97 Easy Ways to Be a Better Person

No matter who you are, there are always ways to be kinder to one another. Here are some ideas.

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Dec 27 2018, 7:05pm

Photo illustration by Leila Ettachfini.

As we come to the end of 2018, it’s worth reflecting on all the ways in which your own privilege may have insulated you from the worst parts of the year. Whether you’re able-bodied, cis, white, straight, or male, consider using your privilege next year to be an ally to people from communities that are currently getting a raw deal in our current political climate, including (but not limited to!) women, LGBTQ people, Native people, and people of color.

Not sure where to start? The Broadly column The Least You Could Do asked writers of these identities to tell us exactly how others can be most useful in supporting them. We recommend reading all the columns, obviously, but we’ve also rounded up some of the best tips from the past year—you can click on the authors' names to read their lists in full.

1. “Use your privilege and platform to speak out regularly against the oppression of Natives. Create and empower more allies to do the same. For example, if you have a following or are in a position of authority, use it to illuminate issues in Indian country, and most certainly, maybe most importantly, pass the flippin’ mic to a Native.” —Simon Moya-Smith

2. “Stop supporting brands like Urban Outfitters. They profit off of our culture and traditions. Instead, support Native-owned businesses. You can purchase better quality Native clothing, jewelry, etc., while at the same time support actual creative Natives.” —Simon Moya-Smith


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3. “Trans folk can use gender neutral pronouns, so please do not assume that we must adhere to a binary.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

4. “Able-bodiedness and health are privileges. Recognize that.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

5. “Understand that fat women get harassed and assaulted, too. Even if fat bodies don’t do it for you, remember that sexual assault is about power, not attraction. The fear of being ridiculed or disbelieved for speaking out about assault is often heightened for fat women” —Dani Becket

6. “Don’t make embarrassing jokes to try and be ‘down’ with people of color. We’ll laugh at you, not with you.” —Kesiena Boom

7. “Celebrate non-binary parents! Some parents may celebrate ‘Mother’s Day’ or ‘Father’s Day,’ and some may feel totally uncomfortable and erased. Check in with your non-binary parent friend to see what feels best for them. And heck, write them a Parent’s Day Card to make any day special for them.” —AC Dumlao

8. “Oh, and rest assured that literally no person of color ever wants you to get back from holiday, show off your tan and excitedly exclaim, ‘Look, I’m almost as dark as you!’ Cease and desist.” —Kesiena Boom

9. “Tell female colleagues what your salary is.” —Dani Beckett

10. “Withdraw your support from sports clubs, institutions, and companies that protect and employ rapists and abusers.” —Dani Beckett

11. “Sometimes, you’re going to sit next to a fat person on a plane. You’ll cope. I can guarantee that person is far more physically uncomfortable than you are.” —Dani Beckett

12. “Expose your children to as many Indigenous activities as you can. The more children are exposed to the truth of a people, the less they will be affected by stereotypes.” —Simon Moya-Smith

"Learn the delightful phrase, ‘guys, gals, and non-binary pals.’ Use it liberally."

13. “Respect people’s pronouns. This is really not very complicated! If someone tells you how they identify, you have no say on the matter. Use the pronouns they use.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

14. “Never try to argue with a trans person that something isn’t transphobic.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

15. “Don't ever question the legitimacy or severity of someone’s illness. Comments like, ‘I heard that was psychological,’ or, ‘Everyone seems to have an autoimmune disease nowadays,’ are extremely insulting. Sit down.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

16. “Intimacy can be even more complicated for some trans folk. Respect boundaries and ways people feel comfortable with nudity, tactility, and sex. This may mean being patient or unlearning what we deem as ‘sex’.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

17. “Immediately stop reading and watch this video of an Argentine girl explaining why ‘les’ is an important gender neutral pronoun in Spanish. Watch your heart grow three sizes.” —AC Dumlao

18. “Donate money to grassroots movements around you that are run by and support people of color.” —Kesiena Boom

19. “[Men:] CLOSE YOUR LEGS ON PUBLIC TRANSIT, OH MY GOD.” —Dani Beckett

20. “Think about how race is operating even when people of color aren’t around. Be cognizant of it wherever you are, whichever situation you’re in. People of color have to, so should you.” —Kesiena Boom

21. “Don’t be afraid to ask honest questions, such as someone’s pronouns. It may feel awkward, but it’s more awkward and painful to misgender someone.” —AC Dumlao

22. “If you want to compliment a fat person on what they’re wearing, avoid saying it’s “flattering.” “Flattering” means, “Your clothes are hiding the bit of your body that society doesn’t like.” Just tell them they look great!” —Dani Beckett

