After the tumultuous results of the recent election, there have been more than 400 reported hate crimes against members of targeted groups. These groups include, but are not limited to: African Americans, members of the LGBT community, women, and Muslim Americans. While we can hope that these crimes are only being committed by a small and extreme fringe of society, many worried Americans are still unsure of how to protect their targeted friends and family members. In other words, how does one become an advocate for equal rights?
Well, let’s first talk about how to become an advocate for yourself, because you can only help others once you’ve learned how to take of yourself, right? Right.
For individuals with social or developmental differences, it helps to have a plan and some understanding of what advocacy really is. Individuals with ASD may find help on the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network.
There are many organizations dedicated to helping people become self-advocates. WRAP, which stands for The Wellness Recovery Action Plan, developed by Dr. Mary Ellen Copeland, is one such resource. On WRAP’s website, there is actually a helpful article about becoming your own self-advocate. The article even has a Ten Step Plan for advocating for yourself, which is as follows:
- Believe in Yourself
- Know Your Rights
- Decide What You Want
- Get The Facts
- Planning Strategy
- Gather Support
- Target Efforts
- Express Yourself Clearly
- Assert Yourself Calmly
- Be Firm and Persistent
For many who have struggled with being marginalized in any way, those last three points can seem overwhelming. It’s hard to stay calm, when you feel that your rights are being taken away, or when you feel that your voice isn’t being heard. However, in order for people to take you seriously, you have to find a way to show up as your best, and most valiant self.
So, let’s imagine an example. Let’s say that you were told when you started your new job that you would be getting a raise in six months if you performed well. Now, let’s imagine that eight months have gone by, and you believe that you are doing well, but you have not had a performance review, and there has been no talk of a raise. What can you do?
This would be a great opportunity for self-advocacy! Schedule a time to meet with your boss, and be direct about what you would like. Speak clearly and calmly, and remember what you are worth! Hopefully, you will leave that meeting with a raise, but, even if you don’t, you now know what it feels like to stand in your truth, which is priceless.
Alright, now that we’ve learned how to advocate for ourselves, let’s see how we can take these skills and use them to help others. Clearly, if you see a hate crime taking place, you can’t expect to calmly and firmly ask the attacker to please back down. In fact, don’t, under any circumstances, engage with the attacker! That’s just dangerous. Instead, follow this helpful guide, which details how to focus your energies on making the victim feel safe.
Above all, remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “The greatest tragedy is not the brutality of the evil people, but the silence of the good people.”
Now, go forth, and let your voice be heard!
If you would like to talk more about how to become an advocate for yourself or those around you, contact us. We would love to help!