We're living in some volatile political times, and it can feel like there's a lot happening in the world to be outraged about. Social justice issues are in the news, and our newsfeeds, regularly, as the rights of many are under attack. And while there have been many progressive strides made over the past couple of decades, we still have a long way to go on the most important issues.
From immigration to reproductive healthcare, to keeping elections fair, here are six social justice issues that are important right now, and how you can get involved.
Immigrants' rights have been especially under attack during the past three years, under the administration of a President who embraces xenophobia, launched his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and promised to build a wall at the border to keep immigrants out. There are migrant children living in detention camps at the border, forcibly separated from their parents and living in unhygienic conditions. In September, the Supreme Court allowed the enforcement of the strictest restriction ever imposed on asylum seekers, people fleeing to the U.S. from persecution in their home countries.
There is a crisis in our immigration system, and an inordinate amount of power is given to government officials that criminalize immigrants and have historically discriminated against people of color. Families are being separated and people who have lived their entire lives in this country are being uprooted from their homes. It's a human rights crisis — and action has to be taken to uphold justice.
What can you do?
- Donate to help immigrant families. NWDC Resistance is a grassroots, undocumented-led organization that fights to close detention centers and end deportations. You can donate to their cause and check out their events page for options to show up and support. KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) represents undocumented immigrant children and refugees in deportation proceedings. You can donate, and find other ways to get involved, through their website.
- Give your time. If you aren't able to give money, or would rather do something more action-oriented, you can volunteer your time to some amazing organizations that need your help. #StandWithImmigrants is a collaboration by multiple lawyer associations, legal advocate groups, and human rights advocates intended to empower people (legal professionals and other allie) to defend against the deportation of immigrants and ensure that everyone has the right to due process. There are many areas you can volunteer in depending on your skills and expertise. If you work in law, there are several options and resources for you to offer your services pro bono or be a point of consultation for people in need of legal help. The organization provides additional training for volunteers so that you can be of better assistance.
With the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018, laws that protect the abortion rights are in danger. Roe vs. Wade, the landmark case that made abortion legal in all 50 states, is under direct attack. Within one week of each other, both Alabama and Georgia passed laws severely restricting access to abortion, Alabama's being the most restrictive ban in the country, making no exceptions for rape or incest and making it a felony for doctors to perform abortions unless the mother's life is in danger. The author of the bill in Alabama stated that the bill was explicitly intended to challenge Roe vs. Wade in the Supreme Court, a challenge most believe may be lost considering the President's recent appointees.
The right to choose is a healthcare issue — one that protects the safety of pregnant people and their rights of autonomy over their own bodies. Statistics show people in places where abortion is illegal are not less likely to get abortions, and illegal abortions create unsafe situations for women, putting their lives at risk.
What can you do?
- Donate to the Yellowhammer Fund. The Yellowhammer fund is an Alabama organization that funds abortions for people at one of the state's three abortion clinics. These funds can finance not only the abortions themselves, but also the arrangements that have to be made for people to travel across the state, take off of work, etc. in order to make the appointment despite regulations and waiting times that deliberately inhibit them throughout the process.
- Get involved with NARAL Pro Choice America. Donate or volunteer with an organization that has been fighting for abortion rights for 50 years. Your time is well spent distributing resources and information to fight back against anti-abortion rhetoric and legislation.
- Become a clinic escort. This is a concrete, hands-on way you can fight for the rights of those seeking abortions. Abortion clinics are often inundated with anti-choice protesters that try to taunt and intimidate women on their way to seek an abortion. As an escort, you provide a barrier between the patient and the crowd to ensure they get in the doors safely and aren't harmed or harassed. You can find your local clinics through National Abortion Federation and contact them about being trained as a volunteer escort.
Fighting voter suppression
The right to vote is what our democracy depends upon. Voters have the power to elect officials that truly represent their views and values. That is, unless they don't. Voter suppression, or widespread efforts to prevent certain demographics from voting, is a huge problem and threat to the sanctity of our government. Communities of color, poor people, young voters and other populations that often vote democratic, are subjected to obstacles that make it harder for them to vote. This manipulation of voting laws obscures the voices of many and shifts elections in the favor of those who would not have been elected legitimately.
At least 16 states have laws in place that restrict voters' rights. Voter suppression tactics can be anything from changing polling locations or hours without notice, deliberately denying access to early voting for those who can't make it to the polls, spreading false information about election day, ending same-day voter registration, or requiring valid forms of ID in order to vote. Any attempt to limit people's ability to register to vote or cast a ballot is an infringement on voting rights and a partisan manipulation of our elections. To ensure our elections are fair and representative, ending voter suppression is necessary.
What can you do?
- Support Fair Fight. Started by Stacey Abrams after the 2018 elections — which revealed rampant voter suppression efforts in Georgia that significantly influenced election results — Fair Fight is an organization that protects free and fair elections by fighting back against voter suppression. You can donate or get involved with the fight by giving your time.
- Donate to the ACLU. The American Civil Liberties Union fights actively against voter suppression and if you want to put your money toward keeping elections fair, this is a great place for it.
