In an age of social media, young people (myself included) feel like we have a platform for our voices to be heard. Behind the safety of a screen, we can post our social or political views hidden behind a hashtag. While I find it exciting to see what causes my friends support via their Instagram stories, there are some real issues with the follow-through.
I was a part of a discussion (at the Jen Waldman Studio) where a group of 20-somethings were briefed on the difference between being an ally, advocate, or activist. When supporting a cause, I think it is important to know where you stand. Is this cause something you would die on the side of a mountain for? Is this a cause you want to educate others about? Or is this cause solely a group of people you admire doing great work? No answer is wrong. The issue with my generation and the easy access to posting our feelings is that we are pretty quick to jump to activist without putting in the work of a true activist. We are quick to have heated opinions with little research and/or change-making effort.
The word activism is supported by action, a life rooted in dedication to a cause. Like the old saying says, “actions speak louder than words.” So, what does it mean to step into an ally, advocate, or activist role? See this handy chart for reference (disclaimer, this is coming from my heart, not a dictionary).
***TIME OUT:: I don't want the world to think you need to walk around as a categorized robot-human, but I do think these are important points to ponder before posting that picture of you at the animal shelter that one time.***
TIME IN: Through ABLE, I have had the chance to meet some fierce disability inclusion activists. I hope to one day follow in their wake. These people have been told “no” over and over and continue to fight. They have been standing up for inclusion for years, and they have the stories to back it up. While my heart wants to be right there with them, I cannot pre-maturely jump to an activist role. I can advocate for, love, and serve the disability community. I can listen, learn, and lead…but I must recognize my place in the bigger story. This recognition comes from mess ups…trying to jump into activist-mode before it was time, trying to speak before finishing research and action steps. I feel too deeply for the disability community to rush this process. For now, I say that I am a fervent advocate, or an activist in training!
I urge you to think about the causes you care about. Where do you stand? What are your actions supporting? How will you show up for the communities you seek to serve?