Here is my idea for an app. If I had clue one how to actually make it, it would be done by now.
Call it, for now, Safe With Me. It’s like a cross of Uber, Grindr, that meme about asking for “Angela” in a bar, and that guy who walks with people.
How it works: If you are feeling unsafe, anxious to walk to your bus, being harassed in a crowd you can’t leave, need to go into a bathroom in North Carolina, being bothered by creepy guys and so on, pull up the app. Put out a call for help – it will maybe have options to signal what your particular instance calls for (ie, I’m a transwoman who wants an escort to the ladies’ room, I’m a Muslim guy waiting for the bus). The app will show you the nearest Safe Neighbors (or whatever they’ll be called). The people who have signed up to be Neighbors/escorts/helpers get pinged, check your position, and respond. Ideally, two will show up (to thwart terrible people using it as a way to target vulnerable people). Once you make contact, you deactivate your call for help, and the Neighbors/helpers walk you to your destination, wait with you until your bus comes, tell those guys to stop harassing you, etc. Users must post a photo, to assist in identifying each other, and will have some kind of small insignia/logo/something that they can show as a Safe Person.
It’s like an electronic version of the safety pin, a way for people who need help to get it, and for people who want to help to provide it. Anyone registered/signed up can ask for help or provide it.
Possibly an adjunct feature would be “emotional help” needed. If you’ve experienced abuse, harassment, received a threatening note, otherwise feel shaken and would like some support, you can connect with a nearby emotional helper. Maybe it’s just a hug, five minutes to listen to their story, a few comforting words, a walk to the coffee shop. Maybe it’s sitting for coffee with the person. Who knows? Not quite sure how this piece would work, but it may be useful. But the primary thing is to connect people in scary situations with people nearby ready to help.
I've been thinking about something like this for months, actually, after someone online somewhere posted about the feelings of fear after leaving a Pride celebration in a not-too-supportive city - the fear of walking from the bus or subway alone, an obvious queer person, and feeling like a target. And I felt furious, because - this is where allies can DO SOMETHING. Not just write thinkpieces about being white or straight or whatever, but actually get OUT THERE and put our bodies and ourselves out there on the line, in a small way, to protect the ones we are allegedly allied to.
I want to use my white privilege to help keep people safe. I want to help keep people safe because that is the right thing to do. It is the neighborly thing to do. It isn't fair that I can, if I want, simply duck my head and ignore it all. I have been increasingly feeling the wrongness of doing that, and now, in the wake of what feels like a horrible nightmare election, I REFUSE to just put my head down.
Someone make this app. Someone do SOMETHING. I will be doing whatever I can, whenever I can, for anyone who needs me.