Exacerbated by the twin problems of class and racial inequalities, their suffering exposed gaps in health care and economic resources, catalyzing millions of citizens to take matters into their own hands. In spite of the stressors of quarantining, or maybe because of it, people came together to forge ahead. Thousands of new mutual aid groups — in the form of block associations, neighborhood councils, or extensions of philanthropic organizations — developed alongside more seasoned organizations.
Naturally, the seemingly sudden explosion of civic engagement raises the question: What exactly is a mutual aid society? An important distinction to note is that mutual aid is more than simply philanthropic-driven charity. It is an ethic of solidarity that prioritizes communal welfare and encourages collective actions. One of its significant philosophies is the idea that communities organize best around those whose assistance is likely to deliver the most immediate impact. That spirit of communalism need not be seen as mutually exclusive to the individualism dear to many Americans. The U.S. motto, “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many, one) that defines our nation as a people is at core what drives the concept of mutual aid. In other words, each one of us is better cared for when mutual interdependency empowers the self-dependence we cherish.