school districts and administrators are working hard to scare students out of protesting in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
don’t fall for their bullshit. you have the right to speak up and make yourself heard. a local superintendent doesn’t overrule the first amendment, much as they might like to.
and here’s an open invitation: I’m a teacher, recent PhD, one-time educational administrator (although not in a public school), and hopefully soon to be a college professor. if you need advice on navigating the crap your school is giving you or minimizing the impact they can have on your chances of getting into the college of your dreams, message me. I’ll help you find legal resources, write admissions essays, find ways to argue for your right to protest to your school board - whatever I can do.
please signal boost this, and if you’re someone who can help (civil rights lawyer? college admissions counsellor? experienced activist leader?), join in and let young activists know what you can do to help.
Health insurance is a mental health issue. I can’t help a client who can’t afford to see me.
Housing is a mental health issue. I can’t use therapy to help a client whose depression and anxiety come directly from sleeping in the streets.
Food insecurity is a mental health issue. I can’t help a client who isn’t taking their medication because their pills say “take with food” and they have nothing to eat.
Healthcare is a mental health issue. I can’t help a client whose “depression” is actually a thyroid condition they can’t afford to get treated.
Wages are a mental health issue. I can’t help a client whose anxiety comes from the fact that they are one missed shift away from not being able to make rent.
Child care is a mental health issue. I can’t help a client who works 80 hours per week to afford daycare, and doesn’t have the time or energy left to come see me.
Drug policing is a mental health issue. I can’t help a client who ended up in prison because they got caught self-medicating with illegal substances.
Police brutality is a mental health issue. I can’t help a client whose ‘anxiety’ is a very real and justified fear of ending up as a hashtag.
If you’re going to make a stand for improving mental health, you have to understand that addressing mental health goes way beyond hiring more therapists and talking about mental health on social media. If we’re really serious about tackling this mental health problem as a country, it means rolling up our sleeves and taking down the barriers that prevent people from getting the help they need - even if those people are different than us, lead different lives, and make choices we don’t agree with.
We aren’t “fixing” mental health unless we’re fixing it for everybody.
If you put a single crab into a bucket, it will climb out and escape from becoming someone’s dinner.
If you put a whole bunch of crabs in a bucket, however, the crabs in the bottom of the bucket will pull the crabs at the top of the bucket back down if they try to escape. Instead of allowing some or all of the crabs to survive, the group of crabs will ensure that every single one of them ends up on a plate.
This same phenomenon is seen in human communities, where it has become known - appropriately - as crab bucket mentality. From the outside, these crab bucket communities might look like support groups, or places to get feedback and advice. But in reality, they are black holes - these are communities where people go to tear each other down, and to actively be torn down in return. Instead of lifting each other up, these communities burrow further and further into their buckets, until everyone is too bitter and broken to ever climb out.
And you might be part of a crab bucket community without even knowing it.
Some online communities are obvious crab-buckets. The so-called “incel” community might be the most obvious example; these are angry young men who tell each other over and over again that they are worthless, unattractive, and that they will never be loved. Lonely teenagers enter the incel community to talk about how frustrated and insecure they are after dealing with romantic rejection, and they quickly find themselves pushed toward hopelessness, violent misogyny and suicidal fantasies. Likewise, the “pro-anorexia” and “thinspo” communities are crab buckets, where members encourage each other to adapt more and more extreme disordered eating, and often invite other members to make cruel comments about their bodies and food journals. Insecure young women (and some men) go to these communities because they want to like their bodies more, and end up weighed down with self-hatred.
But not every crab bucket is obvious.
Although there are lots of wonderful and supportive spaces online for LGBTQ+ people, the internet is also littered with LGBTQ+ crab buckets - especially for trans people. Some trans communities are almost entirely dedicated to discouraging and criticizing other trans people for not “passing”; these communities will pore over each others’ pictures, pointing out lingering masculine or feminine features, comparing each other to “a man in a dress”, or outright convincing each other that there is no point in transitioning, as they have no hope of ever “passing”. Anxious trans or questioning people join these groups to navigate a very difficult time in their lives, only to have their own insecurities magnified and distorted.
