Making Allyship More Than Just Hacktivism

By now you’ve probably read about Rachael Jacobs’ story in Sydney after the hostage crisis in the Lindt cafe. In case you haven’t, here’s a quick summary: Jacobs and a woman in a hijab were both getting off a train in Brisbane at the same time after the news of the hostage situation broke. The woman in the hijab, fearing anti-Muslim violence, took off her scarf. Jacobs went up to her and said, “put it back on; I’ll walk with you.” The woman broke down and cried, Jacobs and the woman hugged for a moment and then went their separate ways.
After this, a movement was sparked in Australia to preemptively halt Islamophobic sentiment in the wake of the hostage situation. People in Australia began using the hashtag #illridewithyou in solidarity with Muslims on public transit, and by now the hashtag is worldwide.
Here’s why #illridewithyou is so powerful: it is the essence of allyship.
It is not about being the center of attention, it’s not about taking up space in the media, and it doesn’t bring up issues of violence as a means to an end in political movements. It very simply says “I respect you, and I will stand with you if you need me.”
I want all the women in my life who wear hijabs to know that I will have your back if ever you need me. I will not tokenize you or strike up weird conversations about religion and politics for no reason. I will leave you alone as I leave all people alone on public transit. But I want you to know that in those moments when you feel awkward or threatened and quietly look around thinking of who else is with you–which women are wearing hijabs or at least look like someone in their family might, which men on the other end of the train car are speaking Arabic–I am on your side. You are not alone, without allies.
So I’m going to make little buttons with red, black, and green that say “#illridewithyou” to wear on public transit and fight Islamophobia wherever I go.
I know, political buttons are quaint, like something out of college or even high school. They’re a relic of the past, something to be found in a baby boomer’s attic, tchotchkes that don’t really go with cute outfits. But as someone who rides public transit every day, they’re a simple and effective way to show people solidarity in public without disrupting anyone’s commute.
So I will wear a little button, in case it does any good. I will ride with you, I will march with you, and I will stand with you in this crazy world of ours. I will do what I can to help make room for you to wear your religious garments safely and comfortably, without fear of violence or microaggression.
Happy Chanukah, everyone.

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