Friday, January 9, 2015

Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain. An Introduction.

"Look closely at the present you are constructing. It should look like the future you are dreaming." -- Alice Walker

After the experience I had the other night and over the past 6 months in regards to racism and completely oblivious people (to put it gently), I decided I need a more public archive and outlet. It's difficult to bring attention to current events and why they're happening when your audience isn't aware of the underlying causes and how everything fits together or isn't interested in seeing it past an isolated incident instead of the epidemic or symptom it is. It's downright impossible to cram several decades' worth of information into a short message or tweet when you're just trying to make a simple statement of fact that you forget not everyone knows.

I realized again early yesterday morning just how insular "activist"-type communities can be - we log in and everyone around us is at the same or similar levels of awareness of social issues. Our beliefs are ingrained in our every thought and action. We're always immersed in actively practicing and revising what we preach, so sometimes it feels like a culture shock everywhere else.  And as much as I love those communities and prefer to be around others like me, I think it may be intimidating to those who aren't a part of that world. It's a lot to take in, often the language used isn't the most accessible, and you're expected to know the basics even when they're being further explained. When you've been in that world for years, it's hard to start back at the beginning when you've already moved far beyond the basics.

Unlearning oppressive behaviors is a never-ending process, something everyone must continue to work through for our entire lives. It's not easy either, and yes, sometimes it may seem extreme in comparison to the status quo - because every bit of this is designed to deconstruct the status quo and make the world a better place for everyone instead of just a select few.

I would much rather be thought of as an "extremist" than not do what is within my abilities to make this world and global society the best it can be for all. I want us and future generations to live in a world free from systemic oppression and inequity. Call it idealism but I want to believe that could be a possibility. I refuse to settle for anything less. And I cannot in good conscience watch as people continue think the things they say and do are never affected by institutionalized systems (to oversimplify, prejudice intentionally set up and reinforced, explicitly and covertly, in a society, on a grand scale) - even when they don't realize what they're saying/doing is harmful. (And frankly, it's depressing that "treating people like the human beings they are and making the world a safer place for all" is considered extreme. But if "extremism" worked for MLK and Jesus in their times simply for being just and speaking out, I suppose it's worth it. I may never be as prolific and well known, nor do I aspire to be, but it's the attempt that counts. I will not be silent. I've gained more real friends in this fight than lost them. I live my truth. It's worth it.)

In the words of Assata Shakur, "Theory without practice is just as incomplete as practice without theory." 

I have spent so much of my post-college years learning and teaching about anti-racism and dismantling systems of oppression. I fully intend to become a social worker someday and continue this work professionally. (It's with that intention that I promise here and now to make an attempt to curb my language. But if the occasional "fuck" slips in, I can give you an entire list of reasons why it doesn't make a difference. Trust me, I do know my shit.) I left college and delayed my grad school applications because, aside from the financial impossibility, I wanted to gain more real world knowledge before being locked away in the Ivory Tower for another 4 or 5 years. This is not just my academic background; it's literally my life.

This is not just textbook theory and academic jargon, it is the lived experiences of millions of people throughout all of history, and the legacy we leave behind for future generations.

So why this brand new blog, when I have several long-established public blogs already?

I have dealt with many people over the years demanding I educate them for free, even when I pointed them the resources to find the answers themselves, as though they were somehow entitled to my time, energy, and patience. I've had people demand to know every detail of what I'm doing to make a difference, as though my life-long work, even when I didn't know a fraction of what I do now, wasn't obvious enough on it's own. I've had people assert that nothing online could possibly make a difference in the world -- and far more others telling me how much I've helped them become better people.

So I thought, if I could offhand teach random strangers on the internet how to be better about racism and other systems of oppression, using the knowledge others have taught me, why can't I set up a new way to share this information with "friends" in an accessible way? The information to start this process is out there if you're willing to look for it. Hundreds of thousands of articles, blog posts, tweets, artwork, even Vines.

But I'll make it a little simpler. I'll start from the top, at the most basic of information. I'm hoping to offer a clearer perspective of the practical side of sociology, social theory, and social justice in our everyday lives. Think of it as the online, interactive, most comprehensive 101 level class we deserved in school but never had. I will be focusing on the US and Western systems and their role in the world, as that is what I know and can speak on.

But before we begin, let's get one thing straight - No one is entitled to demand anything of me, nothing more than I offer. 

I'm not required to do this. I am choosing to. I'm working on this in my spare time, partially to clear up some misconceptions people have about why any of us do this work and what our goals are. I may add some affiliate links to books (as well as a wish list, should anyone care to gift books to further my studies), but I'm not being paid to do this. All of the work that I do is just as much for my benefit as it is for all other marginalized people, and I'm learning from it as well. I typically do not make the extra effort to reason with people I don't think have the potential and the willingness to listen. I have been in that position myself and I know how difficult it is to accept that you may be wrong (and not even know it). If you're not willing to try to understand, I can't and won't try to convince you otherwise -- and that is entirely for the sake of my mental health and well being. I've tried to argue it far too many times and it was not worth the time or effort. If I feel the need to disengage and reclaim this as a safe space, I will. Again, I'm choosing to do this as a free service for those who are willing to listen and learn.

What I say and share will without a doubt make you uncomfortable - that is the point. You should be uncomfortable, because that is how we learn and change and grow. You may be angry, you may be disbelieving, but remember that I'm not saying this to hurt you but to make you aware, make you question what you believe and why you believe it, and to show you that even the best of intentions are not always as pure and unprejudiced as we may believe them to be. It is not about you as an individual person but about you as a part of a larger social structure.

And with that in mind, I do want to be clear that comments on this blog will be moderated.
I encourage people to ask questions and ask for clarification when needed, suggest topics or blog improvements and even ask personal questions within reason (I reserve the right to answer at my own discretion). But this isn't a forum for debate. My humanity is not up for debate. Don't abuse the comment system, and don't abuse me.

So here we go. First topic will be the most basic definitions, "rules," and why all of this matters. I'm expecting to do a big post every Friday, with sporadic articles, readings, activities, and quotes throughout the week -- but I will try to keep the bolding and blocks of text to a minimum next time.

"It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains." 

-- Assata Shakur

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