23. “Ask your friends with chronic illness how you can help them. Cooking meals, giving rides, or accompanying on doctors' appointments, can mean the world to those who need the help. This may be especially true for people living alone. —Maggie Levantovskaya

24. “Few things are as demoralizing as hearing a teacher say, “Sure, I'll accommodate you, so long as you know that you won't get 'extra time' in the real world.” Don’t be that teacher! If you are, you clearly haven’t heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also, you don’t actually care about your students." —Maggie Levantovskaya

25. “Raising a feminist daughter means she's going to disagree with you. And probably be right. Feel proud, not threatened.” —Dani Beckett

"Trust women. When they teach you something, don't feel the need to go and check for yourself. And especially do not Google it in front of them."

26. “[Men:] Examine your opinion on abortion. Then put it in a box. Because, honestly, it's completely irrelevant.” —Dani Beckett

27. “Also, quit telling us to ‘get over it.’ Too often when we bring up the Trail of Tears or Wounded Knee Massacre, for example, we’re berated—’It’s in the past. Move on, already!’ Yet when it’s a massacre of predominantly white people it’s, ‘We will always remember,’ or, ‘We will never forget.’ Why do we have to ‘get over it’ when you get to ‘always remember’?” —Simon Moya-Smith

28. “Read up on how the Thanksgiving narrative as you know it is largely bullshit.” —Simon Moya-Smith

29. “NEVER ask anything about our genitalia or body. ‘So... do you still have everything down there?’ as a puzzled hand flutters near our privates is not ever going to be OK. That is final.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

30. “In general, don’t assume that you know whether or not someone is well or healthy based on the way they look. Many people have chronic illnesses with symptoms you can’t see.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

31. “Learn the delightful phrase, ‘guys, gals, and non-binary pals.’ Use it liberally.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

32. “Understand that some days are even more mentally exhausting for people of color thanks to the news cycle. Try not to badger us for our opinions on the latest atrocity that has occurred. Leave us to grieve.” —Kesiena Boom

33. “Recognize that you can’t assume someone’s religion based on how they look. Not all South Asians and Middle Eastern people are Muslims, not all Black people are Christian, not all East Asian people are Buddhist. You get the idea.” —Kesiena Boom

34. “Trust women. When they teach you something, don't feel the need to go and check for yourself. And especially do not Google it in front of them.” —Dani Beckett

35. “Also, look up #MMIW (murdered and missing Indigenous women). Native women are 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women of any other demographic.” —Simon Moya-Smith

36. “Just because you lead your local Wiccan circle does not mean you understand 500 years of genocide. First, worshipping the gods and spirits of nature, which is a tenet of Wicca, is not directly comparable to Indigenous spiritualities, and second, please do not compare the Salem Witch Trials to the genocide of Native Americans. That’s not cool.” —Simon Moya-Smith

37. “Do not fetishize trans folk. We are not your sexual experimentations, tokens, or reason to rebel against your parents. We are not here for you.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

38. “Learn to cope with the word ‘fat.’ We fatties refer to ourselves in lots of different ways. Some people prefer ‘plus-size,’ ‘bigger,’ ‘curvy,’ or ‘person of size,’ but plenty of us describe ourselves as ‘fat’—and it’s not self-deprecating.” —Dani Beckett

39. “If you have children, be cognizant of how you talk about food around them. Many women, in particular, cite comments from their mothers as instigating factors in their shame around food. Teach your kids that their, and others', bodies aren't something to apologize for.” —Dani Beckett

40. “Share your resources with other cis folks. Become a teacher. Start a conversation. Use your privilege to take that burden off of non-binary folks—even if it’s in ways that aren’t on this list! Use your imagination.” —AC Dumlao

41. “People can be Black and gay and disabled and trans and middle class. Blackness is expansive. It doesn’t look one way. Keep this in mind..” —Kesiena Boom

42. “In general, don’t assume that you know whether or not someone is well or healthy based on the way they look. Many people have chronic illnesses with symptoms you can’t see.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

43. “In general, avoid questions about how chronic illness affects people's sex lives and relationships. It’s invasive.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

44. “Put your money into art that showcases fat people as romantic leads. Hamilton in London, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and the upcoming remake of Little Shop of Horrors have managed it, and many more should take their lead—and be supported by audiences when they do.” —Dani Beckett

45. “If a woman tells you she was raped, assaulted, or abused, don't ask her for proof. Ask how you can support her.” —Dani Beckett

46. “Remember that loving your mom/sister/girlfriend is not the same as giving up your own privilege to progress equality for women. And that gender inequality extends beyond the women in your direct social group.” —Dani Beckett

