Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Defending the Defenseless

Over the last week, America has seen an uptick of hateful intimidation and harassment towards minority people and groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported over two-hundred cases alone, it’s been on the news, Jim C. Hines has a collection of incidents on his site, and activists like Shaun King have been keeping a running tally of reports.

This has become immediately personal to me. It’s happening to my friends. I’ve seen cars vandalized. I’ve heard former coworkers tell stories about being verbally harassed. I’ve seen people get hateful emails and Facebook messages because they happen to be married to someone who isn’t white. It’s appalling.

Sadly, on some level, none of this is too surprising. Racial division has split America for a long time, and it’s not strictly an American problem. Similar harassment happened in the UK aftermath of Brexit (another campaign fueled by anti-immigrant/minority sentiment.) Hateful bigots get empowered by rhetoric, so it’s not shocking to witness it going on here in America. (Disappointing, yes. Surprising, no.) This sort of behavior puts everyone on edge and emotions run hot. But we can stand up to this.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

Abraham Lincoln said, “Whatever you are, be a good one,” and I plan on being a good one. There are many things we can do to help defend those who need it most right now. So I figured it’d be handy to present some options for those who are interested in helping.


Donate

Many folks out there won’t witness this sort of activity. (Seriously, consider yourself lucky.) But you’re going to read about it, and you’re going to want to help. Consider giving to organizations that defend those who can’t defend themselves. Here are four good ones.

Note: This is just a small list focusing on a subset of groups. There are so many other charities and activist organizations that need you help. The important thing is to give. Most organizations have options to do monthly or one-time payments. Any amount helps. Give what you can.


Act

If you see harassment happen, get involved. Don’t wait for the victim to turn to you and ask for help. Alert the authorities if you see vandalism. Step in if you witness abuse. I posted an excellent quote from Desmond Tutu last week about the danger of remaining neutral during situations of injustice. Go read it.

The illustrator and artist Maeril put together a handy comic on how to diffuse a harassment situation and how you can help. The comic focuses on Islamophobia, but it serves as an excellent guide to stopping most harassers. Again, if this doesn’t work, alert the authorities.

What to do if you are witnessing Islamophobic harassment


Engage Locally

Take a stand against hate. Look for local ways to help out minority communities in your neighborhood. Volunteer at or donate to your local homeless shelter. Many churches have groups that offer help to the needy and work to welcome immigrants into communities. Work with your local food bank. Get involved in groups that welcome refugees and work with minorities.

For example, during the upcoming holidays, Kari-Lise and I are working with the International Rescue Committee to sponsor a local refugee family and provide them Christmas presents. We want them to feel welcome in our city, and little acts of kindness like this can go a long way to making an immigrant family feel welcome.


Hate groups are empowered right now, so don’t expect this sort of behavior to go away. (They’ve been on the rise all year.) Even if it lessens over the next few weeks, it’s clear that the animosity is there, bubbling under the surface. We have a long way to go before America, and humanity in general, is past its deep-set racism, bigotry, and hate.

Despair isn’t how you defeat evil. Action is.

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