How to support Black Lives Matter protests if you can’t be there in person

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People around the world have felt a sense of helplessness after the unjust killing of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25. There are many active protests that rally support for the Black Lives Matter movement happening in the US and internationally, but protesting isn’t the only way you’re able to help the cause.

Protesting isn’t an option for everyone, particularly at a time when COVID-19 is still a threat. Whether you have concerns about public or personal health, mobility or crowd issues, live in a geographically remote area, or simply feel unsafe participating, you need not feel guilty about being unable to attend a physical protest. But you still should show up in another way – and not just posting a black box on Instagram.

Here’s how to support the Black Lives Matter movement in meaningful, tangible ways.

1. Donate to victims’ families and medical bills.

One of the best ways to make a personal impact on the lives of those directly affected by injustice is by donating to victims’ families. Families of murdered Black people often find themselves facing a gaping financial and emotional hole, and while donations won’t bring back their loved ones, it may ease the burden of funeral costs and loss of income. Fundraising pages for victims like Ahmaud Arbery are aimed at helping bereaved families financially recover in the wake of tragedy. Donations can also benefit protestors injured on the streets who are currently recovering in hospitals. Leslie, for example, was shot by police in La Mesa, California, while peacefully protesting, and her family is looking for help covering her medical bills.

Here’s a more extensive list of victims’ families actively seeking fundraising.

2. Sign petitions.

Signing petitions is an often maligned form of activism for being low-effort, but petitions have existed for this long because they help get the job done. Signing a petition shouldn’t be the only thing you do, but it is the least you can do, and it’s still vitally important. There are large-scale national campaigns, but you can often have the most impact petitioning at a local level. Here’s a useful Twitter thread of lesser-known petitions that could use your voice, but as always, search locally first.

3. Donate to, and patronize, Black-owned businesses.

Several Black-owned businesses were destroyed or severely damaged across the nation during riots. This is a devastating time for business owners to incur further expenses after suffering financially due to coronavirus-related shutdowns. From Florida to Minnesota, businesses across the country are struggling to rebuild, and you can help by donating and sharing donation links within your own network.

Buying from Black-owned businesses is something you should do year-round, not just when there’s an immediate need for support. Research and seek out those businesses in your local neighborhoods, and find out the best way to support them. That could be by ordering delivery tonight or purchasing a gift card or merch. It could be by inviting your friends to like their pages on social media. It could mean hiring a local business or independent contractor to work on a project, and then leaving positive in-depth reviews on their Google and Yelp pages and uploading photos of their work.

Local journalists are doing a lot of important work right now elevating these businesses, so the best thing you can do is search for your specific area – for example, B lack-owned restaurants in New York City.

4. Donate supplies to the protestors and contribute to bail funds.

If you can’t be on the streets, you can still make an impact on the protests happening in your area or afar. Many peaceful protesters are being unjustly arrested or detained, and they’re unable to afford bail. Use this crowd-sourced list of city and community bail funds to help protestors get back out on the street, or at least back home to their families.

Local protests are also in need of basic supplies like water, food, and face masks. Look to the social media pages of local organizers for their most immediate needs and where to send them to. People may also be in need of shelter, and if you have space, you can offer up your home on social media, or with your local organizers, as a safe space for protestors to retreat to in the event violence escalates or if they feel otherwise unsafe or in need of things like a meal, shower, or emotional support.

5. Get involved in the BLM movement long term.

You don’t have to march down the street with a placard to express your support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. To avoid feeling helpless during these volatile times, one of the best things you can do is getting involved yourself. That means connecting with a Black Lives Matter chapter in your local area, and showing up a month from now, six months from now, and beyond.

According to BLM’s website, the goal of the global organization is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” The organization promotes African American arts and culture, supports emerging Black artists, and seeks to elevate the spirit of the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Women’s Rights Movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Black Lives Matter plays an integral role in raising awareness of racial injustice, educating the public on issues of inequality, and providing resources for the vulnerable Black community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more, or find out how to get involved, check the list of local chapters.

