Love, Not Hate Will Unite Us: #illridewithyou
Written by Ally Oliver-Perham
Buses, trains, trams, city streets, country roads. These are the spaces we all frequent on our way to school, to work, on our way home.
For some of us, the idea of being in these public spaces makes us worry. We don’t want to linger, so we hurry away from our feelings of vulnerability, and the potential for drama or conflict with a stranger.
But no one should ever feel that way. Everyone has the right to travel in safety.
Unfortunately, there are people out there who feel as though it’s their undeniable right to comment on the way others look, to yell out at people on the street, and to make others feel unsafe or unwelcome in public.
All too often, women and girls are at the receiving end of hostile behaviour from strangers (who are usually men). Verbal abuse, catcalling, confrontational staring, unwelcome touching or comments – these are just some of the common forms of harassment experienced by women. But as we all know, street harassment isn’t only about sexism towards women. Aggressive and ignorant people also look to target the race and faith of others, when they’re looking for a fight.
Attacking someone else because of their sex, race, faith – or any other factor which makes them who they are – is just so low. It’s cowardly, shameful behaviour, which seems to rear it’s ugly head again. And again.
In the wake of the Sydney Siege, (in which a deranged man of Muslim faith took a group hostage), many Australian Muslim women began to question their safety out in public. These women felt scared that just because of their beliefs, they too would be branded as potential terrorists, lumped in the same category as a madman (who acted entirely alone).
Since the story broke, the media has quickly jumped on the fear bandwagon, stirring up a frenzy of racism and xenophobia, making it feel as though Australia was set to enter another phase of US vs. THEM. Fuelled by paranoia and ignorance, this simplistic mindset ignores the fact that religion or race doesn’t cause violence – people cause violence.
#illridewithyou: Australians United Together Against Hate
That was until Rachael Jacobs posted her encounter with a young woman at a Brisbane train station on Facebook, hours after news of the siege broke around the globe. Rachael wrote:
“…and the (presumably) Muslim woman sitting next to me on the train silently removes her hijab. I ran after her at the train station. I said ‘put it back on. I’ll walk with u’. She started to cry and hugged me for about a minute – then walked off alone.”
Her story moved rapidly through social media, eventually leading to one of the most beautiful hashtags of all time – #illridewithyou.
Turn those words over in your mind. I’ll ride with you. It’s so peaceful – which is exactly what we need in these trying times. Sparked by Rachael’s story, people all over Australia began to post on twitter, insta or fb their transport route home, broadcasting to others who might be feeling unsafe, ‘don’t worry, you can ride with me’.
#illridewithyou has been trending on Twitter for days, and in just a few hours it amassed over 120,000 tweets. This little hashtag has allowed Australians to proclaim their support for other Australians, breaking down racial, religious or gender barriers. As Professor Max Abrhams said on twitter, “The #IllRideWithYou campaign isn’t just heart-warming, it’s also smart for counterterrorism. Inclusiveness is our best defense [sic]”
“I’ll ride with you” extends to anyone who might feel vulnerable on public transport or on our streets. It’s a reminder of how we can all be a better human.
Now, I’m not saying you should go and broadcast your daily travel routine online. Instead, just do what you can to keep a friendly eye out for your fellow travellers. Don’t buy into the fear the media is selling us. Look after yourself and each other.
Ally is a Melbourne-based designer, educator and one of the co-creators of Rosie. She is addicted to This American Life podcasts, wasabi peas and red lipstick. Her dog Scout is widely acknowledged as her spirit animal.
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