Sure, being a social justice warrior is easy… that is, until you go “home.”

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Let’s face it, for the most part, our parents, family members, family-friends, and/or raised-guardians don’t all have the same beliefs as us. And, in the grand scheme of life and healthy dissonance, this makes for great validation regarding why it is that we believe what we believe when we believe. Values change. And this is certainly the case in my situation. As I’ve grown older, I have found some nice solidarity with friends and loved ones who share a similar pause when going “home” for the holidays (this is the same pause one might experience when a family member starts debating an article or thought on any form of social media). It’s not easy. And there will be times when topics, incidents, and issues are brought up, and all you want to do is remove your human rights cap and keep your mouth shut. Hell, sometimes I don’t even pack the metaphorical hat.

But my fellow social justice warriors, there’s something you must know… even though the holidays are fast approaching, it is now more essential than ever that we have these difficult conversations. You see, when you (we) remove that social justice cap, we push pause on any progress or dissonance which might be lurking somewhere within the almost-conversation (or debate, dialogue, argument, etc.). And I will be the first to admit that this is terrifying, frustrating, and altogether annoying.

I know the feeling of cringing while hoping your cousins or siblings don’t use, “that’s gay,” or, “fag.” More so, I am always conscious of how I’ll be perceived when/if I have to correct them when they do use this language. And, of course, it’s not always a selfish moment. For some, it’s that moment when the family refuses to acknowledge that Aunt Whitney’s “roommate” is actually her partner. Because Aunt Whitney is a lesbian. And Aunt Whitney deserves to live open and free. But, Aunt Whitney is the whispered about family member, and at times it’s easier for you to just let Aunt Whitney fly solo – after all, you have your own battles to fight, right?

Perhaps it’s Ferguson. And perhaps your entire family is walking around on eggshells anytime, “Black Lives Matter,” and, “I can’t breathe,” appears on television or news. Black lives do matter. Talk about it. Be open to challenging privilege and oppression. Be open to educating and empowering. Most likely, you’re not alone. And while I could go on with fifty more examples, religion and the ever-changing belief systems of young adults can also be a point of contention for many. Believe whatever you want. Be ever-changing. Stand up for yourself and articulate your growth. Your growth matters.

Let’s pause here for a moment (and if you have an Aunt Whitney or Aunt Whitney-adjacent, text her now…she – whoever “she” is for you – needs that support, and she needs the affirmation that someone out there accepts she and her partner as family…this validation is essential).

Outside of being a general warrior of all things just, the holidays can also be a compromising moment for all those electing to use the season as an opportunity to come out to family and friends (and, “come out,” as, whatever, whoever, whyever). Whereas it’s easy to weep with joy over hidden cameras revealing phenomenal reactions of parents on the receiving end of their child’s coming out, not all processes are hugs and happy tears. In fact, many are the exact opposite. And furthermore, many leave open wounds and heartache many years following one’s actual coming out.

Each year before the November & December holidays, I try send a tweet reading something along the lines of the following:

“The holidays are often a time where individuals come out to their family and friends. If someone comes out to you, thank them and love them.”

And I believe this with my entire being. You may be one of many or you may be the only person someone comes out to. Receiving this information is a compliment, and more times than not, you are being told because someone believes you to be someone who cares about them and supports their authenticity. They see you as a warrior, and someone who will fight for and with them. And the truth is, my friends – a warrior is a warrior, is a warrior… regardless of context. It’s not easy. And let’s be honest, unless you have the rare ability to let things roll off your back, there will be times where you need some sense of reprieve this holiday season. And that’s absolutely okay.

Also note, believing in and fighting for social justice and human rights is exhausting. And draining. And frustrating. And while the anxiety certainly goes up for many of us this time of year, please equally remember that this type of work and passion is also rewarding. Huge wins can come out of the dialogues you are gearing up for this next few weeks. Some will take time, and others will seem completely hopeless. But if I learned anything this past year, it’s that dissonance is learning, and the learning will occur as long as you are courageous enough to take the first step.

Will you continue to advance social, human, and societal rights and justness? Do you have the courage to speak up, step in, and intervene when you know something is not right? And finally, can you keep your ‘cool’ when you’re standing isolated, solo, and/or alone?

Press on, march on, and more importantly, fight on.

Planting seeds,

Michael

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3 thoughts on “Sure, being a social justice warrior is easy… that is, until you go “home.”

  1. Not pressing pause on social justice progress and critical conversation – beyond social media and public dialogue. This is a great guide for allies and all communities.

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  2. This really does speak to me on a personal level. And I know you posted it almost a whole month ago, but I think something like this is constantly relevant.

    Being from the pretty deep south of a rural mountain town in North Carolina, my family isn’t exactly the most liberal-open minded people and they surround themselves with people who feel the same way… which can make going “home” a what-should-I-avoid-bringing-up and I’m-not-going-to-watch-the-news-with-you-because-you-make-snide-remarks-that-make-me-feel-uncomfortable experience.
    Which, is not to say at all, that I don’t enjoy seeing my family. My brother moved back to my home town so going to see my parents also means going to see him, but he makes the statements and snide remarks more than anyone in my family.

    I really do applaud and look up to you if you can stand-up and speak out when home for the holidays or really any time. I’ve tried a few times, and I’ve found that it’s more comfortable to just walk away and go into another room.
    And in a perfect world I wouldn’t do this, but I haven’t found the ability or courage or strength to endure my brother’s “how can you believe this” attitude or my mom’s “I just don’t understand” attitude.
    Yeah, I advocate for causes every day in my job and at my university, but there’s just something about stepping away and seeing it from my family that is a game changer.
    Maybe it’s because I know at one point I outwardly acted (at least a little bit) like they do. I didn’t know any better. I wasn’t exposed to the alternative. Liberal arts university education meant nothing to a child-me. And maybe knowing that makes me uncomfortable and makes me shy away from the confrontation. Because my brother might look at me and go “why do you think differently now? what happened to the times when we would say or do this together?” And I’m not sure what scares me more, knowing that I used to exhibit some of those opinions or knowing that my brother has this feeling of disappointment that we’ve disconnected at a certain level.

    And maybe one day I’ll have that courage to look at my brother when he says something and say “that’s not right.” Especially because I plan on raising a future family of social justice warriors (with both parents working in student affairs, do you see any other outcome heh) and I know I can’t sit silently if my brother makes a comment in front of a child I’ve raised to think differently. And I know it’s an excuse. I know I’m just pushing it off and pushing it off until I have, what I think in my mind, is a “real reason” to stand up against him. But for now, that’s what the level of comfortability is at.

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    • First off, thank you. Thank you for sharing your experience and your struggle – know that you are not alone. And, also, know that you are strong and worthy and wonderful. Seriously, thank you.

      There is something really powerful about the, “I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE MY FAMILY,” vs., “Oh, shit, when am I leaving?” moment. It happens to me every single time. But ultimately, more times than not, I pause and remember that the time spent is meaningful, and maybe I can make a difference from a far. After all, we are continuing to better ourselves because we are in environments which challenge us to do and be so. If someone is not constantly seeking ways to be more socially just, they aren’t. And, in that world, this is okay for them. I COMPLETELY understand the dissonance.

      I, too, have this moment with my family, and though I wish I had the courage to be an activist in every one of those engagements, I do not. I struggle to this day. But, I know that I care, and sometimes that is the best part – pausing, and whether you do or say anything, knowing that you had that trigger. Knowing that YOU get it.

      Keep your head up, and know how appreciative I am of you of this note. March on…

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