Pantsuit Nation-gate broke today. I’m of two minds on this one. The first is that I don’t blame people for feeling betrayed by founder Libby Chamberlain’s pivot to a book deal. It’s partly a failure of messaging. In her announcement, Chamberlain took her time getting into details around privacy and permissions (and did not address compensation at all). Her tone was a little self-congratulatory. And there are real questions about how much a coffee table book should be celebrated as a victory amid so many big, scary policy struggles.
On the other hand, I’m not sure what any of us gains from arguing about the right and wrong ways to work for an inclusive, progressive America. Of course it’s true that not all advocacy is equal in its impact. I certainly wouldn’t argue that my current personal practices — a monthly charity budget plus the little diary that is SpotlightChange — are particularly powerful. But, if we deride and dismiss each other’s clumsy first steps, how can we ever expect anyone to go further? It’s been said before, but I’m not sure activists on the far right make these mistakes.
With all that said. Vice has a good guide today on how to be there for your Muslim neighbors. To the valid points made by Pantsuit Nations critics, how do you go beyond kind but perhaps misguided pledges to sign a potential Muslim registry? How do you help to diminish the dangers that are already here?
Vice highlights some great options:
- Step up, step back: Basically, this is about doing your homework. If you want to advocate, look for and learn from organizations that have already worked tirelessly on these causes for years. They offer a list of great groups to follow, compiled by the Washington Peace Center. I’m putting adding some of these to my reading list on this week’s agenda.
- Build hate free communities: DRUM (Desis Rise Up and Moving) has done this in Jackson Heights, Queens. It starts with asking local businesses and faith communities to take a simple shared pledge against bias and violence. But the next steps are more practical, such as offering trainings on how bystanders can safely intervene, or creating community patrols for high risk areas. This kind of action probably feels like an intimidating place to begin, right? See step 1 — a group in your area might already be working on this (and need volunteers to keep up the momentum).
- Stand by local institutions: Visit a local mosque and ask how you can help.
- Support Syrian refugees: Volunteer with your local refugee resettlement organization or donate to groups like the International Rescue Committee.
- Politics as usual: When key legislation comes up, reach out to your Congress person as well as local, state, and federal officials.