I’ve been told throughout my life that if I’m really passionate about something, then I should participate in activism. While activism is an important part of planting the seed of change (and enabling capitalist systems), the scale is not conducive for everyone.
Activism occupies a larger platform, one that requires money, time, and energy that is often not given equally or fairly across the United States system of class and access to resources in rural areas. Activism has taken on a different shape here than anywhere else in the world, and while activism is important, I want to focus particularly on white middle-class participation and its relation to performance.
I’ve seen too often people after a protest, a petition, or a speech “roll up” their beliefs and have the messages they support put away. The compartmentalization of beliefs and behavior is baffling and overshadows the duty of self-reflection. I like to believe that the core of any activism is empathy, that the change that needs to happen in the microcosm of the United States government, comes from the inherent, empathetic urge to mitigate suffering.
However, activism has become an exchange for white middle-class and upper-class people to meet social requirements, the bigger speculative action to spur networks of people and build up social and economic capital. While that is neither here nor there, it does beg the question of moral uprightness and consistencies in thought patterns.
Although where I am often thrown a bit is the judgement of white performative activists that wave that flag of superiority over people that do not engage in rallies or speculative activist performance. It ignores the most important thing of change; which is in the important interpersonal work that happens in communities.
Having important conversations with people day-to-day is incredibly important to the breakdown of current harmful systems. Activism and change isn’t locked into one form and must be looked at in multiple different ways. I don’t like the harmful rhetoric that invalidates the passion of people who wish to see change but do not participate in speculative activism. Why must the system of moral superiority constantly reinforces itself on the oppressed? Why is white performance engaging in a system that they are advocating to change?
The most important work that comes with change and understanding is done within communities, families, and individuals. Change starts at a microscopic level.