- Register people to vote. Hold a voter registration drive, or get involved with local efforts to register people to vote in your area. Sites like TurboVote expedite the process for you by filling out the form with your information and keeping you up to date with election news through text and email alerts.
Though there have been considerable strides made for LGBTQ rights in recent years, including marriage equality in all fifty states, there is still a long, long way to go in the fight for equality. The rights of LGBTQ people have been under attack by this administration from the beginning, from banning transgender people in the military to stacking the Supreme Court with conservative, anti-LGBTQ justices. As of now, it may even be legal to fire employees for being homosexual or transgender. In October 2019, the Supreme Court began hearing a case that will decide if the portion of the Civil Rights Act that protects against discrimination on the basis of sex protects LGBTQ people from being fired for who they are.
There is an epidemic of violence against trans women, particular trans women of color, and there has been no acknowledgement on the part of the government or measures put in place to prevent it.
There is still a widespread lack of acceptance of the legitimacy of nonbinary and transgender identities, and LGBTQ youth remain almost five times as likely to commit suicide than heterosexual peers.
What you can do:
- Volunteer with The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project operates a 24/7 hotline and crisis intervention services for LGBTQ youth contemplating suicide. They also provide education and resources for people who are struggling with their identities and want to get help. Their work is extremely important, and as a volunteer, you will directly provide intervention help to people in need and help provide them with what could be life-saving support.
- Vote for – and help elect – LGBTQ candidates. Change comes from our legislators, and when our representatives are actually representing us and our values, we can build the future we want. One of the best ways to advance LGBTQ issues is to make sure you elect representatives that will fight for them. Victory Fund is an organization that provides resources for LGBTQ candidates at every level of government, provides a database of LGBTQ candidates that are running and tells you how you can best support them in their campaigns.
- Volunteer with, or donate to, the ACLU. The ACLU has long been an advocate for LGBTQ rights. By volunteering with them, you can put your change-making energy to good use advocating for issues that matter. They also provide resources for additional involvement on their website.
Climate activism has been at the forefront of the news and popular culture lately. In the wake of the U.N. Climate Action Summit and Greta Thunberg's speech condemning world leaders for their refusal to act drastically enough against the climate crisis, the severity of the climate's current condition is finally beginning to be recognized.
The facts are clear: ice sheets are shrinking in mass, oceans are warming, the global temperature is rising faster and faster, and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the highest it's been in 3 million years. Scientists have concluded that, if we don't make significant strides to reduce our emissions and invest in sustainable sources of energy in as little as 18 months, our planet may be beyond saving.
What you can do:
- Join the rebellion. Extinction Rebellion provides a database of facts and resources about the real consequences we will face if climate change continues to go on unchecked. Through their website, you can also find local groups in your area to get involved with and attend events and protests. you can also go through civil disobedience training so you can participate in civil disobedience actions. You can also participate in local protests through Greta Thunberg's Fridays for Future action, and spread the movement in your social circles.
- Reduce your carbon footprint. By making changes to your diet, modes of transportation, shopping habits and home appliances, you can reduce the negative impact you have on the planet. You can calculate your carbon footprint and see what changes would be most beneficial for you.
Combatting white supremacy
The fight against racism has been centuries-long in this country, and it persists today. Though it deserves its own category on this list, the fight for racial equality is hardly separate from the issues outlined above. They each intersect with race, and fighting for all of these causes demands recognizing that, often, the worst of these issues falls on those at the margins. Climate change will affect people of color first and most egregiously. Laws restricting abortion inordinately affect women of color, and reproductive health is uniquely important in the case of black women, whose health is often ignored during and around childbirth, resulting in high maternal mortality rates.
Institutional white supremacy is all around us. It shapes our laws and our government's priorities. It informs the conditions we're able to accept for children sleeping on crowded concrete floors at the border and communities of color that are being denied the right to vote. White supremacy simply means that our world is built by and around white people and prioritizes whiteness. We see evidence of it in police brutality that results in the murder of innocent black people, and in the beauty standards represented on our billboards. We see it in our president, who called Nazis "very fine people," and in the portion of the country that elected him. And as long as white supremacy is alive, we will never have true justice or equality.
What can you do?
- Urge your representatives to fight for reform. If you're not already in the habit of calling your elected officials, you should practice. It's a great way to exercise your power as a voter and hold your representatives accountable. If there is a piece of legislation that you believe in, or believe strongly against, urge your representatives to vote the way you want them to. By keeping track of legislation and calling your reps, you can support legislation that protects census laws, urges for increased data on hate crimes and other important actions that advocate for racial justice.
- Work on your own whiteness. If you're white, chances are you hold internal biases and thought patterns about race. We all do, we were conditioned to. That doesn't make you bad, it just makes you human, and it means you have work to do. Education is a good place to start; you can't stop something you haven't identified yet. Robin DiAngelo's "White Fragility" offers a conversational, comprehensive place to start. And there are countless other books to read on the unofficial white ally reading list.