Photos: “Wall of Love” by Westfield, NJ residents. Photos taken by me in Feb 2018.
Like many of you, I’ve been struggling lately with how best to contribute in the march for equality. I thought about skipping this week’s blog post altogether. After all, how could I, a privileged white woman with a blog about her chipmunk fascination, possibly add value?
If I shared good news, I risked gaslighting the very real struggles and heartbreaking treatment of people of color. If I continued to avoid the topic, I seemed tone deaf, or worse, unaffected.
And then it hit me.
My place has never been on the soapbox, but rather by your side, offering encouragement and support. To each of you who has participated in peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations, thoughtfully shared fact-based posts and articles, and stood in solidarity against systemic racism: thank you.
Turning this ship around, however, will require incredible, consistent, compassionate resolve.
In my years of human rights, environmental protection, and animal rights advocating, bearing witness to unspeakable suffering as I earned my Humane Education Masters degree, I learned a number of strategies that have given me staying power. Perhaps some of them may serve you as you help light the path to peace.
Disclaimer: I can only write from a place of white privilege, with the sincerest hope of helping readers in a similarly privileged position. Together, if we can avoid burn out-inspired apathy, we can continue to stand up for love, equality, and
1. Advocacy starts at home.
There are emotional stages as you process the kind of horrific information that leads to activism. You may want to yell, fight, and/or tell everyone what you’ve just seen or heard. Remember that being a good advocate means being good to the people within your direct sphere of influence. They didn’t ask for, and likely won’t benefit from, lectures or condemnations. When you feel frustrated by “unwoke” friends or family members, remember that they might just be the perfect practice. First and foremost, model the compassion and change you want to see right where you are. At home.
2. Consider reframing: what are you
fighting against standing for?
Have you ever heard the story about Mother Teresa being asked to march against war? “No,” she allegedly said, “But I WILL march FOR peace.” (Even if the quote isn’t hers [though a number of online sources seem legitimate], my point still stands.) Sometimes this simple reframing can reinvigorate your passion. By moving away from words like “fight” and “battle,” I believe we can achieve the same end (and have a lot more staying power while doing so): peace and equality.
3. Take a break when you need to.
While this can certainly be considered a privileged tactic, please don’t let anyone, most especially that nagging little voice in your head, tell you that you’re “failing” if you decide to take a break from active campaigning, the news, and social media. If you consider yourself a remotely sensitive person (and I’m willing to bet you do or you wouldn’t be reading this), you WILL NOT survive the long game if you don’t give yourself some time-outs. After all, even while you’re sitting down, you still stand for justice, right? (Sorry. So corny.
The chipmunks made me say it.)
4. Find your happy place.
Related to #3, develop your own personalized self-care strategy. Maybe it’s watching stand-up, funny cat videos, a hike, a bath, or a phone call with a friend. Advocacy burn-out is very real, and the world needs you at your best. Your joyful, laughing, hopeful best.
5. Choose your words (and shares) wisely.
When you’re fired up, it’s tempting to share, share, share and comment, comment, comment. Sadly, this kind of activism often gets lost in the sauce. Your audience is far more likely to pay attention if you have a proven reputation of speaking and sharing thoughtfully and deliberately. And please, please, pretty please investigate your sources before passing ANYTHING along. (You should have seen me Googling that Mother Teresa quote…)
6. Choose your company even more wisely.
One of THE MOST effective things you can do for your advocacy staying game is to surround yourself with positive, like-minded activists. The kind of crew whose energy invigorates and inspires you to be and do your best. Not sure if that’s the situation you’re in? Listen to your gut. When you picture a particular person or group, do you feel a tight, heavy feeling? Or a bubbly, effervescent one? …I think you know what to do.
Whether this is your first or fiftieth time here, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means more to me than you’ll ever know. Now get on out there and BE THE CHANGE.