In addition to Black Lives Matter, there are several organizations that host training related to racial sensitivity, justice initiatives, and education-based programs. These programs are aimed at informing people about their rights, promoting safety, and advocating reform.

Justice Committee Communities United for Police Reform Unicorn Riot Critical Resistance Reclaim the Block

These are just a few of the organizations working to promote racial justice. Whether it’s attending and getting personally involved, donating, or just educating yourself online about causes and year-round events, the more knowledge you have about the movement, the better equipped you will be to combat inequality in your community.

6. Support policy change.

Today is a primary election day in multiple states, and there’s more at stake in the next election than just the presidency. Whether your election day has passed or not, it’s important to elevate awareness for lesser-known ballot initiatives and candidates of color, as well as offices that have direct impact on the Black Lives Matter movement, such as sheriffs.

Black Lives Matter launched the #WhatMatters2020 campaign to ensure that Black voices are heard in 2020. Supporting this initiative might be one of the most effective ways to influence the national conversation and continue it beyond this week.

The campaign’s chief areas of focus are encouraging Black voter registration, educating constituents about candidates that will best serve their interests, and engaging Black communities in the electoral process. The ultimate goal is to achieve reforms in the areas of racial injustice, police brutality, criminal justice, economic justice, Black immigration, voting rights and suppression, and education.

The best thing you can do to support the cause is spread awareness of the #WhatMatters2020 campaign, including pledging to vote, registering to vote, and encouraging others to vote in support of the goals of this campaign. You can also petition for more government aid for vulnerable communities.

Policy reform is especially important in the era of the pandemic, which disproportionately affects the Black community due to socio-economic realities. To increase awareness of how the pandemic is affecting the country’s Black population, you can add your name to a petition demanding the release of more racial data on the coronavirus.

7. Insist on police accountability.

Race inequality in America is often exacerbated, and brought to light, by the brutal actions of police. One of the most effective ways of addressing this issue is by supporting initiatives that seek to reform the justice system – and that starts with police officers. Campaign Zero is proposing policy solutions aimed at fixing the system, including increased community oversight, improved training and education, demilitarization of police departments, fair police union contracts, and more training and education. You can even propose your own policy solution for consideration by Campaign Zero.

To help Campaign Zero continue identifying solutions, and present policymakers with research and data, donate here.

8. Educate yourself.

Overcoming racial injustice in the US starts with individuals. Most of us claim to be progressive thinkers and anti-racist, but racism is a highly nuanced and complex issue that requires extensive education to truly understand and defeat.

Understanding terms like “privilege,” “access,” and “white fragility” are integral to having a firm grip on the national situation right now. That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in social justice, but the better informed you are about the issues, terminology, and history surrounding racial inequality in America, the more effectively you’ll be able to support the cause.

This ” Anti-Racism for Beginners + White People ” document does a good job of introducing key terminology and encouraging introspection. It breaks down common misconceptions about racist thinking and white privilege, and it sheds some light on the importance of self-education in the country’s healing process.

More educational resources, including a history of racism in America, and information on the prison-industrial complex are available here.

9. Amplify the right voices.

The single easiest, non-monetary thing you can do right now is share articles, videos, and social media posts from Black voices – not just this week but year-round. The sentiment of #BlackoutTuesday was a good one, but it was quite flawed in education. Use of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag effectively blacked out important information from being shared in favor of plain black boxes. Those with the algorithm on their side (celebrities, influencers, large media brands) took away from those with smaller followings but more important things to say.

If you take up space on social media this week and beyond, use it to move the needle toward tangible action instead of just solidarity. Do not share images from protests where you do not have the consent of the identifiable individuals pictured. Be mindful of sharing videos of graphic brutality that could be traumatic for others to view involuntarily. And if you see your friends and family misstepping, offer advice on how to do better in a way that is productive and doesn’t make them feel like they would have been better off saying nothing. Remember: Above all, silence is not the answer.