I’d like to begin with noting that the post seems to neglect the fact that much of what constitutes the activism taking place today is a result of the hard work and expression of the oppressed, of whom Bailey Lamon seems to neglect any agency: “they tend to not analyze their experiences in terms of systemic power and privilege”, “they do not sit around pondering the effects of ‘problematic behaviours’ in radical communities”, “they are not concerned with checking their privilege”, “they do not bother with policing their language and worrying about how their words might unintentionally perpetuate certain stereotypes”.
Lamon states that “one of the first things you learn is that they (the oppressed) usually do not frame their worldviews in terms of academic theories you learned in gender studies classes in University”, while I would argue that it is in fact because of the work of the very people she is referring to that Gender Studies is even a class available in the few privileged universities that offer it. There seems to be a disconnect in Lamon’s understanding of social justice and her unquestioned association of said social justice with the privileged. An example of this internal association is clear in the following: “I witness so many ‘activists’ who claim to care about those at the bottom of society ignoring the realities of oppression”. Who are these activists witnessed? Clearly not those ‘at the bottom’.
The valuable topic of discussion here is ‘privilege in activism’; however, it is not the subject of the piece.
The next point that I imagine many connected with was that on ‘free speech’ and the lack thereof in social justice. “There is also a disturbing trend on the left nowadays that involves rejecting free speech/freedom of expression as a core value, because that speech could possibly be hurtful to someone, somewhere”.
I do not see the above as the case at all, rather ‘free speech’ being embraced as a core value in social justice, particularly in the arguments on ‘censorship’ and trigger warnings — mentioned later on by Lamon. I would argue that the concerns with the use of speech are founded in the awareness and responsibility we have as people in the language we use. Without such awareness and responsibility we would not allow for the space necessary for those who are marginalised to express themselves in the first place.
Our use of language directly effects our ability to hear, let alone listen.
“What could possibly be safe about censorship?” “The world is not a safe place. It is extremely dangerous, flawed, full of bloodshed and corruption. By sheltering ourselves from its harshness we are doing nothing meaningful to change it.”
From what I understand, ‘censorship’ — as in the awareness and responsibility we take for the language we use — in activism is not about ‘sheltering’ *ourselves*, it’s about providing that ’shelter’ for those who are currently affected by systemic and cultural injustice in order to express themselves. The above is an example of a self-absorbed perspective on activism.
Finally a note on: “do the world a favour…stop with the safe spaces and trigger warning”. I personally have zero experience with the subjects often accompanied by trigger warnings, that said, I think as people we should have a basic acceptance for the necessity of trigger warnings; however, this relies on our ability and willingness to be empathetic towards others and this is unfortunately not something that is always learned.