You Can Make a Difference!

No Matter How Busy You Are, There is Something You Can Do.

May 3, 2022

By Kara Anderson ’25

Image: An Expression of antiracism from Wikimedia Creative Commons


Trying to protect human rights can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be.

I used to feel overwhelmed when I thought about human rights, social justice, and advocacy. I could see the wrongs in the world, but I didn’t feel like I had the power or time to do much about it. I would tell myself I could wait for the right time or opportunity, perhaps after I graduated college or law school, or after I found a long-term job. I would get myself into a better position and then use that position to help. The problem is that the human rights challenges in the world can’t wait.

This is not to make me or anyone else feel guilty. I have learned that while guilt can be a motivator, it often ends up doing more harm than good. It can eat away at you slowly filling you with shame or hopelessness. This can force your mind to completely shut out the cause or create a million excuses for why you can’t help. This is not healthy or productive.

Personally, I started to overcome this challenge by joining the Albion Human Rights Lab. This allows me to research and advocate on human rights alongside my studies. The work I do is incredibly flexible to coincide with my busy schedule, and it gives me a sense of direction and purpose while allowing me to collaborate with others on this human rights journey. But not everyone can join an organization. That is alright because there are many different paths to making a difference. Here I offer some ideas that anyone can do to help human rights right now. And no one has to do it alone.

The Advocacy Toolkit on this website offers ways you can promote human rights in a few minutes, ways you can promote them in a few hours, and ways you can promote them in a few days, weeks, or months. It also supplies basic human rights knowledge and equips you with tools to become a human rights defender right now on your own timeline.

Basically, no matter how busy you are, there is something you can do. Here are a few examples of the ways you can make a difference and promote human rights just as part of your daily life. These are simple things that coexist with your current schedule and do not require setting aside additional time.

  1. Empathize. Put yourself in others’ shoes.
    • Treat others the way you want to be treated.
    • Care about those around you.
    • Try to understand what others are going through.
  2. Listen. Hear what others have to say.
    • Respect that everyone has the right to be heard.
    • Listen to others’ stories, as each person has one that is unique and special.
    • Hear what others need and want – do not assume that you know best.
  3. Use Inclusive Language. Make sure your language reflects respect and dignity for all.
    • Do not stereotype or make group generalizations.
    • Do not make derogatory comments.
    • Be mindful of proper titles and self-labels.
    • Be mindful of and use the right pronouns.
  4. Speak Up. When you hear others use derogatory or harmful language, speak up.
    • Explain why the language is harmful and degrading to an inclusive culture.
    • Offer a more inclusive terminology or a new way to see the world.
  5. Intervene. Do not stand by when someone else is targeted by hateful speech. The Rockefeller University offers a bystander intervention strategy to help in a safe and productive manner.
    • Direct: If the situation safely allows, intervene directly to assist the victim. By intervening in the moment, you may give the targeted person a chance to leave the situation or move to a safe place.
    • Distract: Distract the person being targeted or create a diversion that distracts the person causing the harm in a way that doesn’t put you or others in harm’s way.
    • Delegate: Bring in someone else who is in a better position to help.
    • Delay: Check in later. Bystanders can reach out to those affected to link them with resources or offer emotional support.

These strategies help transform bystanders into upstanders – people who act to support others when faced with intolerance.

For more information on bystander intervention strategies, see Albion College’s Green Dot Bystander Intervention Program to learn how YOU can do something to help others.

Wherever you are on your human rights journey, know that the Albion Advocates want to be a resource for you. We know that you have the power to create change – you just need to believe it too. And we’re here to help.

Kara Anderson is a political science major and English minor at Albion College. She is a member of the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Public Service and Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program. Kara is a researcher for the Albion Human Rights Lab. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily represent those of Albion College.