Communities and feedback circles for writers and artists can also be crab buckets. Again, while there are wonderful and supportive spaces available, there are also toxic black holes out there, masquerading as genuine communities. I’ve belonged to writers’ groups where every single piece of writing was viciously torn to shreds, no matter how promising it might have seemed, and there were constant discussions about how ‘pointless’ it was to try to get published. Members were so insecure about not “making it” that they frantically tried to crush the hopes and dreams of anyone who might be competition. Instead of producing better writing, these kinds of groups eventually produce no writing at all.
Activist communities are often crab buckets. On the surface, people join activism communities to lift each other up and feel less alone in their cause; in reality, however, many activist communities have underlying cultures of suspicion, gossip, and hostility. Members gleefully comb through each other’s posts and content carefully, constantly looking for any small mistake or out-of-context comment that will allow them to declare that someone is “trash” or “cancelled”. People join these causes to fight back against their own feelings of powerlessness, and often report developing anxiety, depression and panic attacks as a result.
The list of crab bucket communities goes on. Any kind of group can become a crab bucket group under the right conditions; just because a community is created by and for a marginalized identity, it doesn’t mean that that community is actually safe for that identity. As humans, we like to band together in groups to accomplish large goals and feel less alone… but sometimes, we turn those groups into echo chambers for our own toxic ideas, and try to drag as many people as we can down into our buckets of despair with us.
If you’re in a group that you suspect might be getting a little crabby, it’s probably time to leave. Turning a whole group around by yourself is an enormous and thankless task, and it’s not one that I’d wish on anybody. Once a group of people have formed a collective identity around proving why they’re all worthless or fat or problematic, it’s hard to turn that ship around, and any attempts to do it might be met with hostility. It’s okay to give up on toxic communities, and look for healthy ones that build you up instead of tearing you down.
Blake Brockington’s death was overshadowed three years ago by Transgender Day of Visibility and a string of white transgender suicides (namely that of Leelah Alcorn). Let’s not forget Blake and how amazing he was at just 18 years old. He was closely involved in the trans community and was the first openly trans homecoming king in North Carolina. This year, let’s celebrate the many Black trans folks who are forgotten after TDOR while recognizing those who are still alive and fighting for all of us (like Ashlee Marie Preston, Laverne Cox, and Janet Mock)!
If you’re new to actions with an arrest risk and you don’t have experienced protestors with you, there’s stuff you can find online about having a legal team, writing the name of a lawyer on your body, saying NOTHING to the cops except the name of your lawyer, etc. That’s all good advice.
But let me give you a bit of advice that is just as essential as all that:
If one of your comrades gets arrested, and you know they can be held for 6, 9, 12 hours, depending on where you are, you get a group of people together and you wait outside the police station.
You may be tired, you may be stressed, it may be freezing, you may need to take turns, but you take whoever can still physically and mentally bear it and you go to that police station and you wait for your comrade. You can spend the time taking care of each other, drinking hot drinks, doing whatever gets you through, but you wait.
And when your comrade gets out, you make sure they do not walk home alone in the dark thinking about the fucked up experience they just had, you make sure there’s a big fucking crowd of their comrades there to greet them with hugs and hot drinks and a cigarette if they smoke.
And whether the arrested comrade that just got out is happy or sad or pissed off, you take that for what it is and give that space and you support that. And you get them a hot meal and you hang out with them and you offer to let them stay at your place or you stay with them so they don’t have to spend that night alone with their thoughts.
You do this every damn time, regardless of whether you really like that comrade and regardless of how you feel about the thing your comrade got arrested for, regardless of how often they’ve been arrested. Because you never know how shitty their experience is going to be in there this time.
Trust me. This is absolutely essential. Once you’ve been arrested and have felt the difference between walking home alone or having your group waiting for you, you’ll understand.