Tag Archives: activism

Why Keep Going?

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Debbie says:

I was going to blog about something else altogether, but I checked my feed first, and I found the newest comic from Robot Hugs.

I reproduce it here not just because it reflects Robot Hugs’ reliable ability to tell whole truths. It spoke to me especially because I’ve been listening to Deray McKesson on Pod Save the People for a few months now. One feature of the show is that Deray interviews a very wide range of people–actors, politicians, political staffers, chefs, artists, just about anyone who has some connection to work that saves the people, in a very wide sense.

Deray is a brilliant interviewer, and he has a couple of questions he comes back to again and again. The pertinent one here is “What do you say to people who have given up? Who think things are going so badly, or who’ve been fighting for so long, that they just don’t have any hope for change?”

I love this question and I love the range of answers. Last night, I was talking about it and someone asked me what my answer would be. I said that there are lots of reasons to not give up (at least not for too long), but that in my mind the biggest one is that doing something is good for most people. Feeling the weight of the trouble, the scope of the danger, the magnitude of past failures pulls you under; doing something energizes — not everyone, because nothing is true of everyone — but a wide range of people.

Robot Hugs is going local; that’s a great direction. Any direction that calls to you is a great direction. Sliding under the water isn’t just not helping anyone else–it’s also not helping you. And in the end, you’re who you’ve got.

Black Lives Matter T-Shirts Matter

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At the Women’s March in January, my friend and I were behind a bunch of people wearing matching t-shirts. All we could see was the back, which said “Wear Out the Silence.” I didn’t understand what it was about, so I pushed my way through the dense crowd to ask them.

They turned out to be from Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a national group I was aware of, but hadn’t connected to.

Through community organizing, mobilizing and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability.

We work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills and political analysis to act for change. 

We envision a society where we struggle together with love, for justice, human dignity and a sustainable world.

The fronts of the “Wear Out the Silence” shirts said Black Lives Matter. The idea is particularly for (white) people to wear BLM t-shirts on Fridays, to create a critical mass of shirts with one message.

A few weeks later, I bought a BLM t-shirt from SURJ. I don’t wear it every Friday, but I do try to wear a politicized t-shirt most Fridays. (This is very weird for me, because I spent 25+ years of my life with a personal policy of not wearing t-shirts that say anything. I had, however, ended that period before Mike Brown was murdered, for different reasons.)

So I wear the shirt fairly frequently, in my rather diverse and somewhat progressive home town of Oakland, and occasionally I get a [positive] comment, but often not. It isn’t uncommon to see someone else in a similar shirt, Fridays or otherwise.

A couple of weeks ago, I had occasion to be in a whiter, less progressive suburb of San Francisco on a Friday, and I wore the shirt. I must have gotten 10-15 comments, all positive, many from people of color. I was at an event in a hotel, and two hotel employees (one black, one brown) went out of their way to comment on the shirt. I was out to lunch and a black man got out of line to come over and compliment me and give me a dap. It just kept happening.

At work the next week I told a white friend who lives in that town that she should start wearing a shirt like mine pronto, because people clearly aren’t seeing them enough.

Yesterday was not Friday, but I was having lunch in another suburb of San Francisco, one I think of as somewhat browner and somewhat lower-income, but not especially progressive, so I wore the shirt. I got two compliments in Oakland, one from a black man in my morning t’ai chi class who said he was inspired to get one. And I hardly walked at all in the suburb where I had lunch, but in the few minutes I was out and about, a black woman walking the other way interrupted her phone call to say “Nice shirt!”

I’m beginning to really understand “Wear out the silence.” In my progressive-to-radical bubble, I think of Black Lives Matter as an everyday, basic response to systemic oppression that never leaves my consciousness, or the consciousness of many (most?) people I know. But I only have to take a few steps outside of that bubble to change an everyday basic response into a conversation starter. I have yet to encounter a negative response to the shirt; I’m sure that is coming and I hope I’m prepared enough. If not, I’ll learn.

If you don’t have a Black Lives Matter t-shirt (and/or patch, and/or bumper sticker, and/or lawn sign), especially if you’re white, why not? The materials are available everywhere. Please buy from an organization raising money to do anti-racism work rather than from a for-profit exploiter. The particular Wear Out the Silence shirt I have can be purchased here.