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.
People 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.
This 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.