Many a mickle macks a muckle: 10 ideas for positive change

Syria vigil Glasgow
Solidarity with refugees

It’s a week since the American elections, with a lot of xenophobic language and actions in the run-up and an increase in hate crime. A raft of positions have already been announced, with a key White House role going to the founder of far-right website Breitbart. Meanwhile Marine Le Pen in France is, worryingly, doing well in the polls.

It’s easy to feel discouraged and hopeless at what seems to be a rise in racism and xenophobia globally. But it’s really important to keep going and resist this narrative.

Racism and prejudice aren’t always a matter of all-outhatred. As the American writer Ta-Nehisi Coates says: “Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader scepticism toward others...” Few of us are totally free of this, so we’ve all got work to do – on our own attitudes, or perhaps our friends, families or neighbours.

We’ve put together a suggestion of ten things you can do for positive change – you can even do all of them if you want! And please spread the word. Many a mickle macks a muckle.

1. Read. We Need Diverse Books is a great campaign encouraging more publishers to put out multicultural books, and they offer a list of places you can find diverse books on their website. Share with friends and family, or order some for Christmas gifts! Scottish Book Trust also has a good list of books on refugee issues for children. We really love Shaun Tan’s The Arrival.

2. Drink tea. Take part in our Cup of Tea with a Refugee campaign! You can visit the site at cupofteawitharefugee.com to find out more and host your own event to bring people together in a fun and light-hearted environment.

3. Join a group. Get involved with a pro-refugee grassroots group – Scottish Faith Action for Refugees has a good list of groups evolving in different local authorities, so you can find your nearest one and join in.

4. Donate. It’s a simple action, but any money you donate to us helps support our work advocating for people seeking safety in Scotland. If you’re feeling creative/inspired you can even set up a fundraiser – from a sponsored bungee jump to a street party. 

5. Chat to schools. Encourage your children’s school to focus strongly on global citizenship education. Global citizenship education, part of Learning for Sustainability, encourages children to understand their role in the world as citizens, develop their voices on important issues and connect with others in the world.

6. Watch TV. David Olusoga’s series Black and British: A Forgotten History is really insightful about race in Britain. For children, films like Paddington that represent the refugee experience fairly lightheartedly are a good way in.

7. Scrutinise and challenge. Keep an eye on the news, and on our website and social media channels, Facebook and Twitter, for updates around refugee and migration issues. Whenever we are running campaigns, your support is most welcome, whether spreading the word or writing to your local politician. And do hold your local politician to account when it comes to refugee and race equality issues. Also bear in mind that refugees, and other migrants, are often used as handy scapegoats, to distract from the real issues of poverty and inequality.

8. Volunteer. You can volunteer for us at Scottish Refugee Council – come along to one of our regular volunteering information sessions and sign up with us. You can also volunteer with many other organisations that give you the chance to meet people in your community. Volunteer Scotland is a good place to start.

9. Amplify. We regularly publish pieces by refugee voices, including the dynamic Refugee Women’s Strategy Group, such as this one on International Women’s Day. Please share these pieces, and any other articles you see that give different perspectives from the ones we usually see in our media.

10. Speak to people. Where people do express racist, xenophobic or Islamophobic views, challenge these. You don’t have to be confrontational, and be safe, but people’s attitudes can be changed. Read John’s story. If you need facts and figures to hand, try Refugee Council’s Top 10 Facts About Refugees.

Above all, keep an open mind, even when many people are trying to get you to close it.

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