47. “If someone asks you to fill a role that you think a person of color would be better suited for, recommend a talented person of color who you know and forego the position yourself.” —Kesiena Boom

48. “STOP TALKING ABOUT YOUR DIET. If you want to lose weight, fine, you do you. But understand how damaging it is for us to constantly hear how unwanted and unacceptable fat bodies are.” —Dani Beckett

49. “Living with a chronic illness is expensive. This can't be understated. Even people who have health insurance have additional financial burdens that can be astronomical. So keep that in mind when inviting people out for expensive dinners or trips.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

50. “Recognize that DNA does not equate to culture. Ancestry.com and 23andMe, for example, are in the business of biotechnology, not culture. Culture is the community, not your spit.” —Simon Moya-Smith

51. “It’s worth remembering that reservations were first established as prison camps, and Hitler was inspired by them. America doesn’t want you to know that one.” —Simon Moya-Smith

52. “Trans women are women. This is not up for debate—so don’t try to.” —Kai Isaiah-Jama

53. “Keep in mind that even doctors and researchers don't have it all figured out when it comes to chronic illness. That doesn’t mean certain illnesses aren’t real, just that they are not yet classified. All medical conditions weren’t defined at some point—think about it.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

54. “Be wary of participating in wellness and fitness movements that promote ableist culture by getting their participants to push beyond their ‘breaking point’ and shaming them for failing.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

55. “If you care that much about what other people eat, donate your time and money to organizations that campaign for affordable, nutritional food in poor communities.” —Dani Beckett

56. “Never shame someone with a chronic illness for taking medications. Being critical of ‘big pharma’ is OK, but there is nothing more annoying than being asked, ‘Aren't you worried what all these chemicals are doing to you?’ about medications that keep you alive.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

57. “If you have a partner of color or children of color, trust and believe that you can still be racist. You’re not exempt. If anything, you have even more of a duty to examine your behavior for the benefit of your loved ones.” —Kesiena Boom

58. “Recognize women's credibility when you introduce them. ‘Donna is lovely’ is much less useful than ‘Donna knows shitloads about architecture.’” —Dani Beckett

59. "Sex work is a service. Again, this is not up for debate. Do not try to stop trans folk from advocating for and implementing their own safety measures. Do not hide your prejudice against sex workers with fake worry.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

60. “When someone says, ‘America is a land of immigrants,’ for fuck’s sake, inform them that America is a land of immigrants… and Indigenous peoples and slaves who were brought here against their will.” —Simon Moya-Smith

61. “If a trans person is being verbally assaulted, made to feel unsafe or uncomfortable, or being attacked in any way and needs your help—open your mouth.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

62. “Women are more vulnerable to illnesses that come with chronic pain and are regularly under-treated for pain. Black patients are routinely under-treated for pain. If you’re a doctor, let that inform how you give care.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

63. “And get to know illnesses that disproportionately affect minorities. For example, 90 percent of patients with lupus are women and the disease is two to three times more prevalent among women of color. Women of color are also more likely to experience serious complications as a result of the disease.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

64. “Add your pronouns to your e-mail signature to normalize disclosing pronouns.” —AC Dumlao

65. “Support plays written by and acted in by people of color. The world of theater is overwhelmingly white.” —Kesiena Boom

66. “Don’t? Vote? For? Racist? Politicians? Can’t believe I need to say this one but it seems like possibly, maybe, some of y’all did not get this memo.” —Kesiena Boom

67. “Don’t even think about saying the N word. Even if you’re alone. Even if you’re listening to rap. Even if you’re alone and listening to rap.” —Kesiena Boom

68. “Do you love ‘fiery’ Latina women? ‘Strong’ Black women? ‘Mysterious’ Asian women? Stop. Pick up a book on decolonial feminism. Read.” —Dani Beckett

69. “Record transphobic incidents. (Caveat: This is only if your immediate assistance is not needed and you have checked you can use this footage by the person involved.) Share this with everyone you can. It may lead to prosecution or people in positions losing their job. Nobody should still be allowed to be a CEO and use offensive slurs.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

70. “Don’t forget that racism is rife in the queer community and trans people of color are often the most vulnerable. Protect us.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

71. “Quit assuming I’m not a real Native because I live in a fucking house. I like electricity and WiFi, too.” —Simon Moya-Smith

72. “Heteronormativity and archetypal gender roles are post-colonial. Homosexuality is considered medicine in many Native communities. Look up ‘two-spirit.’” —Simon Moya-Smith

73. “Try to start removing binary language from your everyday conversations. If we all make conscious efforts to steer away from gendering everything, this will have a knock-on effect that stops our learnt obsession of having to divide everything into binaries.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

