I read this article today and a lot of it really rang true to me (other than the second section): Kin Aesthetics – Excommunicate Me From the Church of Social Justice.
Two bits that stuck out:
There is an underlying current of fear in my activist communities, and it is separate from the daily fear of police brutality, eviction, discrimination, and street harassment. It is the fear of appearing impure. Social death follows when being labeled a “bad” activist or simply “problematic” enough times. I’ve had countless hushed conversations with friends about this anxiety and how it has led us to refrain from participation in activist events, conversations, and spaces because we feel inadequately radical…. I self-police what I say in activist spaces. I stopped commenting on social media with questions or pushback on leftist opinions for fear of being called out. I am always ready to apologize for anything I do that a community member deems wrong, oppressive, or inappropriate—no questions asked. The amount of energy I spend demonstrating purity in order to stay in the good graces of a fast-moving activist community is enormous.
Scrolling through my news feed sometimes feels Iike sliding into a pew to be blasted by a fragmented, frenzied sermon. I know that much of the media posted there means to discipline me to be a better activist and community member. But when dictates aren’t followed, a common procedure of punishment ensues. Punishments for saying/doing/believing the wrong thing include shaming, scolding, calling out, isolating, or eviscerating someone’s social standing. Discipline and punishment have been used for all of history to control and destroy people. Why is it being used in movements meant to liberate all of us? We all have made serious mistakes and hurt other people, intentionally or not. We get a chance to learn from them when those around us respond with kindness and patience. Where is our humility when examining the mistakes of others? Why do we position ourselves as morally superior to the lowly un-woke? Who of us came into the world fully awake?
I understand the desire to dismantle the systems that have held down anyone not white, straight, male, upper class, cisgender, etc. for a long time. That is my goal as well. And I understand that people are angry about being oppressed and I will never tell them that their anger is not justified, because, as student of political science and history, I damn well know it is more than justified. Hell, there are a number of things in our society I am very angry about.
I am really tired of the ideal of the perfect “woke” social justice activist. Someone who spends all day and all night participating in marches, protests, calling their congresspeople, and preaching the word to the “un-woke”. Someone who puts all their time and energy into fighting for all social justice causes. I remember commenting the other day to someone (…don’t remember exactly who…) that that term seems to exist exclusively to other people, to split the community apart, into the “woke” and “un-woke”. Anything that rips us into smaller and smaller groups makes it less likely that we’ll be able to accomplish anything. The whole “house divided” thing.
I am (in a minor way, becoming more major day by day) disabled and neurodivergent. I learn in different ways than other people. I take in information differently than other people. I am particularly sensitive to being rejected from communities and friend groups. I cannot participate in all the protests, marches, and rallies that people put together for both physical and mental health reasons. I despise the quiet implication that I am not as good an activist because I am not a loud activist. Or because I can’t really afford to take time off work (ya know, the work that pays for my insurance and medical bills, so I can stay sorta healthy and sane enough) to attend events during the work week. I go to what I can, I participate where I can, I spread the word where I can – but I can’t go everywhere or say everything, and sometimes I’m just exhausted and can’t do much of anything. And I don’t think I’m in the minority here, in the slightest. Expecting perfection sets you up for failure.
Yes, please feel free to call me in if I’ve said or done something offensive to you. Hell, I encourage it. Not going to learn any other way. But if you try to shame me because I’ve erred, tell me that I should or should not do something – I am not a child, you are not my parent, and if you try to tell me that I “should” do something, then I am not likely to react well. Suggest it, make it a condition of participating, fine. That makes it my choice what I do, whether I choose to participate.
I am exhausted of staying silent for fear of being seen as lesser-than. Un-woker-than, one might say.
I am afraid of posting this.