How You Can Show Up For Ferguson

Like so many of you, Autostraddle’s staff spent most of yesterday anxiously awaiting the St. Louis County grand jury decision on Darren Wilson, and most of last night in a state of devastated disbelief as we learned that the jury chose not to indict the man who murdered unarmed black teenager Michael Brown earlier this summer. After the announcement, we watched as people across the nation gathered to protest the continued devaluation of black lives in America, and President Obama equivocated from The White House.

A lot of us woke up feeling helpless and heartbroken, but even more determined to never, ever, ever give up the fight. So, in that spirit, we have compiled a list of ways that you can help the people of Ferguson who refuse to be silenced as they spread the message that Black Lives Matter.

Firstly, let me quote Rachel Kincaid:

Generally and most importantly, especially if you are a white person, follow the lead of the black people of Ferguson and black organizers elsewhere; listen to find out what’s needed rather than making assumptions.

And, with that in mind, here are some practical ways to get involved:

Stay informed

+ Quartz published a really excellent list back in August called “12 things white people can do now because Ferguson.” It is a great launching point for understanding America’s radicalized racial history and the way propagandized narratives perpetuate our very broken system.

+ Tolerance.org is compiling a growing list of resources for teachers “who want to help their students understand what happened in Ferguson, contextualize its place in our nation’s history and empower young people to work for a more just, peaceful world.” You can also use the resources to talk to the non-student kids in your life.

+ Expand your media horizons. Don’t get all your news from white-dominated sources; look to places like Colorlines, This Week in Blackness, and The Root.

+ Read the hard stuff. Audio and written transcripts of Darren Wilson’s testimony are available, and it will make you sick to read much of what he said, but it is important to know the whole truth of what we’re dealing with.

Donate

+ Ferguson Movement Rapid Giving has compiled an extensive list of grassroots organizations that will feel the impact right now by monetary donations. These include: Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Organization for Black Struggle, Lost Voices, and Freedom Fighters.

+ The social media activist organization Help or Hush has been vital in breaking news on the ground from Ferguson for months.

+ Ferguson schools were closed today, but the Ferguson Library is committed to staying open and continuing to be a safe space for both children and adults. They are accepting donations of time, money and books.

+ The National Lawyers Guild has been present on the front lines since August and plans to continue to support Ferguson protestors. Donations go toward court fees, housing and travel for Legal Observers.

+ Many teachers and schools in Ferguson are raising funds for supplies through Donors Choose.

+ You can also donate directly to Anti-State STL for bail and legal fees for protestors who have been arrested.

Use Your Voice

+ Don’t sit silently at your Thanksgiving table while your Fox News-watching relatives spread racist rhetoric. Speak truth into your interactions with people who refuse to get it.

+ Use Twitter, Facebook, Tumbr, Instagram, Storify, etc. to share updates, calls to action, poignant observations, and your own thoughts and feelings about the atrocities of racism in the United States.

+ Show up at one of the protests happening all around the world today. Check out a full list on Ferguson National Response’s Tumblr.

+ Remember the longterm goal. Let me quote our own Hannah Hodson:

But there are many who want to make clear that these protests are not all about the indictment of Darren Wilson. The protests are about changing American politics and practices from the bottom-up. Not just electing Black and brown people to office, but eradicating the school-to-prison pipeline and creating real opportunities for systematically oppressed people.

If you have more ideas for ways to help, please share them in the comments.

Editor’s note: When I was putting together this post yesterday, I was compiling new resources with a list of resources Rachel Kincaid made a few months ago when Brown was first murdered, which is why I quoted her twice in this post — but in doing so, I made the mistake of silencing people of color by not asking for input from our QPOC writers or pulling from our extensive archives where QPOC have written some powerful, heartbreaking, revelatory things about Ferguson. I am deeply sorry. I am sickened by my own white privilege blinders. I promise to be more vigilant going forward. 

