With all that's going on, many of us have been deep in our feelings---angry, frustrated, exhausted, and, sometimes, totally distraught. The murders of black folks at the hands of law enforcement along with the annoyingly awkward and confusing aftermath of the reopening of states that have been shut down due to the COVID-19 have us all in an utter tailspin.
We're wondering whether a mask is indeed required for entry into our favorite stores and restaurants, whether we should let our bosses know that we're still not OK with returning to crowded cubicles, or whether the insurance company will still give us another month to pay that outstanding bill we couldn't afford after losing our jobs during coronavirus closures. We worry about whether we or someone we know will be the next victim of police brutality or whether this country will ever truly be safe and inclusive.
We all want to do our part to fight against injustice and help those in need, even while overwhelmed and bogged down with the everyday stresses of just being alive. You'd think that with all that's going on, you wouldn't come across the ugly, bitter face of woke-shaming. I mean, come on. Who has time for that? Well, you'd be wrong. Some folks have somehow found the energy to add it to an already long list of annoyingly disgusting aspects of dealing with life right now. And I'm not talking about taking corporations to task for their fiscal and mission responsibilities.
I'm talking about woke-shaming one another---everyday people who are our brothers, sisters, cousins, coworkers and peers.
Let's face it: The whole concept of shaming is far from new. When someone knocks a curvy sis for wearing a two-piece bikini, that's body shaming. When a brother shuns a sis on a date for the number of dudes she let smash, that's slut-shaming. When hardcore entrepreneurs frown upon the motivation of 9-to-5 hustlers, that's job-shaming. When a single mom faces gets cussed out for leaving her child at a babysitter to go on a date, that's mom-shaming.
Don't think you've witnessed---or even participating in---woke-shaming? Well, let's take a look at a few examples:
A black influencer, but you didn't post a black square on your Instagram for Blackout Tuesday. Sis is uninvited to the Woke Brunch. A black professional who chooses to offer support to certain organizations that promote messaging centered on unity and education. Homegirl is considered white-washed and oblivious. She's "cancelled."
A black person expresses different political views than the so-called norm or "majority." Nah, bruh. He gotta go. His black card is declined, denied, and revoked. Maybe someone waited a few days to post anything related to current events. They needed time to research, vet sources, strategize high-impact ways to join the conversation, or practice self-care. Nope. No mercy. They're permanently blacklisted and barred from the cookout.
Oh, and don't dare post on social media or talk about a graduation celebration, a new job, your wedding anniversary, or the birth of a new baby. Oh, hell nah. You can't be happy right now. You can't continue with life right now. You can't possibly be surviving and thriving.
People, have more than a few seats. Please. You're missing the whole point.
Listen, it's one thing to be totally tone-deaf and ignore the fact that police brutality is real and disproportionately affects communities of color. (I mean, that's a known fact backed by studies and statistics.) But it's another to shame someone for how they choose to react to that fact. We all have the right to process information, take a step back, and evaluate our role in what we will do with that information. We also have the right to decide what our place in history will be at times like this.
Dynamic and effective activism always involves the tactful and strategic use of diverse talents, efforts, and strengths. Some of us are great at fundraising, networking, and communicating. Some of us are artists, speakers, and tech geniuses. Some of us are nurturers, hosts, and spiritualists. Some are hell-raisers, warriors, and protectors. It's OK if we aren't all doing the exact same things or taking the exact same approach to reach a common goal.
Take the Civil Rights Movement: Martin Luther King, Jr. was a key figure,but there were many legal, financial, strategic, and political leaders behind the scenes who ensured the success and advancement of that movement. Some pivotal people in that moment were not always on the frontlines of protest; They donated funds for legal fees, food, and other expenses tied to nationwide protests. They held secret meetings and hosted safe houses. They also offered a very invaluable asset: relationship capital. (Yeah, the type of capital where you can make one phone call and meetings are being coordinated to discuss changing policies, launching nationwide initiatives, appointing new leaders, or approving budgets---that relationship capital).
Former President Obama touched on this back in 2018 when he said during a lecture:"Democracy demands that we're able also to get inside the reality of people who are different than us so we can understand their point of view. Maybe we can change their minds, but maybe they'll change ours. And you can't do this if you just out of hand disregard what your opponents have to say from the start."
When we shame others for differences in opinion or approaches to achieving a common goal, not only are we promoting divisiveness where unity would be more effective, but we're alienating essential allies.
Speaking out against irresponsible silence or plain disrespect is one thing, but dissing someone because of their approach to activism is just plain ignorant. Let's all shift focus to the common goal at hand: Fighting for justice for the thousands of people of color killed due to police brutality and making real changes to the systematic strongholds that have facilitated those murders. Let's show what smart, strategic unity can do in the face of hatred, bigotry, and wickedness. Let's endear ourselves to one other, have respectful conversations about perspectives and find ways to work together. The success of this movement depends on it.
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