It’s human nature to turn away from suffering.
These times call for a different response.
A response also rooted in human nature, but one that arises intermittently across American history—standing in our discomfort as we sustainably continue the struggle for social justice.
I say “sustainably” because:
Momentum can be lost quickly.
Activists and helping professionals burn out easily.
American culture quickly steers potential allies back to consumerism and a model of perfectionistic parenting, rather than a life of giving and social activism.
For the most part, if you’re white, middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual, and/or Christian, you have privileges—reserves of time, money, energy, and support. You can use these privileges as you educate and act in the name of equality and justice.
You have power and privilege to bolster you and amplify your voice; put them to good use and be ready to give them up. Now is the time to be a true and active ally for the long haul. Don’t lose this momentum in a week, a month, a year, ten years…
Sometimes, you may need to tend to your personal wellbeing and to take breaks from the stories of suffering you hear and read.
Please return soon, though. We need you.
Learn to hold the suffering of others and act to alleviate it.
If you’re a person of color, LGBTQI2-S, Muslim, with disabilities, without documents, or of any other oppressed group, I wish you justice, respect, safe spaces, and wellbeing. You deserve to have people fight for justice beside you, as well as on your behalf when you need to restore yourself after facing hate crimes and microaggressions.
To all, if you’re unsure where to start, remember these words from Margaret Wheatley, in her book Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future:
“Human conversation is the most ancient and easiest way to cultivate the conditions for change—personal change, community and organizational change, planetary change.”
I wish you meaningful conversations.
Ones that hold space for the dark thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Positivity, platitudes, and advice-giving often fall flat in the aftermath of a defining point of suffering, especially while hate crimes are already happening in our communities.
I believe that it’s healthy not to rush past our feelings.
That’s not to say we can’t take action right away, but hold space for what you’re feeling, in tandem.
As you struggle to swim amid the strong current of suffering, please hear the echo of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words (that paraphrased Theodore Walker):
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
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