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Heather has written 724 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. Thank you for this list. As far as donations go, the library donation idea that you suggested here is really resonant for me. I know there have been campaigns that have been called into question and called out by people in the Ferguson community in the past, and as a result I’m really concerned about spreading misinformation and linking people to campaigns that might not actually be doing the good they’re purported to be doing, so having a list with options like donation links to libraries is amazing in that regard.

    Something I wanted to add with regard to the using your voice section – this is a really specifically internet-discourse one, because that’s the only part of this conversation I feel in any way comfortable adding my voice rather than echoing others who come from a better place to speak on this:

    Please also use discretion and respectfulness when you use your voice, especially in social media spheres? That extends both to things like not speaking over the voices of groups who are personally affected by this issue (i.e. don’t “contribute” to this conversation by writing Tumblr-post novellas about your white guilt), but also to things like being sensitive about the kind of rhetoric you use when calling your social media followers to action. As someone with mental health concerns, I know I’m having a really, really rough time with all of this. There’s a lot about the violence and police brutality aspects of the situation that’s extremely triggering for me, and to compound that, I’m seeing a lot of rhetoric on my dashboard and Twitter timeline today that, however well-intentioned, is counterproductive, deflecting, or outright misinformed.

    If you have a prominent voice on social media of any sort and you’re using it as a platform to discuss this, please understand that not everyone is the appropriate party to be an authoritative, active voice in this conversation to every audience. Please remember to tag any Tumblr posts with violent images or triggering content if your followers ask you to do that sort of thing, and please do not claim to speak for anyone else’s level of mental and emotional health in how active of a participant they can be in this conversation in internet discourse spheres. Especially given things like the rioting happening in Ferguson right now and the wishes from the Brown family for nonviolent response, please do not fall into the popular Tumblr-speak trap of telling your followers to “die in a fire” or similar rhetorical threats of violent acts over things like the politics of reblogging. Particularly in regard to this issue: fellow non-black people, please, PLEASE do not inject your voices into this conversation for the purpose of gaining “social justice cred.” Do not fish for notes or retweets. If you cannot, for whatever reasons related to respectfulness or mental health, be a direct voice in a conversation, express to your followers instead that you are listening, and then, obviously, LISTEN to the voices around you.

    Caring, compassion, knowledge, and activism are not simply a quantitative quota of reblogs or a measure of pithy 140-character quotables – please do not turn this issue into that, friends who partake in internet discourse, and please learn to discern the difference between silence on an issue borne out of apathy/intolerance and the choice to listen more than you speak when it comes to social issues that are not your own.

  2. So I realize you will delete my comment because that is what this site does. But I don’t care. You all at auto straddle scream for equal rights, well what about the rights of police officers? You know, the people you call when you need help. The people who lay their own life on the line for your bennefit.

    Do you know that the average life span of a police officer is 55 years of age. And why is this you ask, it’s because of the stress and the dangers that they face on a daily basis.

    This article starts out by saying how devastated the author is over the “no true bill” decision. That decision was made for a reason, that reasono was a lack of evidence against the officer. What is devastating is the reaction of individuals who are rioting, who are protesting and who are pushing illinformed propaganda. You all want a police officer to be charged for murder based on what??????? There was not even enough evidence to support the lowest charge of manslaughter, let alone first degree murder. The only devastating thing would have been to see an officer be wrongfully indicted.

    You all need to think about the effect this situation is having on officers across this country. There may be a day when you are in a grave situation, and maybe if you are lucky enough a police officer will have raced to your aid. Do you want that officer to hesitate and wonder will he or she be indicted for murder if he or she pulls the trigger?

    • I do want the officer to hesitate and wonder if he or she can subdue the suspect without using lethal force……Do you know why? Because the odds are the gun will be pointed at myself or someone I love.

      I hope that no one you know or care about ever makes a mistake or does anything that allows a police officer to panic and conclude their demon/hulk status. And I hope that the officer does stop and wonder if non-lethal force would be better.

      We don’t know the jury break down. Just because they chose not to convict doesn’t mean that guilty aren’t walking free.

    • I’m glad you commented because clearly you need a lot of information that you couldn’t find on your own.

