How to Help Protesters
It's not a moment, it's a movement
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can or should speak to what’s going on in the world right now. I’m sure we all have.
The privilege I was born into renders me empathetic but ultimately incapable of fully understanding the weight Black people are under. Have been under.
And I would expect that for the white men, and non-Black men, in the Style Girlfriend community, you’re similarly wondering how you fit into this movement.
A comparison occurred to me that, forgive me, is probably inelegant but provided me with some clarity on a path forward. I thought it might help you, too.
Right now the country is giving birth to a new nation. Whether you wanted this or not, the contractions have started.
Now, I’ve never given birth. Presumably neither have you, though maybe you’ve witnessed it up close. But we both know enough about the process to know it’s painful as hell. And life-changing.
So, how to help protesters as our country goes through this painful, life-changing moment?
Here’s my plan:
Hold your partner’s hand.
How can you be supportive during this time? Are you able to donate money to worthy causes? (Here’s a good list, if so.) Attend protests in your city? Speak with friends and family members about how to be actively anti-racist?
Ask what your partner—in this case—the Black community – needs to feel supported. Then, do that.
Recognize your partner’s pain.
In childbirth, there’s no doubt that the person pushing a freaking baby out of their body is going through it.
The contractions hurt like hell! Things inside and outside their body are bleeding and pulling and literally tearing apart.
It’s easy to bear witness to your partner’s physical and emotional anguish. You can see it right in front of you.
Recognize that same pain in the protests happening now. Remind yourself that you don’t have to experience it to know it’s real.
Parents-to-be watch birthing videos to better understand the experience; consider reading and learning more about the history of institutionalized racism to better understand how and why we’ve reached this time. This reading list from the New York Times is a good place to start.
Listen to what your partner needs from you.
In the delivery room, you listen to your partner. Does she need ice chips? That Fifth Harmony song that always gets her through the last mile of her run to be blasted on the portable speaker? Your hand to squeeze as the next contraction hits?
It’s easy, in childbirth, to recognize that it’s the right thing to do to trust your partner to tell you what she needs.
Consider acting in the same way here.
Trust Black people to tell you what they need. Listen when they tell you.
This movement may not be yours to lead, and that’s okay. Listen. Support. Repeat.
Recognize that things will be different, and that ‘different’ will be worth it.
New parents get a lot less sleep. And have a lot less sex. And their home’s surfaces become covered in toys and diapers and board books.
Also, those new parents have a baby that’s the physical manifestation of their love and affection for eachother.
So, maybe keep that in mind here. A more equitable society might make you feel like you’re losing something. After all, the status quo can be pretty intoxicating when it means the world basically revolves around you.
When you feel unmoored by the idea of a new reality—one that you’re a welcome part of, mind you!—it can feel jarring, to say the least.
It’s your responsibility to learn where you fit in this new world, not resent the reality that the world is changing without your permission.
See how it feels to lean into the belief that the new love created by your efforts together will be worth it.
feature image: “Vigil” by Tajh Rust, 2020