Sunday, July 30, 2017

Civil Rights and Pitchforks

When I was growing up one of the virtues that was taught was the saying, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." As far as I know, this is still often taught to children as a guideline to behavior, yet from what I have witnessed of people lately few adults are following this advice themselves, especially when it comes to advocacy efforts.

Let me preface this by saying that I am aware that there is often a need to be outspoken, bold in order to be heard. Sometimes we have to be less than nice to take some of our power back, because that's how power imbalances work. No one group holding the most power, and privilege is going to relinquish it in a passive manner, because the oppressed is asking nicely. That's not how it works.

However, when did being a snarky, condescending, foul mouthed, angry person spitting sassy comebacks at everyone whom you cross paths with become what we call advocacy? When did answering every question from others from different groups with an air of, "I'd explain this to you, but you're just to stupid to understand it."
become the norm of conversation with any civil rights type of discussion?  Basically, when did it go from asserting ourselves in situations where there is genuine oppression to assigning ourselves to groups so unique, and so under-privileged that no one outside of said group could possibly understand, and if they try, lash out in anger in response to how "uneducated they are".

I know that many might say that this is what happens when a group is so oppressed for such a long period of time that they're tired of putting up with everyone else's shit. They might also say that with every civil rights movement there are always the ones that are extreme. I do agree with the second statement. The first statement is just an excuse. There, I said it. It's just an excuse to be a jerk, because you think it's cool. You can be a jerk, and talk to all of your friends screenshotting all of your jerky conversations with all the haters, because this is how you spend your day, convincing yourself that you're being a self-advocate in a cruel world. Nah. You're just being a jerk, making this world worse than it has to be, devoid of any meaningful change. If all that occurs in most of your discussions with others that have opposing views from you is name calling, sarcastic comments that don't lead to any kind of mutual discussion, and accusations about how said person needs to just do better (with no respectful commentary on how to actually do that) then you're not adding anything meaningful to any civil rights discussion. You're just picking fights. You're looking at the tiny details, and overlooking how to engage in advocacy that gets results in the bigger picture.

What does advocacy look like that gets results? Protests, interacting with legislators, social media, blogging, and so much more. Everyone within any marginalized community has a skill, talent, or strength to contribute. Any kind of media that brings people together as well as speaks to others outside the affected community is progress. Otherwise, we're only creating an angry echo chamber. I think some don't mind that. It seems some find comfort in being part of a specific group in which to identify with. There's nothing wrong with that unless the group begins to fall into the us vs. them mentality. That's when things get carried away, and real progress towards the goals of acceptance are abandoned. When we find ourselves holding pitchforks in defense of any outsiders that dare tread our way, then perhaps it's not civil rights that we're after, but social equivalent of Mean Girls with a superiority complex that becomes the foundation in which the social code to belong gets built.

It's easy to be snarky, and popular. It's much harder to be firm, steady, and meaningful.

Note: Rude comments will be removed. Please keep it respectful.

I also feel like I need to note that I'm not lumping together advocacy efforts that seem aggressive due to their rights being violated. As I pointed out at the beginning of the post, I think you have to be firm in asserting your rights as a person. You deserve to have respect, and to take up the same space as anyone else, and sometimes you have to fight for it. 

I am speaking purely about those in any marginalized community that take to their keyboards looking for someone that doesn't agree with them, and uses their group to bully that person either by attempting to destroy their credibility within said community, or at least humiliate them. It's bullying disguised as advocacy.

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