Lately, I’ve had many conversations about political action. In most of my discussions either I, or the other person I’m speaking to, has said: “I’m just not that, you know, radical.”
I say that and believe that it’s true, but a part of me always feels embarrassed that I’m not more ... Rebellious? Outspoken? Bold? I don’t know what it is. I’m passionate about various issues, but occasionally I feel that I’m not doing it “right.” I’ve found that there are unspoken categorizations of people in relation to political and social action: the radical, the coward and the apathetic.
Leading rallies and participating in disruptions means that you are brave, outspoken and radical. If it’s apparent that you care about “the cause,” whatever that may be, but you opt not to participate in demonstrations and rallies (although you show up) — you’re a coward. If it appears that you are completely removed from “the cause,” and pay no attention to current events — you’re apathetic.
The way I’ve heard people, including my friends, discuss political action reaffirms the notion that these categories 1) exist and 2) are correct. I do believe there are distinctions, but those distinctions are not indicative of an individual’s investment or interest.
I know people who have organized rallies, not to be a “rebel,” cause trouble or disrupt anyone, but simply to create a safe space for people of color. I’ve met individuals who choose not to speak at rallies because they prefer to express themselves in a different manner and space. When I went to vote, I recognized a few people whom I had never seen at rallies or demonstrations, but they showed up when it mattered.
The problem lies in equating action with investment.
You see, an individual who chooses to be the face of a rally is probably as equally invested in “the cause” as a person who chooses to walk in a march anonymously. Differing methods should not be used as a tool to measure investment. Now, I say this particularly in the context of the relationship between methods and investments, because methods are important. As long as your heart is in the right place (not acting to bring harm to another person), the ways in which you participate are appropriate regardless. Some things I have heard are:
Well if you really cared you would stop doing __________ and just __________.
You should be more like _________ and just ____________.