Self-care and good allyship in a toxic political landscape
By: jimmy cooper
We live in troubled times. That is the lament. Days and months go by, bad news cycling through all of them: children detained, Jewish people murdered by white supremacists, transgender people being written out of existence. Hate crimes are at an all-time high, according to the Washington Post. The day after it was proposed that law be rewritten to exclude transgender people, Trans Lifeline, a suicide hotline specifically for transgender individuals, saw a 400 percent increase in calls, according to The Advocate. After shootings like the recent Pittsburgh synagogue attack, the nation must grieve together. These tragedies are only becoming more common.
How, then, do we cope? The new wave of internet-based self-care tips refers us mostly to taking bubble baths, doing face masks, and staying hydrated. All of these can be helpful, but for people whose livelihoods are threatened, they often aren’t enough, and if they aren’t enough, what is? I’m just one person, and my experiences aren’t universal, but I’d like to share a few of my tactics:
Build a community.
There is strength in numbers. Even if it’s just two or three people, getting together to process works wonders. It can stop, at least in part, the spiral of anxiety and fear that often results from hearing the latest bad news. Play songs that make you feel empowered, share your feelings, and do fun things together— even if just for a moment, to take your mind off things. The world is a lot less terrifying with folks that love you at your side.
Yes, it is important to stay up-to-date on what’s happening, but your mental health is also important. We have 24/7 access to the most upsetting news of every hour of every day, and it’s without a doubt unhealthy. Even if you don’t turn off your phone or computer entirely, try to dedicate some time in your internet usage to just the good things (cute animal videos, pictures of your celebrity crush, fan art of your favorite character, whatever floats your boat). It’s not all bad news, even though it seems like it.
Invest time in yourself.
The advent of a constant social media stream makes us far too invested in other people’s livelihoods. When you can see everyone’s trials and tribulations, successes and failures, your own can seem less important and even irrelevant. Allow yourself to be proud of how far you’ve come and what you’re doing. Allow yourself time to try the new nail polish color you’ve been meaning to, to dress up even just around the house, or to finish the personal project you’ve been pushing to the background. You are just as important as everyone else.You deserve the same care you’d give to others.
Allies, this is where you come in. To be a good ally is not just to say you support the struggle. To ally yourself to a community is a verb; it’s an actionable statement. Here are some actions you can do to support marginalized communities:
If you want to be a part of a fight, you need to know what it’s about. Yes, marginalized people are the experts of our struggle, and we are often happy to explain concepts, issues, and the like, but we are also tired. So it’s often best to at least try to research on your own-- there’s a lot to wade through, but it’s certainly doable, and it’s better to go into a conversation with a baseline of knowledge than nothing at all.
Use your privileges
When you see or hear something going down, you can use your privilege to everyone’s advantage by speaking up. Unfortunately, privilege means your voice is taken more seriously in a lot of settings. Use it!
Support marginalized voices.
That being said, when a person from a marginalized community is talking about their experience, or advocating for themselves, let them do the talking— they will almost certainly know their struggle better than you.
In the old lefty adage: “From each according to their ability; to each according to their need.” There’s power in unity and a hand extended to pick each other back up, and with that, we just might survive.