourites include: Leslie Mac, Black Lives Matter, Mia Birdsong, Jasmine Burnett, Charlene Carruthers, Malkia Devich-Cyril, Pamela Merritt, Tarana Burke, Sabrina Hersi Issa, and Blair Imani. (Do not ask these or other Black people for help on how to help right now— they have a lot of other work on their plates and don’t need our emotional burden.)
Other broader resource favourites include Anti-racism resources for white people and 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. Go down the rabbit hole of these lists and find who and what resonates with you near you.
A note about getting ready to offer support: if you’re a white person and new to an organisation or group, be prepared for the possibility that your help may not be accepted. There are a bajillion reasons why local groups on the ground may not be welcoming newcomers right now. Their safety is more important than your ego; seek another way of supporting them if in-person help is not accepted in this moment.