The title of this post is taken from this, one of my favorite songs:
Find the lyrics here. 🙂
I believe I might’ve hit a milestone here recently.
Not too long ago a (white female) friend said to me “not everyone can be a social justice warrior like you.” Soon after another (black male) friend commented that I was becoming (too?) radical.
I don’t really consider myself to be a “social justice warrior” so much as I just believe in standing up for what is right…but look here…there hasn’t been a successful revolution or positive social change in history that wasn’t propelled and pushed forward by people who were deemed to be “radicals”. So at first glance I might have taken these statements as compliments, but regard the negative connotation that terms such as “radical” have garnered over the years. American government officials tried to paint a “radical” Martin Luther King Jr. as a communist. Martin Luther, the founder of the “radical” religious ideas that my two aforementioned friends adhere to, was labeled a heretic and forced to go on the lam. Noteworthy achievements and nobility aside, these were just ordinary men who did extraordinary things with only their beliefs and determination as ammunition. They did what had to be done in order to make the world a better place. It’s one of the defining aspects of history, the story of common people effecting change. Will my generation upset the trend and allow its power to be usurped by fear-mongering and disenfranchisement?
I remember in high school being in charge of coordinating the black history choir for three years. It was my goal in my senior year to have the most diverse black history choir my school had seen. When I approached white friends, who I knew could sing, about joining the choir I was often hit with a hesitant “maybe” or a shamefaced “no” all due to varying degrees of being afraid of what others (blacks and whites) may think of their participating in a black history event. My friends had an opportunity to do some good by exhibiting unity through song and fellowship to their fellow classmates, but fear (of judgment?) held them back from doing the right thing. Where would this world be if those who came before us were stopped permanently in their tracks by fear?
What do all these people have in common? They did what had to be done so that others, often oppressed by some level of incompetent socio-economic-politcal system, could live lives free from persecution, lives full of simply being, the most basic condition of being a breathing, sentient organism.
So taking my cue from them…
If being a radical means being fed up with watching an incompetent justice system hinder Americans of color from living whole lives through a school-to-prison pipeline practice, then so be it–I’m a radical.
If being a radical means not standing in the way of two men or two women, somebody other than MY significant other and myself, getting married, then so be it–I’m a radical.
If being a radical means keeping my mouth shut when a woman speaks about the matters that concern her body because she knows it better than I do, then so be it–I’m a radical.
If being a radical means being okay with people in my life being unsure of a God or just not believing that there is one, then so be it–I’m a radical.
If being a radical means being outraged when the American right to vote is challenged then, so be it-I’m a radical.
If being a radical means wanting due increase of minimum wage rates so that people can begin to earn a decent living, one that allows them eat healthier, then so be it—I’m a radical.
If being a radical means holding my elected representatives to their word, or making them change their words to really reflect the desires of the people they represent and not their own interests, then so be it–I’m a radical.
If being a radical means wanting America to truly be as great as it boasts itself to be, then so be it–I’m a radical.
Change is inevitable, so why can’t it be positive and benefit a larger number of people?
When did it become “radical” to want freedom, peace, justice and love?
THINK ABOUT IT–freedom, peace, justice and love.
It’s not enough to watch the news and shake our heads in disapproval. It is simply not enough to merely admire the work of people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk. To only stand back posting a few quotes on social media on holidays is a disservice to their legacy. The call to act in the name of change, for ourselves and for our progeny, is ever present in an America where every year an estimated 100,000+ people are shot and 1 in 4 Alabamians are illiterate. These are practically the norm and not a deviation within our society and that is a problem. Something must be done lest our freedoms be considered useless and void. There must be an outcry, a loud one, for in the words of the great poet, feminist and activist Audre Lorde, “your silence will not protect you.”
So give your hand to the struggle.
You don’t have to be radical to enact change.
Just be you.
It’s more than welcomed, it’s encouraged.
Complacency and apathy are our enemy.
Stand up and make your voice heard.
Make a difference.