Making a Difference
In increasingly unstable times, helping others is a foolproof way to make a positive impact.
By Crissonna Tennison, UCLA
A lot of people have the post-election blues.
While the shock of Donald Trump’s victory galvanized thousands to protest in the days after the election, the weeks after have been more unsettled, not just because the president-elect is creating an administration that looks like it came out of a dystopian film, but because those who oppose the president are finding that their anger is slowly being overtaken by despair.
It can be tempting to take personal responsibility for political events, and to feel like one should come up with a complete potential solution for the world’s ills before taking action. However, politics are collective; it is not just one person’s or one group’s fault that thing have turned out the way they have. And while organizing and creating new social and political movements will be important in the next few weeks, months and years, there are also organizations in existence today that will need extra help as the new administration chops away at American civil liberties.
Here are five of the national social justice organizations that you can consider lending your time and pent up energy to instead of sadly watching CNN.
If you’re not sure what your particular cause is, the ACLU is a good place to start. The ACLU has been operating since the twenties, when it was created to defend those who were tortured during one of the United States’ periodic Communist scares.
The organization has been defending the constitutional rights of personal and religious freedom ever since, dealing with issues as diverse as immigrant rights, Muslim and LGBTQ protection, reproductive health, protester’s rights, police brutality, and digital security and privacy.
The ACLU constantly needs donations to support their wide network of volunteers, but if you have more time and energy than you do money, check out your state’s chapter to apply to volunteer opportunities. The Southern California chapter, for example, needs people to participate in rallies, speak with the press, work in administration, create videos and much more.
Planned Parenthood is a national organization whose name has dubiously become synonymous with “abortion.” However, abortions only make up 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities. The clinics provide many other health services for people without adequate medical insurance, such as birth control, pregnancy tests, STI tests and mammograms. They also provide information that empowers people to make educated and healthy decisions about their sexual and reproductive activity.
College students can join Planned Parenthood Generation Action, either joining or starting a campus chapter to focus on educating people about reproductive rights and health and organizing for political activism. PPGA focuses on intersectionality, using their reproductive justice as a foundation to understanding the way that intersecting racial, sexual, gender, religious and ability-level identities complicate social and political issues.
CAIR advocates for religious freedom and cross-cultural knowledge, focusing on Islam. The perception of Islam in the US is not just negative and dangerous, but largely incorrect.
CAIR seeks to correct that perception through educating journalists and other citizens about Islam, encouraging interfaith dialogue and working in the political arena to defend religious freedom and other civil liberties. One of their publications is called “American Muslims: A Journalist’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslims.”
CAIR also provides a safe space for Muslims by upholding the right to practice their religion and keeping members up-to-date with hate crimes and “prominent Islamophobes.” Those who wish to volunteer can assist with tracking Islamophobia, posting on social media, reaching out to interfaith communities or taking photos.
United We Dream is a youth-run organization with affiliate groups around the country. Their focus is on providing emotional and political support for immigrants through campaigns such as We Can’t Wait, and online “toolboxes” that give advice for a wide range of situations, such as dealing with Immigration and Customs Officials.
United We Dream also connects immigrants of all statuses with legal resources to help them get work permits, driver’s licenses and access to higher education. They further validate immigrant experiences by asking people to share their unique stories and challenges. Those who are interested in volunteering should look at United We Dream’s list of affiliate organizations. On example of an affiliate is the San Diego Dream Team, who hold meetings twice a month.
A more focused way of getting involved is through volunteering for the Big Brother Big Sister program. It may seem intimidating to “mentor” a youth as a college student, especially in a time where it is clear that many adults do not have all, or even any, of the answers. However, the focus of BBBS is building consistent support through companionship.
Youths need advocates and people in their life who care about what happens to them, and now that the government is less equipped and interested than ever in providing that reassurance, it comes down individual community members to take an interest in “the future.” “Bigs” are required to make a one-year commitment to hang out with their “littles” 6 to 10 hours a month. To be eligible, you must be eighteen with a relatively clean driving and criminal record.
There are many, many other important organizations that always need help, especially for the next four years, such as Lambda Legal, the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign. It can be hard to choose just one cause to focus on, especially since the troubles of the world seem so daunting. However, if everybody who cares focuses their energy and commitment on one cause, positive, meaningful change can occur across the board.