      Since there is so so much one needs to know I will just give you some things to think about. It’s a start.

      First let us discuss Officer Wilson’s options (in case his story is true, let us just take this possibility for a minute here):

      Option 1: stay in the car, call for help
      Consequence: officer safe, Michael Brown alive

      Option 2: drive away, call for help
      Consequence: officer safe, Michael Brown alive

      Option 3: use one of the undeadly weapons in his car
      Consequence: officer safe, Michael Brown injured but alive.

      Option 4: Shoot MB in the leg or some other are that will make him unable to attack, but not kill him
      Consequence: officer safe, Michael Brown injured but alive

      Option 5: Shoot Michael Brown several times until he’s dead
      Consequence: officer has to go on living having killed someone, Michael Brown dead

      It might be just me. But Option 5 just doesn’t seem like the best option.

      Next thing to think about:

      Let us just compare the gun use of the police in the US with the gun use of the police in another country, let us take Germany because I found official numbers there.

      We take in count that the US population is almost 4 times as high as the German so let us divide the US numbers in 4.

      People killed by police officers:
      USA: about 400 in 2013
      Germany: 8 in 2013
      (so it’s 100 against 8)

      People injured by police:
      USA: cannot find any numbers
      Germany: 20

      The most interesting thing here is: The US doesn’t have official numbers. The number 400 is one taken from the Supplementary Homicide Report. But many police stations don’t even report their numbers. The real number will be higher but we don’t know it. Why is that?

      Now you might say that they need to shoot to be safe. But let us take another look at the numbers from Germany. One killed police officer in 2013.

      The difference is that the police officers in Germany are only allowed to use their gun in a life threatening situation. Difference: It isn’t enough to think that maybe someone has a gun, maybe he might shoot. If there was no gun pointed at anyone it wasn’t life threatening.

      No, a black young man without a weapon is not life threatening. His blackness does not make him life threatening.

    • “THIS situation is having on Police officers….”
      You do realize this is not the only time it’s happened right? It’s just that now thanks to social media and the like, people are more aware of what’s going on and have every damn right to be upset that some cops keep getting away with murder.
      As Taylor pointed out, there were other options Wilson could have taken. And did you see his ABC interview? He said he he did nothing wrong and would do it again. He’s learned nothing.

    • Too often, Black people call on the police for help and are then harmed by those very officers.

      Jason Harrison was shot twice and killed by the cops after his mother called the Dallas police to help escort him to the hospital- he was mentally ill and she routinely reached out to DPD for assistance.
      http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Dallas-Police-Fatally-Shoot-Man-With-Mental-Health-Behaviors-263163621.html

      The police are not here to protect and serve people of color, particularly Black americans, and they should at the very least be held accountable in court for taking the lives of unarmed people, period.

    • “Do you want that officer to hesitate and wonder will he or she be indicted for murder if he or she pulls the trigger?”

      YES. I want every officer to ask themselves that before they pull the trigger. Every time.

      Not bothering to respond to the rest of your comment because if you really want to understand why we’re horrified and enraged, you could actually follow some of the links in the post.

    • I do want police officers to be more fully trained about when they pull the trigger, because those triggers are pulled way more often when their guns are pointed at non-white folks. (And before it comes up, those studies have also shown that the racial disparities aren’t due to differences in behavior between white and non-white suspects.)

      When shootings happen, I want there to be a better procedure in place than the grand jury system. People are outraged because grand juries return an indictment 99.99% of the time. But when it’s a case of police officers accused of unjustified shootings, they indict only 1.2% of the time. That’s functionally a “get out of jail free” card for these kinds of situations, and that’s incredibly fucked up.

      I have a lot of sympathy for the good cops out there who are doing their best in a set of difficult circumstances. But not all cops are good cops. We have to fix the broken system that we have so that those folks can do their jobs and so that young black men aren’t 21 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than young white men.

      But even if we do get to a point where racial bias doesn’t affect officers’ decisions to shoot (and I think we’re sadly a long, long way from that), I’m still going to want an officer to be deliberate about their choice to possibly end someone’s life.

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