74. “Learn to criticize people without referencing their weight. There are enough things to criticize Trump for without bringing his body into it. Making jokes about his weight doesn’t hurt him—it hurts the nice, everyday fat person just trying to get on with their life.” —Dani Beckett

75. “Accept that a non-binary person’s identity is about them, NOT you. (Feel uncomfortable? That’s for you to reflect on. Not to express to your non-binary friend who you’re using as your therapist.)” —AC Dumlao

76. “Recognize how often you may attribute a binary gender to everyday things: holding doors open, paying for the check, housework, buying flowers… Take those stereotypes and throw them into a deep, deep, abyss where they will be swallowed up forever.” —AC Dumlao

77. “Be cognizant of how your whiteness could be weaponized against Black people, i.e., white women, don’t play into stereotypes about Black men being inherently threatening to you. It gets Black men killed. See: Emmett Till.” —Kesiena Boom

78. “Don’t assume that a woman in public wants to talk to you just because she’s in public.” —Dani Beckett

79. “Remind your friends/family/foes that English is a foreign language. Lakota, Ojibwe, Diné, Cherokee, Choctaw, Osage, etc. are the languages of the land. English is from where? Yep. England.” —Simon Moya-Smith

80. “Know how many tribes and nations are in your state and what tribes and nations are local to your specific area. Learn about them. You’re on their land.” —Simon Moya-Smith

81. “Criticize the media. Write to the newspapers, institutions, and publications that are spreading hate towards the trans community. Create polls and petitions. National news portrays us as monsters and threats to society. We can’t stop them from doing that on our own.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

82. “Learn about how the medical community treats fat bodies. As one example of very many, fat people are routinely denied kidney transplants unless they lose weight, even though they experience the same level of success with a donor kidneys as thin people do. We are consistently disbelieved and misdiagnosed because doctors cannot see past our fatness. We are often denied health insurance.” —Dani Beckett

83. “Just because you can’t see racism around you doesn’t mean it's not happening. Trust people of color’s assessment of a situation” —Kesiena Boom

84. “Don't buy media that demeans women’s experiences, valorizes violence against women, or excludes them entirely from a cast. It's not enough to oppose those things. You have to actively make them unmarketable.” —Dani Beckett

85. “Stop buying ‘sage wands’ at grocery stores. Sage, for traditional purposes, is not to be purchased. Sage, or ‘smudging,’ as we call it, is meant to bless and cleanse a person or place. Purchasing some hippie sage wand diminishes its sacred meaning.” —Simon Moya-Smith

86. “Support the generation below; speak to young kids. Make them aware that gender is a spectrum and they don’t have to commit to one gender for their whole life. Educate them on their freedom and choices.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

87. “If your trans friend is leaving a social situation and feels uneasy about travel, offer to walk them to a train station and wait with them, drive them home, or get them a taxi. Travelling home alone by yourself can be a scary scenario.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

88. “When someone tells you about their symptoms, just listen.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

89. “Remember that having mixed race children is not a cure for racism or a way to live out weird racial fantasies.” —Kesiena Boom

90. “Know that just because you've seen someone with a chronic illness be active or take on many projects, that doesn’t mean that they were not experiencing symptoms at that time or that they can constantly keep up that level of activity.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

91. “If your girlfriend or wife is Native, don’t call her “Pocahontas.” Ever. Pocahontas was a child and victim of rape. She only married that white guy to protect her family from murder, mutilation, and enslavement.” —Simon Moya-Smith

92. “Share your platforms. I am tired of cis people talking about trans health. Ask us to talk, educate, share our stories, and pay us. This way you don’t get the credit for the lives we live.” —Kai Isaiah-Jamal

93. “When scheduling work meetings and socials, ask your co-workers about accommodations. Get to know who, for example, can’t handle noisy rooms or being outside. Find out who needs guaranteed seating because they can't stand for long periods of time.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

94. “Before explaining something to a woman, ask yourself if she might already understand. She may know more about it than you do.” —Dani Beckett

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95. “Loudly speak out against Indian mascots. They are the commodification and dehumanization of Natives and have been empirically proven to harm the mental health and stability of kids.” —Simon Moya-Smith

96. “Do not assume that someone can handle manual tasks. ‘Pizza and beer for helping me move my apartment this weekend!’ may sound like fun to one friend but like a nightmare to someone with chronic pain.” —Maggie Levantovskaya

97. “And remember: Being an ally is a verb, not a noun. You can’t just magically be an ally to people of color because you say you’re one, it's something that you must continually work on.” —Kesiena Boom