After Trump’s election, many Americans have been worried about the very real threats to their lives and livelihoods that Trump promised on the campaign trail. From promising to deport millions of people living in America to appointing pro-life Supreme Court justices to making a guy who doesn’t believe in climate change the head of the EPA, a Trump presidency has the potential to put millions of people, and the planet, in danger.
It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of those threats, but some have been galvanized to take even the smallest actions to protect their communities. Some of those acts have been captured by the hashtag #smallacts, and are adding up to a much bigger movement.
— Anna Solomon (@SolomonAnna) November 15, 2016
— Celeste Ng (@pronounced_ing) November 15, 2016
Set up small monthly donations to local ACLU, PP, SANE, SAFE House, and NM Immigrant Law Center. #smallacts
— Nancy Baca (@T_R_DeMuerte) November 15, 2016
— Meaghan Mulholland (@Meagho) November 16, 2016
The hashtag has existed in other forms for a while, but was catalyzed by author Celeste Ng. “I’m a believer in small acts of kindness generally, but #smallacts was definitely meant as a response to Trump’s election,” Ng told the Daily Dot over email.
Ng was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the days after the election for a reading, where she saw a swastika painted on a local landmark, and then returned home to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to hear of a woman in her neighborhood being attacked by men yelling, “You didn’t vote for Trump!”
“I desperately wanted to DO something, but the only things I could think of were small,” she said. “So I did a mini-tweetstorm of small actions you could take to spread tolerance and combat hate, from calling your senators and reps to volunteering for advocacy groups to speaking out if you saw someone being harassed or threatened. To my surprise, people really seemed to latch on to it, and shared their own actions. I wanted those ideas to get grouped, so that those who weren’t ready to act yet could find them later. #smallacts didn’t seem to be used much, so I adopted it.”
Ng’s timeline has become a one-stop resource for ideas for small acts, such as where to donate, signing up with a volunteer organization, or just reminders to breathe and be nice to others. Because those things, says Ng, define what American values are and will be. “I wanted to try and spread that attitude, to remind people that there are many things we can do. It’s not time to give up on our values.”
Small acts appear to be working. The ACLU has reported its largest surge in donations ever, even post-9/11, and Planned Parenthood has received 160,000 donations in the past week. Groups like the ADL and Emily’s List have also reported increased donations.
Thanks to all of our new supporters, Donald Trump will confront the strongest ACLU in the 100 year history of our organization.
— ACLU (@ACLU) November 14, 2016
“It’s a scary time if you’re a person of color, LGBT, Jewish, Muslim, Native, a woman—basically, if you’ve ever been marginalized. We now have an administration that explicitly states that it wants to deprive those groups of their rights,” says Ng. “Actions like that are meant to make us feel alone—that’s what abusers and assaulters do.”
More than anything, #smallacts is a way to remind everyone that they are supported and they can support others, and that even a small donation or a call to a senator can result in something much bigger. “Small acts make ripples: Other people see you do them and they think, ‘Well, I can do that.’ Small acts are pebbles that pile up into mountains.”