How Can You Contribute To Social Justice Movements From Abroad?

Living abroad often makes you feel detached from your cultural roots, and feel like you can only look on from the sidelines as political and social unrest erupts in your homeland. Watching political turmoil from a distance, can invoke a strange pain, one I could only describe as akin to “phantom limb syndrome.” Even if physically no longer in the United States, your feelings of civic engagement and public-spiritedness still reside there, causing a disconnect. It is a false assumption to think that you would have to surrender your American national identity to blend into a new country. Even in exploring and appreciating French culture, you can have at the same time become even more informed and politically engaged in American current events as a way to feel connected to your community at home.

Today, this article is in the context of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations which have been held in all 50 states and several other countries since May 25th, the day of the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man whose final breath caught on video was widely circulated online. His murder brought attention to the issue of police brutality on a larger scale than the scores of previous killings of Black Americans by law enforcement. The widespread news coverage and social media attention for the Black Lives Matter movement has challenged many white and non-Black Americans to evaluate their privilege and roles in perpetuating systemic racism.

Disclaimer: as a white person, my recommendations can only go so far as my perspective is limited by white privilege. It is also important to note that if you’re a white or non-Black ally to the BLM movement, educating yourself on the matter of racism should never be the task of Black people. Instead it should be a personal undertaking which involves research, honest and critical introspection, and listening to the voices of Black activists and writers as well as paying attention to your Black friends, colleagues, and neighbors.

A mural dedicated to George Floyd in Minneapolis. Image Credit: Unsplash/@munshots

Don’t let being abroad become an excuse to remain silent on important issues. Here are some of the ways to go beyond the hashtag by actively challenging racism and racial inequality.

Sign Petitions

Petitions are an old-school form of activism, now made easily accessible by texting campaigns and online petition sites like , which self-describes itself as the “world’s platform for change.” While texting from abroad gets complicated with dialing codes and fees, on the internet you can find hundreds of petitions and calls to action by ordinary people who long to make a difference and amplify their causes. If you’re looking for a place to start, sign petitions calling for justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor , a Black woman who was shot and killed by Louisville police who had entered the wrong home while she slept. Change.org’s algorithm aggregates similar petitions so that you can browse petitions that will likely interest you. Be on the lookout for other petitions circulating on social media, and also for email prefills which make it easier to contact government officials.

Join an Expat Group

An easy way to feel connected to US current events is by talking them over with other immigrants and expatriates in your current location. One such platform could be a Facebook group, like the Americans Expats in Paris Facebook page where users do anything from asking about where to find NYC-style bagels to organizing events to inviting discussion on American-specific issues. These pages can be a good outlet for you when you want to discuss US current events with people who share lived experience as an American abroad.

Stay Informed on Politics

An informed public is a public free to draw its own conclusions, and yet it’s easy to fall behind on current events when you’re not living in your home country. Most American newspapers and articles can be internationally accessed online for free, or behind a paywall once you consume a certain number of stories. If you prefer holding a physical copy, the New York Times and some American magazines are for sale by street vendors. You can also follow journalists and publications on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for breaking news stories. Diversify your news sources while abroad by checking other English-language news sources like Reuters, the BBC, and one of my favorites, the Local France .

Listen to Black and Minority Voices

The most powerful way to learn more and expand your understanding of the realities that people of color face is by listening. Listening. It’s a deceivingly simple task that makes a world of difference. Listen to podcasts about race in America, read books and poetry written by Black authors, watch films and documentaries. If you have the privilege of learning about racism instead of experiencing it firsthand, this undertaking might make you uncomfortable. That’s ok. You might feel embarrassed or ashamed of your lack of understanding on the topics raised. That’s ok. Push through it.

Vote from Abroad

As a US citizen, your vote from overseas absolutely counts and matters. Using the website VotefromAbroad.org, you can request an absentee ballot and find information related to absentee and expat voting procedures. Before casting your ballot, take the time to research and evaluate your options. Look beyond campaign promises and learn about the candidates’ past and current stances on the issues that affect not just you but all Americans, and in many cases the world.

Donate Money

If you have the means to do so, put money towards pro-Black causes, memorial funds, bailout funds, and related causes. Go beyond performative activism by making a change, starting with your wallet. Going forward, remember that you have the opportunity to give to causes you support no matter where you live.

Attend Local Protests and Events

Look out for local opportunities to demonstrate, march, and protest. On June 2nd, Paris saw a turnout of several thousands of people who protested against police brutality, particularly instances against Black people, such as the death of Adama Traore. While living abroad, you can and should critically evaluate your host country. As Traore’s sister Assa said at the rally, “What is happening in the United States is an echo of what is happening in France.”

Article originally written for Paris-based communications agency So Seize’s blog on June 11, 2020.

Originally published at https://soseize.com on June 11, 2020.

Hailing from the East Coast but perpetually abroad, I now live and play in Grenoble, pursuing a Master’s in Marketing Management. LinkedIn: @kathleensharp47