Update: This article is a re-post that still applies. I guess it always will.
You ever been watching TV in a room full of people and you stand up. No one in the room wants to get up because, the program is too good. So someone says, “Hey, while you’re up……..”
That is fine if they want a refill on nachos from the kitchen or something. It isn’t fine if they want you to do more work in addition to the extremely hard work that you are doing while they sit back and watch you do while they do nothing but add unsolicited commentary every now and again. Like for example, social work.
This post is about the habitual practice of people asking people in non-profits/good deeds/movement work to always do more. It has recently come into the forefront in the media due to Black Lives Matter.
Suddenly everyone has a “to do” list for Black Lives Matter. Let me tell you, in spite of what you’ve seen or heard, this is nothing new. When you are serving others, people always do. They always have and they always will.
Oh, I hear them. “I saw on tv where…..” ” I didn’t see on tv where….”
Found it! That’s your problem.
How many times do we have to tell y’all? Black folks could hang up missing pictures of ourselves on all forms of media. We are missing there.
Most of my circle is social justice folks of all shades. In order to know what a weekend is, we would have to look at other people and watch them get all happy beginning on Thursday.
What is a weekend?
We don’t get weekends. A weekend for us is where you host some type of race for awareness, or a ceremony in a banquet hall to bring people together to honor other everyday people addressing violence in the community, or a talk for the youth, or……..
But every other weekend leading up to that is used to plan for that big event weekend. In the last year or two I have been ill, so this wasn’t my life. Plus my family needed a break. Because when you do this work, your whole family does this work.
All y’all work in the middle of the night, weekends, weekdays, etc. You spend far more than what you ever get in transportation, communication, office equipment, technology, “her kids hadn’t even eaten anything” costs.
Fam loves you and all but sure do they start questioning how much they like you.
I might as well go on and tell young activists the honest truth now. You will be salty.
What a difference a shade makes
No one asks Michael J Fox anything about his duties and whether or not he ought to do “more”. He gets to focus on Parkinson’s. He does it how he wants to do it, when he wants to do it.
They will not linger in the face of Susan G. Komen’s younger sister about her salary.
Mariska Hargitay gets to focus on sexual violence. No one would have dared ask Christopher Reeve (RIP Superman) to do anything other than what he was doing when he was with us.
They give these folks awards and applause. (Rightly so in some cases. I’m inspired. I applaud.) Not a list of complaints and grievances. They call them an inspiration. They call black folks a nuisance.
That is the difference between serving while being white and serving while being black.
You get to pick one lane and drive, coast, or block traffic if you want to.
You know, when I write my bio I struggle to make it more concise and succinct. In one interview I was listing a few things that I have done. She cut me off and said, “It sounds like you’ve worn a lot of hats.” (I got the job)
People wonder why I seem as if I’ve done a million things in this work. In large part that is because I woke up even this morning excited about what I could do to make this world a better place for someone else.
Still, the other part has always been out of necessity. There was and is a pressure to be everything. Jill of all trades. And Sistah, you better master them all or they will say you were never qualified to be here in the first place.
WARNING: Young activists, it will never be enough!
I did everything I could think of and created some new stuff. My hair was falling out in patches. I was clinically depressed.
I sought help from a brilliant psychologist who had collaborated with me in the past to overcome issues with child sexual rape. This time, even she was at a loss.
She kept saying, “I’m trying to figure out what you do?” Your job title says this, but then you have all of these things that you do.”
I got frustrated and stopped seeing her without notice. I wasn’t clear either. All I knew is that there was this unwritten expectation for me to do more. For me to be more.
For me to climb every mountain, swim across seas, save the endangered species, stop bullets with my gold cuff link bracelets, chase villains in high heels and look glamourous like Lynda Carter doing it.
The lesson: I did some great stuff. Learned. Met the best people. Got pretty good at some stuff. But when I began to take on everything that was requested, I didn’t do it all well. I’m only human.
I really hate that a piece of me still feels guilty about what I couldn’t get done. To some people that is proof that I never belonged at the table with them in the first place. I learned not to care about that.
I abhor someone to boss me around while they bark out orders. It implies that they have nothing to do. It implies that their work is done. It implies a bit of a master/servant setup that I am not a fan of.
Questions that need answers
Young activists, if I may, I advise you to always ask questions, especially of people with a “to do” list in their mouths.
For instance, “While I am working, what exactly will you be doing?” Make certain that you are satisfied with their answer.
Make sure that their tasks are measurable.
You are putting your life on the line. You may be going against the wishes of family, friends, co-workers, and/or government. Like Dr. King, you are fighting for a victory that you may never live to see.
Remember, you are unselfishly working for your fellow human being. Can they say the same?
Are they? Would they even have the courage? I’m talking about unarmed?
True signs of social justice warriors
I’ve seen people measure this by who was alive in the 1960’s. They have measured this based on who marched with Dr. King or Malcolm X. Who was at the March on Washington August 28, 1963. Who made it out of the “ghetto” and under the worst conditions.
Here is the measure
1. The indentations on their knees. True social justice warriors know that no human being invented or created pure justice. Human beings are simply on a journey to be better. Seek people who know that true social justice warriors must pursue a power higher and more perfect than themselves in order to even know what perfect justice looks like.
2. True social justice warriors are people who have room in their hearts and minds to unselfishly grow to love others without harming them, impeding their progress, minimizing their pain or the lushness of their existence.
Why we Serve
The thing about nonprofit/good deed/ or social justice work is this. It is harder than nearly any work you will ever pursue. When there is a loss, that loss brings more pain than people can imagine.
It can be a death of all types: dreams, goals, families, relationships and yes lives. When other people go to work the most they stand to lose is data and money.
We do this because we can’t not do it.
I wake up and I have to serve. It doesn’t even matter how I feel.
Young activists: Do what fills your soul, but never let another comparable living being who didn’t instill that purpose, gift, and yearning in you; even attempt to completely direct that purpose, gift, and yearning.
When all is said and done, your critics well…..
Often you find that no one cares who your leader is.
No one cares what your mission is.
Quite frankly, if you listen to what your critics say and you watch what they do, some may come away with the very distinctive sense that they may want to control both you and it.
So every single day that you are alive, Get UP, Stand UP, And Look UP! (You rest in peace too Bob Marley)
Tonya is a Social Justice Info Expert with over 23 years experience. She holds a BS in Organizational Management & Development. Her cat MiaBelle is her co-writer.
Latest posts by Tonya GJ Prince (see all)
(Visited 14 times, 1 visits today)