I’ll Ride With You

While the hostages were still being held in Sydney and all that was known was that the hostage-taker was Muslim, Central Sydney was in lockdown. And then, as must happen, innocent and good Muslims began to be afraid. Women who wear the hijab wondered what would happen if they rode on public transportation.

I’ve seen this before, right after 9/11, in Washington, D.C. I also know the fear of seeing some crime committed and cringing, holding by breath and thinking, “please don’t let it be [my ethnic group].”

Fear is an ugly thing. Its only reaction is anger. But what I began to see in Sydney gave me real hope for the goodness in people. Tweets began to appear, people volunteering to sit with Muslim women (and men) on public transportation.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 10.44.03 PMPeople who would provide friendly company and companionship, and yes, protection. Because a White person sitting next to a person of color (or wearing a headscarf) and speaking with them reduces the fear level.

The Tweets grew. The hashtag was #Illridewithyou. Hundreds of people began to post their public transportation routes, to identify themselves with photos, scarves, signs on bags and briefcases.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 10.44.26 PMThis was not a sanctioned, public, government movement. It was started by one woman and picked up by others who wanted to help. Because help is something everyone can do. Not a big heroic move, just sitting with someone who is scared. Making them feel normal. Because they are. Reducing fear and anger in others.

We can all do small things to reduce fear and anger. Not passing fear on is one way. Margaret Mead, the anthropologist said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

I might be 7,800 miles from that coffee shop that held hostages, but I love those people I don’t even know. They have heart. Big heart. #I’llridewithyou.

—Quinn McDonald knows that it takes small acts of love to make big moves of courage.

14 thoughts on “I’ll Ride With You

  1. Thanks Quinn. Thanks for bringing us good news, some of us missed, in the midst of all the bad. I agree with Auset this is what the Christmas spirit is about. May you have a blessed & joyful holiday.

  2. Stunning….one small pebble causing beautiful ripples in a pond build by fear….generally through the media. Perhaps this positive social network step made by one single thought of kindness will be a huge step in the way people react to these tragic events….community is so important,and it’s being lost…really gives me hope this story. Song on radio as I type…lyrics…no need to be alone…..perfect for I will ride with you. Thanks for sharing. X

  3. It makes me so happy to read about that! Especially since I know how it feels. I took a bus to my tai chi class in the evening after the attacks of 9/11 and it was the most uncomfortable bus ride I have ever taken. I did happen to watch the whole thing unfold live on BBC World but I never expected it to have an effect on my bus ride all the way here in Finland but it did. Let me explain.

    First of all, I don’t have the typical Finnish looks even though I come from an old, old Finnish family. Most Finns are not natural blonds, as some stereotypes might lead one to expect, but only a very few are really, really dark haired either. My hair is really dark brown. In fact, it’s so deep shade of brown that it easier to describe myself to someone who hasn’t met me before as having almost black hair. I also tan easily so I’m fairly dark skinned for a Finn during the summer and for most of the winter. I look so atypically Finnish that immigrants from Latin America or Middle East often greet me mistaking me to be from the same region. Also, usually in Helsinki or in the capital area in general, shop assistants and cashiers sometimes speak English to me. They simply take me for a foreigner. Once a shop assistant in a clothing store asked how long I had lived in Finland since my Finnish was so excellent! 🙂 Another time a native English teacher in the university, who had taught English in Saudi Arabia too, asked, very politely, if I was Palestinian. In the security line at Toronto airport me and my dad (who at that time still had coal black hair) were though to be Jewish – we were talking in a strange, strange language after all. 😀 All in all, this is all quite fun. Especially since I meet lots of interesting people this way.

    But back to my original story. Secondly, I have been wearing a keffiyeh, also often know as a shemagh, for a long, long time. You know, that most often black and white square scarf they wear in Middle East. It’s a really useful piece of clothing and I like the aesthetics and it’s a quite common accessory among certain subcultures in here, but is has also been a kind of a sign of solidarity too. You can read more about here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keffiyeh

    So, that evening in September I was waiting for the bus wearing a feffiyeh having an almost black hair. I didn’t realise the reason right away, but I noticed that the atmosphere around me was getting weird. Then it hit me: everyone was throwing angry and even hostile glances at me! Being Finns, they didn’t stare at me openly, but their dislike was even more obvious since usually people here try not to pay absolutely any attention to others in bus stops etc. That’s the Finnish way of being polite in close quarters.

    It’s was actually a rather terrifying experience and quit wearing the keffiyeh for a while – which I now regret since I really should have kept at it. The experience really taught me the danger of making judgements based on looks. One bad apple and all that. I have never much cared from which culture or nationality people come from. It just never has been something to consider in our family. That made it even more horrifying to see how easily we can slip into judging other people as whole groups when only a few individuals are to blame. That I’ll ride with you -movement is something absolutely awesome! I’d ride with you any day too but there’s no public transport here – small town, you know – and not that many immigrants either and those few we basically know by name. But I’m with you in spirit where ever you may be!

    • I love this story for many reasons. How interesting that people make assumptions about you. I, too, tan easily and well, and when I was much younger, and tanned, I would often be denied restaurant service in the American South, because I was dark enough to look like a person of color. What a stunning lesson in assumptions that must have been. And yes, I would have taken off the headscarf, too, out of a need not to be stereotyped. One of my fellow instructors at the time (9/11) was Muslim, and those of us not teaching would “volunteer” in her classroom so she wouldn’t be afraid to wear her headscarf. And when I was small, living in a small community, people threw rocks at us. My parents were immigrants from Germany, so we must have been Nazis, was their reasoning.

  4. Thank you for caring Quinn! This is truly what the holiday season is about. Hope your holiday season is as beautiful as you are. Warm hugs & big, big smile 🙂

  5. What a fantastic idea! And the result of thoughtful reactions and not knee-jerk ones. Too bad we can’t put a sock in the fear mongers in this country towards both Muslims and people of color.

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