just ran into a friend of mine who was telling me abt a lecture she attended tonight at our college
she was telling me how much it moved and motivated her, so i asked her to tell me abt it
she explained that this lecturer was a student activist in her time at our school (her focus seems to have been related to issues of race and race relations on our campus), and that she was preaching a message of constructive and empathic activism.
even hearing about this lecture secondhand, i found the sentiment in this lecturer’s message really strike a chord within me. a lot of the students and student activists on my campus have been employing types of activism that are rooted in the destruction, defamation, exclusion, and devaluing of others, and i have become very tired and extremely dispirited by this kind of activism.
according to my friend, tonight’s lecturer was making the point that activists (student and otherwise) are all trying to further a cause because they care about the way an institution and/or its policies/actions affect others. for that precise reason, she was advocating for activists’ adoption of more constructive, empathic—and in her opinion, more productive—activism that makes change a positive cause rather than one whose message or goals are rooted in destruction.
activists are often valid in their anger, and those who have been disenfranchised by a system are certainly valid in theirs. i do not mean to suggest that everyone should have to smile in the face of great wrongdoing and adversity. but i will say that the kinds of activism my campus has seen and produced are honestly appalling and i feel are themselves extremely destructive. most of all, i find that they are a) not effective, which is a real shame as many if not all of these causes are good ones, and b) strip people—those whose policies/actions they are protesting and even those who they think they are advocating for—of their humanity.
WE ARE ACTIVISTS BECAUSE WE WANT FOR THINGS TO BE BETTER. that activist groups are spending so much of their time and energy tearing down the institutions or people whose behavior they oppose suggests—correctly or incorrectly—that they don’t have any ideas for or interest in how to actually initiate change. the sorts of student activism i have been seeing as of late has made me feel like activism is being used as social currency rather than as a cause in and of itself, worthy of action and change and that is truly repugnant to me.
so PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE: let’s engage in some concrete and proactive change that keeps our humanity and the hope for a better society at the heart of our activism, rather than engaging in activism that indulges our own egos and has us spending our energy maligning others.