• Mon, 20, Jul, 2020 - 5:00:AM

How to pace your activism

Woman with megaphone / Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

For about a month, my social media feed was awash with #BlackoutTuesday panels, heartfelt statements from huge corporations and celebrities.

People shared tributes for the many lives lost to police brutality, helpful resources and anecdotes. I saw artwork, petitions, fundraisers and podcasts all making the rounds. Now it’s quieting down. I don’t know if my friends and loved ones are continuing to educate themselves about systemic racism and its many forms, or if the time for active dedication and research has ‘passed.’ I don’t know because, well, it’s quiet.

Like feminism, environmentalism, the LGBTQ+ movement and others, justice for BIPOC in white-dominated countries has been demanded for many, many decades. Activist movements do not rise and fall with the number of headlines or the number of protests. They rise out of oppression and they fall only when oppression does, perhaps with some translations and adaptations along the way.

Activist movements are obviously strengthened by media coverage and public participation, but whether it’s the global community or a handful of people in your hometown, they are kept going by those who can sustainably advocate for the causes they believe in. They are kept going by those who, well, keep going, tomorrow, next month, next year. I would like as many of us as possible to be keeper-goers, so below are a few tips on how to pace your activism.

1. Build your understanding and vocabulary.

If you are wanting to fight oppression that you have never personally faced, it can be difficult knowing where to start. By not having that lived experience, it can be uncomfortable to be called out or cast as complicit. (Discomfort is helpful, sit with it.) Schedule time — i.e. don’t cram for a week, burn out and never revisit the topic — to research what the movement stands for and the ways it can be morphed into something un-intersectional by other people. Learn the appropriate terms to use in discussion, and if there are words and slurs that you should not use.

2. Incorporate activism into your routine.

Adding to your reading list books by women, immigrants, BIPOC, differently-abled or gender-queer individuals is a great way to both learn more about people’s lived experiences and support the people at the heart of activist movements. A similar way to contribute is listening to music or purchasing art. There are also activists’ profiles and activist media platforms you can follow that will introduce more educational, diverse and insightful content to your daily feed.

3. Evaluate the impact of your money.

No-one thinks they’re rich, but everyone has some choice in where to spend their money. Some corporations do not stand for the values that they claim to, or the values that you support. Where possible, boycott corporations that do things like use child labour, appropriate foreign culture and censure the voices we should be amplifying. You may also consider small changes, like trading in one coffee a week for a weekly $5 donation to your movement of choice. Personal finance is one of the areas of our lives that we consistently pay a lot of attention to, which is why it can be used for effective activism.

4. Changing the world starts in your own backyard.

We’ve all noticed problematic behaviour exhibited by our colleagues, friends and family. Instead of unleashing an impassioned personalised protest for each and every individual, or — worse yet — saying nothing, come up with some scripts or points to use when you confront your friends and family members. Making a mental guidebook can take some of the mental labour out of these hard, necessary conversations, which can feel draining and progress-less. It’s important to revisit these discussions with the people who need to hear them, but you should also consider your limits and boundaries. Maybe you will have to walk away if things get verbally abusive. Maybe you will have to distance some people and prepare to lose others. Or maybe you will see positive outcomes with multiple people in your life.

5. Be active in local politics.

This is one of the most tangible avenues that everyone has to support their movements of choice. Be registered and prepared to vote. By joining community forums and following local news, you will get a feel for the most pressing issues in your city/town. Where is your district spending their money? Are there representatives who have displayed racist, homophobic or sexist attitudes running? Is there anyone that looks like you in local government? How many of them? The ability to live an ‘apolitical’ life is a privilege; it means that your rights and freedoms are wholly protected by the status quo. Fight for this to extend to everyone in your community.


  • Activism /
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  • Allyship /
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