A Time for Refusal: The Fight Against Evil
Evil takes many forms and has been a fixture in human existence from the dawn of time. The fight against evil can be personal in which one wrestles with demons of depression, anxiety, alcoholism, or some other such struggle or it can be a collective one in which entire societies fight against social injustices. Evil can be overt and it can be sneaky and, as so beautifully written in this New York Times article, "Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. It makes its home among us when we are keen to minimize it or describe it as something else."
Sexual violence, racism, torture, war crimes, bigotry and misogyny are all forms of evil that, as a society, we should not only outright reject but also collectively fight against. Sadly, however, in the events leading up to the election and certainly in atrocious acts like this, this or this following the election, this is the last thing that's happened. Certainly people are outraged but outrage, unless actually channeled into something active and productive, soon becomes its own form of complacency. The fight against evil has to be ongoing and has to be active. But what does that mean? What can we actually do to fight societal evil?
The safety pin movement is a symbolic act in the fight against this kind of evil and, while a powerful gesture, is largely passive. I have nothing against wearing a safety pin but that should not be all we do because, like unchanneled outrage, a safety pin is entirely ineffectual. The following guidelines from this article can help you put what the safety pin symbolizes into practice by supporting marginalized communities:
1. Be intolerant of intolerance. We must make it clear that racism, discrimination and intolerance are no longer values that we as a society will hold. When you encounter these things address them head on even if simply by calling it out.
2. Seek out marginalized voices and perspectives. The average American consumes massive amounts of media on a daily basis. But how many black, women, LGBTQ or Muslim authors do you read? Follow on twitter? How many podcasts do you listen to that provide a different viewpoint? If this answer is not many, this is a problem even if its unintentional. The good news is this is an easy thing to change.
3. Confront your racism and don't be fragile. This is probably one of the most difficult yet most important steps to take. It will be uncomfortable and you will come face to face with opinions that upset you, but don't tune out, don't disengage. Sitting with any difficult emotion is the crux of doing the work.
4. Use your privilege to support marginalized movements. And resist the urge to feel like you are a leader...your job is to follow the leaders of the movement and do what you can to support them, even if you think you might know a better strategy.
5. Give your time and money. This is perhaps one of the most simple and straightforward ways of taking action.
6. Be proactive about inclusion in your daily life. The mistake a lot of White people make is to think that simply not discriminating is enough. You can do more, and do better, by taking proactive measures to invite people of color, immigrants, and other marginalized people into your space.
7. Avoid segregation. American culture tends in many ways to self-segregate. For whatever reason, White spaces tend to be very White, but that doesn't mean you can't do something to fight that tendency.
8. Do the work to be inclusive. Keep up with what's happening in communities other than White communities, including the language people use with and about one another.
The fight against evil can seem daunting and insurmountable but if we work together and look to our country's role models we can be powerful against all forms of evil. Take the words of President Obama on talking to his daughters after the election:
“What I say to them is that people are complicated,” Obama told me. “Societies and cultures are really complicated … This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop … You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.”
Or, find inspiration in San Francisco's official response to the election of Trump. There is plenty of good in the world to overcome the evil, but we can't minimize the evil, we can't make excuses for it, and we certainly can't ignore it. We must refuse it.