Liz, thanks for writing this. This has been a hot topic for me for the past few years. Worth noting it is an issue that plagues many movements… I struggled a lot with the rise of “mindfulness” and “self-care” as code words corporations and institutions often used to shift the responsibility of mental health onto the individual (as opposed to companies actually taking care of their people every once in a while). Of course, these phrases are not draped with racism, privilege, etc.
In agreement with much of what you share. I’ve been persistently annoyed by the “black lives matter/science is science/kindness is everything…” posters that so many white families have propped up in their yards across Seattle. At the same time, I currently use both “social justice” and “gender equity” in my summary and sometimes in cover letters to certain employers… so perhaps I either need to change my approach or stop being hypocrticial of others.
These terms are loaded and confusing for me. I was raised by a single minority mother who is an attorney and worked her ass off to support me and my sisters. My grandmother was the first minority woman to graduate with a degree in chemical engineering and then of course couldn’t get a decent job anywhere… so she became a lawyer (also the only woman in her class) and served on the board of the ACLU. My aunt, one of my primary caretakers when my mom worked, was sentenced to prison for a low level drug offense when I was a kid. All of my gifts from my grandfather growing up were Holocaust documentaries or books, most of his family was killed in Germany. My other grandmother is black and has shared painful stories of her time growing up in the south before the civil rights movement. The point of all of this is… for me, the literal sense of justice and equity has been at the forefront since I was a kid. It has not been something sitting idly on the sidelines, occasionally referenced only when necessary… it has been part of my family and part of me. It has been confusing to witness these words transform into catch phrases. It has also left me feeling unsure about how I can articulate my commitment to the literal and genuine sense of these phrases. Especially as someone with a diverse family background and a mother who preached women’s rights and justice since I could walk… but who also clearly passes as “white” 99% of the time. Navigating this is difficult, but your comments are helpful — will add it to my to-do list to re-examine how I can improve language around this.
The main thing that concerns me about this post is the assumption that if someone doesn’t attend the same events you attend, this means something about what they care about or are committed to. As an introvert with often paralyzing anxiety… I don’t go to events at Evans because school is already extremely exhausting and overwhelming for me. But I would be concerned if someone was keeping track of my attendance as a means to judge how committed I “really” am (or i guess to use your words… “woke or not woke”). Along the same lines to some of the things you expressed in this post… I have an issue sometimes with people who sign up for every “social justice/anti-racism” training, meeting, or event… and rely on the fact that they “attended” these events as proof that they care.
These people will tweet, hashtag, and Facebook about the event they attended — to prove to everyone they were there. And then those same people go home and don’t have honest conversations about these issues with their partners or families. They go back to school and don’t question their prof in office hours about things that came up in their class. They go back to listening to radio shows or podcasts that perpetuate racism, sexism, and injustice… but don’t call or write in to flag it. They go back to the classroom and avoid sitting next to international students for whom English is a second language. They go back to their couch and consume TV and movies that continue to paint PoC as crminals. They still hold their breath or cross the street every time they see a black man with a hoody walking toward them. They go home and don’t do the personal work on themselves. All of these things are things that NOBODY will ever see. We will never get credit for doing these things (nor should we). It is quiet activism… not crying out for attention, acknowledgment, recognition. Many introverts are frustrated and exhausted by the notion that our activism must look like everyone elses for it to mean something. So I felt it was important to bring up this point.
Yes to so many of the things you call out and the resources you offered, thank you.