2017-02-02

Class, Privilege and Activism

(On 26 August 1970, women marked the 50th anniversary of the 19th amendment with a march down 5th Avenue, New York.)

To all those veteran activists out there, to the dedicated souls who have fought long and hard against injustice, to the ones who have made sacrifices for the greater good — I honor you. And more importantly, to those who had no choice but to fight for basic rights or survival, my heart aches for you and I pray for the power to shift in your favor. For some existing is an act of resistance.

If you’re like me, you’re fairly new to the activism scene and coming to terms with so much, including finding your role in this whole mess. For me, as I step into the resistance, I’m trying to find a balance between charging ahead fueled by passionate rage against a white supremacist, misogynist, and greed driven agenda — while also understanding the need to step back and listen to the people most imminently affected and historically disenfranchised, allowing them to lead the way.

First, I think we need to come to terms with our privilege. Starting with an honest look at the forces, good and bad, that allow us the comfort and safety we so often take for granted. We need to make gratitude a daily practice. We didn’t just magically arrive here. Sure, we all work hard to provide for ourselves, but that’s only a tiny sliver of the entire picture. Our ancestors, some remembered, some unknown, paved the way for us. Many fought hard for the liberties we enjoy. And our complicated and horrific history — involving building a country on the backs of slaves and stolen land – is an inextricable part of our own existence. Being crippled with guilt or diluted by denial is useless. Instead, if we show up fully aware and present, hopefully, we can be useful and uplift those who weren’t born with the same luxuries. This doesn’t mean giving up our lives as we know them, but we can stretch ourselves further, practicing compassion and never stop asking ourselves what we can do to help.

Following the women’s march, there has been some reckoning with the fact that white privileged men and women are just now entering the fight and waking up to injustices that have been playing out for ages and oftentimes upheld by these same privileged men and women. Being in a place of privilege means oftentimes not seeing or understanding how these things play out, like institutional racism (watch the documentary 13th, if you want to get caught up on this issue.) And who knows if Hillary — the one we put on a feminist pedestal — would have made any headway on these deep-seeded issues. She definitely didn’t have a favorable history on the issue of institutional racism, although I was hopeful she was moving forward in a more positive direction. Either way, she was a far more competent and compassionate choice and a champion for women’s rights. The fact that she lost to a man who unapologetically assaults and demeans women, was a huge blow to humanity and feminism. And yet, I’m ashamed to say, I wonder if we would have risen to the occasion if Hillary were in office now. Would our privilege continue to undermine our resolve against injustice? Would she have inspired this kind of awakening?

T (I will not use his full name here as not to desecrate this space) promised to shake things up. He sensationalized the democratic process, undermining truth, accountability and common decency and America fell for it — hook, line and sinker. He’s shaking things up all right. His blatant disregard for people of color, indigenous people, LGBTQ, Muslims, women and the environment has paved a way for strong, clear and unashamed resistance. I love this quote by Sparrow, a mostly unknown presidential candidate 4 years running, who writes poetic commentary on politics…

“As the patriarchy is dying, it thrashes about like a wounded rat, that thrashing is the T campaign.”

Maybe the agitation we’re experiencing is necessary to reveal all the injustice in it’s full ugly truth. After all, you need to see a situation clearly before you can transform it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to paint any part of this madness in a positive light. T’s agenda is dangerous with serious consequences for humans and the environment. I believe Bernie would have motivated us to rise to the occasion in a much more tactful and safe way.

Unfortunately, Bernie is not our president, T is. So where do we go from here? We gather as much energy, resolve and resources as we can to resist. Whether you’re new to the fight, or none of this comes as a surprise, we must all stay vigilant and hopefully, the newbies can learn from the veterans and those closest to the struggle. Above all — may we be united!

I want to give a heartfelt thanks to KD Segura for helping me with this article. It was a hard one for me to write and I really wanted some perspective from someone with a more diverse background and real experience with activism. I first met KD at a Standing Rock rally and later she helped prime me for my visit there, she was one of the brave souls resisting on the front lines. I’m so grateful to have met this beautiful woman and for her ability to inspire these conversations in a very real and loving way. I plan to do an interview with her, so you all can get to know her. In the meantime, here’s a short bio…KD Segura was born in 1990 and raised in the dirty south. She is a creator. She is a poet. She is an activist, writer, zine maker, DIY enthusiast, and artist. KD is best known for her free verse poetry, political works, and published academic pieces. She focuses on the intersectionalities of her experiences existing as a queer person of color in different spaces. KD competes with the Bozeman Poetry Collective and currently resides in Bozeman, MT. You can view her work here

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