Sometimes, people question why I do the work that I do. Indeed, as the media is flooded with images of the Prime Minister of Canada marching in every major pride parade in the country, the same Prime Minister who cries tears of joy in front of the world media when greeting Syrian refugees, I completely understand how radical social justice based groups might seem out of line in their constant requests for “more”. Why do we put ourselves through this; why do we continue to fight?
Well, first of all, contrary to popular belief, all is not well in marginalized communities. Whether we’re referring to the rampant issues of racism that pervade our societies, to the co-option of queer and trans identities to fit a corporate agenda, among countless other examples, there is still much work to be done to ensure true equity for all people. That said, social justice activism, in all of its various forms, is an integral part of how we can go about realizing said equity.
We still need social justice activism to help educate people. First and foremost, the role of every good activist should be education. It’s all well and good to boycott that homophobic bar co-owner that refused service to a gay person, but if nobody knows why you’re boycotting, then the purpose and reach of your act is going to be limited. It is integral that these messages be diffused in a way that is realistic, accurate, and respectful of the different experiences and learning styles of other people.
We still need social justice activism to help us push boundaries. Too often, we allow ourselves to become complacent; to never yearn for progress, equality, and justice for all. Instead, we allow the inequities that exist between us as a means to fuel conflict when, in reality, we should be attempting to bridge the gaps that exist between us.
We still need social justice activism to give a voice to the most marginalized people in our society. While trans and gender nonconforming people have some of the highest homicide rates in the world; bullying of LGBTQ+ kids in schools is causing a spike in suicide rates in our communities, and we take no action because the mainstream LGBTQ+ community has chosen to focus on “marriage (false) equality” and glorifying the prison industrial complex by promoting hate crime legislation which, in reality, does nothing to protect our communities.
We still need social justice activism to point out the hypocrisy of those that would co-opt our identities. Whenever companies swath themselves in rainbows in order to gain the ever-so-valuable pink dollar, all while doing nothing of any consequence to help our communities in any type of substantial way. Incidentally, Christin Milloy explains this perfectly in their open letter of resignation from Pride Toronto.
We still need social justice activism to point out the critical need for intersectionality. As Kimberlé Crenshaw said in her TED talk “The Urgency of Intersectionality” while discussing the disproportionate levels of police brutality faced by Black women and the corresponding lack of media attention:
“These women’s names have slipped through our consciousness because there are no frames for us to see them, no frames for us to remember them, no frames for us to hold them. As a consequence, reporters don’t lead with them, policymakers don’t think about them, and politicians aren’t encouraged or demanded that they speak to them.”
For all of these reasons and innumerable others, we need social justice activism. What’s more, I would argue that as we move into a time of political uncertainty, we need it more urgently than we ever have in the past. We need to ensure that we are working together in the spirit of unity, cooperation, and mutual respect, and we need to ensure that we are doing that much more efficiently than we have done in the past. An integral part of that activism should be learning from each other, respecting each other’s differences, and standing in solidarity with one another.