The title ‘Social Justice Warrior’ is one I wear with much pride. But the battles that my friends and I fight are not easy. Sometimes we go up against an evil mage whose silver tongue lets him escape as soon as folks discover the they’ve done. Other times, it’s a dragon protecting an enormous stolen treasure. Other times still, you’re outnumbered by trolls that may not be strong, but are many…
The weapon of choice for the troll is dull, but it comes down with force. It comes down in the form of a statement that I’ve never quite understood – what you’re fighting for is a non-issue. I got hit with that familiar stick here, in response to my writing around the Aria incident. Only this time, when I got hit, it didn’t hurt any more.
Because I couldn’t shake the idea that someone told Rosa Parks the exact same thing.
There are those who no doubt said to Rosa – said to anyone that would listen – that there are much more important things to care about, to fight about, than where black people sit in a bus. Of course a few of those would’ve been white people who wanted to silence Parks. But many more would’ve been African-Americans, who were more concerned about being murdered and unable to vote than using special bathrooms or having designated seats. Those folks would not be wrong about saying that those issues are important. But do those things being important make other forms of discrimination unimportant? Do they mean other forms of rebellion have no impact?
I’m a big fan of Mario Savio’s 1964 ‘Operation of the Machine’ speech (which, in the spirit of full disclosure, I only discovered because of Linkin Park’s ‘Wretches and Kings’). In it, he says, “You’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop!” What is interesting to me is that, if we focus on the analogy, there is no part of the machine that he considers more important than others. There is still some core engine that we fundamentally want to shut down…but we’ve got to get to it. And that means we have to go through the entire machine, not just to make sure we’ve gotten to the part we need, but to make sure that there is no part of it that takes up the slack.
As we enter 2016, we will be facing a financial recession that will likely get harder. We continue dealing with a crime rate that has been rising for more than a decade, now at unbearable proportions. Not too long ago, the entire nation witnessed the violent assault of a woman by her significant other – just before the 16 Days of Activism Against Domestic Violence no less. There are a lot of things that warrant discussion. But none of those are more or less important than the other. One woman’s bus ride doesn’t need to be ignored to talk about the KKK. One woman’s assault doesn’t need to be ignored to talk about 401 murders. One woman’s discrimination and disrespect doesn’t need to be ignored to talk domestic violence.
And folks are trying. PSI Caribbean started a campaign decrying intimate partner violence earlier this year, even before the unfortunate abuse incident. They’ve even commissioned a study about abuse in T&T that is due to be released. Folks have been speaking about/walking for/pressing Ministers for better responses around crime since the year began. Even young people have been pressuring politicians for representation and good governance. They got their own show (that maybe many of you missed) – Synergy TV’s ‘The Chair’.
Folks are working. On a lot of different things. And yeah, you’re still very much free to think we’re focused on the wrong things.
The question becomes, though…what are you working on?
I’d Love nothing more than to be held accountable for the work I do. As an artist, activist, and a human being. But I’ll be damned if I’ll be ridiculed by someone who simply posted the equivalent of ‘allyuh doh have better things to do?’ Someone who’s in the trenches with me can turn to me and tell me I’m aiming the wrong way. Someone who’s watching the war on TV can only hope the war is won by the just.
But this doesn’t mean that you should shut up. By all means, speak! Join, and speak. Take to the streets and speak out. If you think that we’ve missed a spot, take up the mop and let’s clean this place up together!
Social justice is hard. It’s often thankless. Even worse, it’s work that we’re all doing in this country for free. But it’s meaningful work, that needs to be done if we want to live in Peace and harmony in a world that’s still inhabitable. That doesn’t always mean that we have to be on the exact same quest. It does mean, though, that all quests are valuable. They do more than give folks the experience to do greater, more impactful things. They help us get so much closer to ensuring that the end of the story that we’re all characters in ends in a victory for justice.
Of course, to call anyone a troll is potentially unfair. They’re often folks just like you and I. More than 5 years ago, I wasn’t sure what my entry point was either. I looked at Choc’late Allen’s hunger strike as useless and crazy. Now, a little older and wiser, I look at Wayne Kublalsingh’s hunger strike as necessary to jolt folks into conversation. I’ve gone on to do different than them both – writing, performing, directing, to make change through the stage. Maybe none of those are your skill as a Social Justice Warrior/Mage/Paladin/Rogue. It doesn’t matter what your skill is, to be honest.
It matters whether you’ll use it.