My organizing and activism is a big chunk of who I am. But a couple of months ago I made the conscious decision to take a step back and reflect on some of my experiences.
I realized that as much as I loved organizing, the spaces I often found myself in were pretty unhealthy and energy-draining. Too often I felt I couldn’t speak my mind. Forced to just listen to words being thrown out like “solidarity” “collectivism” and sometimes “imperialism” to feel good about themselves. Kind of like those moments when “radical” activists spit out some Angela Davis and Bell Hooks quotes at you and talk so fabulously about how a new world is really possible, a world totally post-anti-capitalist and post everything else.. but forget to mention how they’re totally not putting any of the theories into practice into their own daily lives, because you know the struggle is real sometimes and they just can’t. And then there’s this weird dominate culture in some of these spaces, where people feel they have to prove themsevles because “radical” expectations are high. So they start doing stupid shit, making everyone else feel unsafe and uncomfortable and then you find the community just turning inward on itself, picking each other apart for people making well-intentioned innocent stupid mistakes. I’ve seen it happen, especially during occupy. That was the worst. But I’m sure it’s something that has always happened. So anyway with time, all the evidence started adding up, and i began to realize that some of these spaces were just not right for me.
But It was hard to admit. I was in those spaces because they were my friends and so I never saw it as problematic . Being surrounded with like-minded awesome folks, even when you’re still sort of feeling uncomfortable and not fully yourself was completely worth blinding yourself to it. I wasn’t ready and willing to acknowledge that sometimes the culture around activism could be toxic…It was not until I came back from Yemen that I had the opportunity to reflect. It was then that I realized that I wasnt really me anymore. I was stressed, angry and couldn’t let go of things. I know that being angry is fine and that it can actually be a big part of why people are working towards social change, (as it certainly served as a motivator for me.) But not when your angry ALL the time. Angry at every little small and big thing. When it’s gotten to that point, anger can take a toll on you mentally and physically, and picking and choosing my battles is something that I was struggling with (and still am) . I can’t afford to be angry all the time and when I am, I seriously just cannot handle myself. I realized that this powerful and predominant attitude of constant aggression that I witnessed and experienced was getting to me and it was something that really began contributing heavily to my anxiety. But I also realize the importance of recognizing, pinpointing and calling out when a person’s experience is being minimized and marginalized, or when you see any kind of oppressive behavior. I think tit’s important to do but I also believe it’s ‘s important to sometimes ask yourself some questions before reacting immediately because sometimes we can say things out of fierce protectiveness and end up contributing to what we’re fighting against which has definitely happened to me ( admitting it is hard and really never fun). But it’s the truth and it’s something I need to acknowledge so I can learn. (Thanks Atiaf and Afro)
That being said, no matter how stressful activism can be, it’s not something I can ever just drop and separate from my life.. I’m trying to learn how to balance better and choose my spaces wisely, even if it means messing up and starting all over again. For now, I’m a little anti-social but I recognize it’s a process and that’s something I’m okay with…but if you’re interested in having honest conversations about how we can bridge the gap between theory and practice and how we can reconcile our own hypocrisies as organizers & activists, holler! 🙂