I read a tweet the other day which stated: “If your progressive politics end at representation, then you aren’t actually trying to change anything. You just want to change the face of our oppressor.” (@mal_praxis); From this I began to examine “activism” as a whole -both in its ability to be inclusive and inter sectional, as well as in its intended ending. This paired with the aphorism from my professor that “when your oppressor has also been your teacher” we are obliged to insure that we do not emulate white supremacy and that we must be careful that our advocacy does not look like exploitation, I began to question, with all intents and purposes: What is the goal of our activism? What is the point?
If we are to be honest with ourselves, a lot of us, within even the field of activism have an abundance of internalized racism and biases which cloud our ability to truly and effectively change our communities. When it comes down to it, a lot of our ideals of “helping our people” equate to gaining white affirmation. This deeply-rooted self hatred has trained us to see whiteness as the epitome of success. White award shows become the “highest honor” to Black artists, even those with names that hold weight in the social justice community. We don’t aspire for BET nor BOUNCE nor NAACP Image type awards, but rather for white validation for art made FOR and BY Black People, and we beg for an Oscar for Angela Basset. We beg for white acclamation. We equivocate white praise to success. White designer to “you made it”. The hoarding of wealth to equality.
We must untrain ourselves from thinking of Black people as monolithic or pathological. We must remove “Black people always…” from our vocabulary, examine the stereotypes placed on our community which we have been tricked into believing and determine “is this counter-productive to advancement of my people?” We must be careful with not only our vernacular but also our support. Ask -Are you wearing designer because of the name or because you genuinely like the design? Is your view of what is “designer” limited solely to white corporations? Would you be willing to pay that same price to a Black company if it was their brand? Would you switch out a big brand for a black brand in order to keep the wealth in our community?-after all, that is an aspect of your activism.
Is your activism truly to gain equity for your people? Are you including non-binary Black people? Women? LGBTQ+? Are you criticizing people for starting go fund mes rather than the systems which allow for the majority of wealth to be held in the hands of 1%? Are you criticizing poor people for discretionary purchases rather than the systems which allow poverty? Do you want wealth equity and access to wealth building vehicles for all Black people or just the “talented tenth”? Is your goal of more Black billionaires polarizing? Is your idea of “success” rooted in anti blackness? Are you equating white approval to progress?
The point is this:
I beg us to carefully examine and gain an understanding of our personal biases within our activism, and rid ourselves of them. Does our idea of representation truly help our people… and not only that, does it truly help ALL of our people? In order to be an effective leader, not only must you be able to take constructive criticism from others, you must be able to critique yourself. Inform yourself, examine, and improve upon your activism. Execution means nothing without ideas. Ideas mean nothing without strategy. Strategy means nothing without knowledge, and social consciousness means nothing without education. Make sure you “have the range”.