As often as civil rights issues make headlines, they still tend to affect our daily lives in ways that are difficult to explain in the news.
The constant media attention focused on Muslim bans and violent non-state actors (terrorists) changes the way people think about Arab Americans in general.
My best advice for anyone whose civil rights have been threatened is to write. Write honestly and write immediately. Write without listening to the voice in the back of your head telling you that no one will believe you. Ignore the feeling you will get into trouble for saying what you feel. Ignore the feeling people will call you crazy. Write all the details. Write hard. Write often.
When I was sexually assaulted, I wrote to be an example to young men and women who are afraid to report abuse. I published my writing on my blog, and I sent my writing to the police.
I discovered the stigma associated with being a victim of sexual assault and the stigma associated with being an Arab American are real and that together they limit our access to justice.
Online campaigns like #BlackLivesMatter do a great job of raising awareness for civil rights. Fighting for rights means raising the right kind of awareness, directing our energy in meaningful ways and dominating the information space with inclusive, supportive and universal ideas.
Whether we like it or not, this year, supporting civil rights means supporting each other. Supporting our elected officials, law makers, law enforcement and yes, even our president.
Supporting civil rights this year will take courtesy and respect. For everyone. It will take relationship building.
Civil rights means waiting peacefully and patiently through four years of suffocating oppression just to cast another vote.
It means constructive criticism and throwing out language relevant to violence, emotional violence included.
It means collaboration and cooperation. It means acting in ways that unite people even in the face of challenges to our First Amendment right to speak about what hurts.
It means writing anyway.
Civil rights means getting permits before demonstrating, cooperating with the public safety officials and being respectful in public spaces.
When courtesy and respect fail, civil rights activism takes a pen and paper, stamps, a computer and an internet connection. It takes effort and time. It takes letters.
Letters to the Department of Justice, to the FBI, the DOD inspector general, the CIA inspector general, senators, the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Committee for the Red Cross, Amnesty International and to newspapers.
Civil rights means waiting endlessly for a phone call or a letter acknowledging that the almost 100 letters you wrote to the Department of Justice were read by a person. It means the heartbreak that comes with their response saying there was nothing they can do to help you.
Civil rights means writing again anyways.