Are you relatively new to this bustling metropolis? Don't be shy about it, everyone was new to New York once upon a time, except, of course, those battle-hardened residents who've lived here their whole lives and Know It All. One of these lifers works among us at Gothamist—publisher Jake Dobkin grew up in Park Slope and still resides there. He is now fielding questions—ask him anything by sending an email here, but be advised that Dobkin is "not sure you guys will be able to handle my realness." We can keep you anonymous if you prefer; just let us know what neighborhood you live in.

This question comes from a fellow New Yorker wondering what can be done if she witnesses Trump-emboldened hatred.


When we see bigoted incidents like these situations, what do we do? What can we do?


A native New Yorker responds:

Dear Jenna,

Thank you for your letter—it helped me shake off some of my despair and remember that feeling sorry for myself and my country isn't going to do anyone any good; we've got to begin to shift our focus to action. As we discussed in a letter earlier in the week, four groups are in immediate danger from the incoming regime: women, immigrants, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQ community. Even before Trump takes the oath of office, they are going to experience (and already are experiencing) harassment from emboldened misogynists, xenophobes, and homophobes. It is our job, as good, kind, and decent New Yorkers, to make sure that every instance of this harassment is met with a harsh rebuke. This is also good practice for next year, when we will need to bring this same strength and ferocity to opposing reactionary policies from the new administration.

This is easy to say, but hard to do, because it requires going against the New York trait of minding your own business and avoiding danger. But if you see someone yelling obscenities at a woman in a headscarf, or telling a group of Hispanic kids to go back to Mexico, or rubbing up against a woman on a subway, you have an obligation to act. This does not mean you need to jump up and hurl yourself at the perpetrator—quite the contrary, as this will only escalate the conflict.

No, the trick is to use your street smarts and figure out what is the least aggressive, but most effective means of diffusing the conflict. If it's just a name-calling idiot, moving between them and the victim is a good technique. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, you can use your voice—a loud shout in your most New York accent of "Hey! Knock that off!" or "Stop it!" can help. If you're too scared to speak, then you need find reinforcements: a fellow citizen, the police, etc.

(Gretchen Robinette / Gothamist)

Remember the bystander effect: the larger the group, the less any one person feels the need to act. So if you need help you should look right into the friendliest person's eyes and say "please, can you help me here?" After one person volunteers, this will unfreeze the crowd and many people will jump to your aid.

We need to take this spirit of action into all realms of our lives. If you see racist graffiti in your community, take a walk to the hardware store, buy some paint, and buff it. If you're a teacher, and you see a student using Trump's win as an excuse to bully a classmate, you have a legal and moral obligation to put a stop to that shit right there. If you are a cop on the beat you need to be aware of how vulnerable everyone is feeling right now, and use your position to show them they are supported and respected—simply standing beside them on the train can mean a lot.

In short: this is New York, and we need to show the world that we are the most tolerant city in the world, and the last place you want to victimize someone because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, or nationality.

We are lucky to have the full and united support of our elected city and state representatives standing strong against the forces of intolerance and bigotry. As Mayor De Blasio said last night: "If President-elect Trump were to follow through on his platform, there would be obvious disagreements and obvious conflict with my values and with the values of the vast majority of New Yorkers and the needs of New Yorkers. That certainly includes in the area of immigration—any threat to deport people here in our city, any efforts to undermine reproductive rights for the women of New York and for the women of America, any effort to derail Obamacare and take away health insurance from so many people who have struggled to get it and so many more New Yorkers who would have been eligible if Obamacare continued... We cannot, in any way, underestimate that challenge."

So remember: the road ahead will be long, but you don't need to think about that. You only need to think about today: what is one step you can take today to make this city, state, and country a better place? Did you smile and say hello to a neighbor? Did you give money to one of the charities or political action groups who will be taking the fight to Washington in 2017? Did you just do your best to get through this awful fucking week and be kind to your friends and family? If you did any of that, then well done: take the weekend to relax and recuperate. Go to a movie, take a walk through the park to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage. The fight will still be here when you get back, and we need you to keep your spirit strong!


N.B.: I'd like to take a moment here to thank everyone who has written in this week, expressing their support for the work the journalists at Gothamist have been doing during this difficult time, and extend my own thanks to them as well—it's an honor to work amongst people so committed to positive values.

Ask a Native New Yorker anything via email. Anonymity is assured.