Putting Aside Shame of the “Social Justice Warrior”

I’ve been struggling lately with that part of me that would perhaps be called a “social justice warrior”, a term that has become something of negative connotation in the last while as people discuss some pretty big issues happening in our world. Last week, I had 2 people tell me that I am self-righteous for posting about things I wish wouldn’t happen in the world (racism) and that my negativity in talking about things in the world that are upsetting caused one to unleash some pretty bad emotional abuse, and the other assign her own projections and assumptions on my speaking up. I’ve been called a “fascist” (?) “uneducated” a “bitch” for speaking up about things that I wish wouldn’t happen. I’ve been told that “no one cares about the boring shit you post” in regards to news stories, petitions, or other issues having to do with social justice.

I wanted to give it all up.

I was reminded of the late Elie Wiesel, someone who has for a long time guided my thoughts on social justice. In 1999, he gave a speech to the Clintons (of all people) called “The Perils of Indifference” in which he stated:

“Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own.”

I’ve realized that it’s in my blood to speak up. I was raised by parents who have always stood up for what they believe in. There is some chemical process that occurs within my body that reacts to injustice, and wants to get people talking about it.

I know that I don’t always speak up in ways that sugar coat things. I may speak in ways that ruffle others’ feathers, but I have to wonder why people get so upset about issues of social justice. I’ve accepted that I am the type of person, and the type of writer, that sparks discussion, sparks interest, and sparks a response. So perhaps with that, it’s my duty to never give up on talking about the things that are important to this world.

This week woman I greatly admire posted a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that really had me thinking about whether I was ready to put down my social justice warrior artillery: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – For a few days I tried to refrain from looking at any news, posting anything of consequence, and I felt a big part of me is gone, because I am not the type of person that sits in my world of privilege and lets bad things in the world happen while I sit idly watching.

So, dear friends, please, if you can’t handle any heat about anything to do with the world, please unfriend or unfollow me. If you have a problem with anything I have had to say about the world, please let’s go into a respectful dialogue about it – I want to hear your opinions, but let’s do it respectfully and constructively. Let’s not create more divisiveness in an already divisive world.

For those who also want to speak up, thank you. I can promise you I’ll listen.


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