If you know anything about me, you know that I take activism very serious. And, virtually every single day, I get an email or Facebook message from someone who has an issue with my voice or my belief or my outspoken desire to make the world a more inclusive and equitable place. For example, last week Ireland passed marriage equality.
I cried. And I retweeted about 100 tweets regarding this momentous occasion. This is the first country in the world to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote!
Of course, this is just one of many huge experiences related to social justice that is happening in the world (and, including however you frame, “social justice,” in your sphere). Throughout the year, and as issues continue to plague our own country, people take to twitter, Facebook, and various blogs (I guess, this one, included), and air their disagreements and grievances, one way or another. If you’re in any way connected to social justice or equity/inclusion work, you will agree that, when these big things do happen in the world, the internet trolling is on a new level. And thus, all those committed to making the world a more equal place, are on full alert.
We enact, “The Social Justice Scroll.”
Quite simply, The Social Justice Scroll is a mere quick-read through the major articles and stories and statuses posted on any given topic (including the most-posted pieces and remarks with a large amount of comments or likes).
For example, I discovered this while scrolling through my timeline(s) last night:
“Not necessarily saying Jenner is a freak show, but come on people. I didn’t want to post about this but think about what we could accomplish if we spent all of this energy on things that truly matter.”
To pause, when you tee something up as, “I’m not saying…, but…,” you are probably actually saying just that. And, especially when your post is accompanied by a giant photo, reading, “Like if you think we should be worrying about serious things, not this national freak show,” and later noting, “But what got the most attention? A 65 year-old man playing dress up.”
“What you permit, you promote,” and all of that. And, what you post, you probably stand behind. I have a belief that nothing good comes from dodging your true feelings with the mask of, “I wasn’t going to speak up here, but…,” or, “I guess I’ll put in my two cents…” This is the modern day, “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but…” No, no, please do share those two cents of yours, and while doing so, allow me to move along quietly with gaining frustration.
Of course, it’s not long before the next piece pops up, and the next, and then one about Mike Huckabee’s opinion on Caitlyn, and then one about the next big issue, and so on, and so forth (of course, while not dismissing any issue as one being bigger than the next). And this happens a lot, people start comparing issues. Don’t even get me started on the hero-comparing that is happening right now (soldiers versus Caitlyn Jenner, Barak Obama versus Harvey Milk, and the list goes on). Can we please stop doing this? Can we please just pause and let a moment happen? You don’t have to honor that moment just because everyone else is, but you do have to respect that it’s happening.
I have a friend who often asks me, “Why don’t you just defriend all the homophobes and racists and sexist fools on your timeline? Or at least, why don’t you hide them?” And, to be honest, it has been this past few weeks when I realized the reason I do not get rid of those voices in my life is because I kind of thrive on the dissonance. It get a push from these perspectives, and it is far more impacting on me than reading a random article with no personal connection to the voice.
These are real people.
Let’s pause here for a moment. There are real people in the world who actually think a woman’s place is in the kitchen and not in an office or leadership role. There are real people in the world who have committed to a life of white supremacy. There are real people in this world who think all gay people should go to hell. There are real people in this world who like Peeps. I digress.
I keep these people around because I feel like if I have access to them, they have access to me – and with that shared accessibility, perhaps they’ll learn something. And, perhaps, I might learn something, too. I should add, Oklahoma is not the cause of this dissonance. For so long, and when I moved to Los Angeles after college, I cited my upbringing as the reason I have so many swaying voices in my life. The truth is, these people exist all over the world. And these people will continue to say hateful and small-minded things in order to make meaning of their own beliefs.
I know many would advise against this, however, I always read the “Comments” section. People will usually show you who they really are in any given comment section. It’s painful, but it’s very real. And, as is the social justice educator guilt. This, too, is painful. There are times where you (we) literally will not have the mental capacity or emotional understanding to make a post or write a comment or challenge a bigot. And you should know, you don’t have to. Because this is exhausting. Challenging people all day, every day, is exhausting. And many live this life within the mere makeup of who they are. Please feel the validation that it is okay to be exhausted of this.
And to preemptively address any individuals now annoyed and stewing over this post, I leave you with my favorite line from, “Tiny Beautiful Things,” by Cheryl Strayed (previously the advice column, “Dear Sugar“):
“We are all entitled to our opinions and religious beliefs, but we are not entitled to make shit up and then use the shit we made up to oppress other people.” –Cheryl Strayed
How can you create some dissonance today with those around you? Will you challenge the coworker using, “retarded,” as a derogatory term? Will you address the racial tension in your community? Will you engage with the family member calling Caitlyn Jenner a, “he-she it?” Will you challenge transphobic and homophobic political and religious leadership in your life or community?
Many are trying. And for every hate-filled post, there is one full of curiosity and questions (and not to mention the thousands that exist in opposition of the hate). Curiosity and questions are healthy. Please, remain curious. And be comfortable questioning so you have a better understanding of whatever it is in which you are inquiring. No one should fault you for this. And, further, no one should fault you for speaking up when you know something isn’t right or just.
YMCA of Boulder Valley CEO, Chris Coker, displayed courage recently. Will you?
*Photo above taken from somewhere in the internet – thank you to the creative soul who designed this!