It’s not really my thing; and i find these stories deeply depressing. I’m overwhelmed. It’s a problem, i know. But what can i do? Volunteer at some sanctuary church or University? That’s not going to do anything! That’s not going to stop ICE from banging down someone’s door, dragging them out of their house and putting them on a bus to god knows where…for doing nothing, but trying to live. Fuck! I don’t know what to do.
I see all of our myriad social woes as the same problem, be it global warming, misogyny, racism, religious oppression, or whatever else. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m right. But, I do believe when you simply ignore, tolerate, or even bolster one injustice during a fight against another, you will ultimately fail to effectively fight either.
Black Lives Matter is a perfect example of a movement that gets it right. It does not kick women or LGBT persons or atheists or immigrants or Muslims or anyone else to the curb, and is entirely accepting toward anyone who also agrees that black lives matter. It does not say some black lives matter more by privileging black men or black Christians or wealthy black people, or that some people have to wait for justice while the issue of black lives getting treated like they don’t matter on account of institutionalized racism gets resolved.
It is impossible for every activist to be front and center in every fight. The world is too big, and the breadth of iniquity is too great for a person to show up at every march and every protest and every battle. There are tremendous ills in parts of the world that you and I haven’t even heard of. The best we can do, in my estimation, is make sure the efforts we involve ourselves in do not operate at the expense of other marginalized groups.
We can look to old examples like Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech that argued the necessity of bringing abolitionism into a feminist movement that was decidedly white-centered and, in cases, apathetic or hostile to the plight of black women, or to more recent examples like #CancelColbert, wherein Suey Park, an Asian-American activist, launched the hashtag on Twitter in response to Colbert making use of anti-Asian racist language in a satirical effort to point out the anti-Native American racism of Daniel Snyder’s continued use of a racial slur for his NFL team in Washington, to see where ostensibly well-intended movements and acts have gone wrong. Like anyone, activists and advocates have blind spots, and may not be aware when they trample on others. Unlike white feminism and Colbert’s satirical misstep, Black Lives Matter is a movement that has consistently gotten it right.
Most of my street-level activism happens in the context of the Satanic Temple. In the United States, we generally find ourselves at odds with Christians who attempt religious overreach that is at odds with the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the United States Constitution, but, given the results of these attempts at overreach and Christian indoctrination, our struggles frequently intersect with those fighting homophobia and transphobia and those fighting racism in the form of Islamaphobia. It is also the case that secular movements have historically been woefully inadequate at including people of color, and secular people of color have additional challenges being openly secular that are not faced by white people, and, unlike many secularists who want to blame the black community or immigrant communities for this (thereby rendering their movements largely worthless, in my opinion), I see it as a failing on the part of secularism that needs to be rectified.