How To Help Friends and Family Living In Conservative States. (Opinion)
If you don't live in your "hometown" it might be time to check in.
"As soon as I'm old enough I can't wait to leave this backward town" was a vow that I made every day before I went to my middle school in Daytona Beach, Florida. I can't even count how many confederate flag-bearing camouflage-wearing classmates sat next to me in class. All I know is that when I think about Florida politics, societal trends, and the people who stormed the capitol on January 6, I realize that I was right to want to flee. Lately, I've been thinking about my friends and family who couldn't escape and those who didn't see the need to.
Over the last few years, we've watched legislatures in Republican-held states pass laws to restrict the rights of marginalized people like women, African-Americans, and LGBT people. Despite winning the popular vote in the last 5 elections for president. Democrats can't seem to combat the rising wave of right-wing authoritarianism. In the meantime, residents of Democratic strongholds like California and New York enjoy the limited protection of progressive governors and legislatures. We still can be frustrated by the plights of our brethren living in more hostile areas. Furthermore, the current U.S. Supreme Court and its conservative majority seem to have a large appetite for issuing decisions on issues like abortion and gun rights that will affect Americans in all states.
At a recent Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon some colleagues and I were discussing the actions that we could take as northerners and westerners to support women's access to safe reproductive health care and the right to vote for African-Americans, young people, and urban dwellers. The consensus seemed to develop around educating ourselves and are out-of-state networks about the minutiae of their local politics. Admittedly this could sound patronizing but when some rural and southern folk see big-city types take interest in their local politics they are more apt to do the same. There is a time to preach to the choir. This is not that time.
Adopt a Local Community Leader or Non-Profit Organization.
Do you know who the current mayor of your hometown is? What about your home state's legislature members? Even if you don't plan on ever stepping foot where you came from that doesn't mean you can't be invested in their progress. After all, there are likely still people there that you care about. Consider spending a little energy familiarizing yourself with the leaders in line with where you would like to see the country go.
Similarly, thinking about what societal ills made you move might make it easy to identify an organization to support. For example, if equitable jobs were a reason for leaving, then consider following the efforts of your hometown's chamber. Similarly, someone who moved to escape LGBT intolerance might want to invest in the efforts of their hometown local pride organization.
The bottom line is that when someone moves away from one place to another for jobs, equality, or something else they contribute to a phenomenon called "brain drain" that often has the effect of increasing negative factors like fewer employment opportunities and heightened racial and sexual intolerance in those places.
You might not have voting rights in a red state but I bet you know someone that does.