… a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless. -James Baldwin
The events in Charlottesville – white supremacists killing and injuring peaceful counter protesters – have us reeling. We are angry and also may be afraid – for ourselves, our children, our loved ones, our community, and for our country. We may be spurred to action of some sort, fueled by anger and fear. We clearly can’t sit idly by and only hope for change. Yet, how do we preserve and sustain our energy and emotional health, as we tackle another horrible situation? We know that this won’t be the last fight of the year. How can we ensure that we are ready for the next one (even though we can’t even imagine what could come to pass)?
In an interview with MsXFactor last month, I spoke about activism with love. This month, I have been searching my heart to find that love behind tears of sadness, anger, and fear. I struggled with the notion that love is somehow soft or accepting or giving in, especially as a woman of color. I have never been a woman to sit quietly and only speak when spoken to – my mother never taught me that. But, I have always spoken out using anger as the fuel to the fire in my stomach.
Anger gave me my spine to stand tall for myself and for others. However, it was also eating away at my heart, leaving me exhausted.
My love for humanity was diminishing and I could not become what I was fighting against – systems and structures with no love for groups of people.
As people of color, implicitly or explicitly, we are told often how we are here to be the sidekick in the story or to be of service to others (often, literally) or a visitor in their story. This can lead us to put aside our own feelings and not honor them fully, to accommodate others’ feelings first. A friend, and the Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Sung Yeon Choimorrow, shared her thoughts with me. Sung Yeon said she didn’t worry “how (her) action or inaction will offend white people or men, but to first and foremost love (her)self as a full human deserving of dignity and to extend that to others in similar situations. To lead with love means to free (her)self from worrying about people who may feel uncomfortable that (she’s) not just a visitor in their story.
Leading and resisting with love starts with us. Love yourself fully to use your voice fully. Foster love within your own families and communities – and also find your spine to stand up for what you believe in. Love is the most powerful emotion anyone can have, stronger than any hate or fear, and what brings us together as community and country. As we continue to grapple with the events that transpired in Charlottesville last weekend, and brace ourselves for planned rally’s to come, here are a few literary resources to help you back up your values and your voice:
- Beginning Activist- 8 Ways to Meaningfully Support Social Justice Movements
- Seasoned Activist-Avoid Activism Fatigue And Burnout In General
- Allies- 17 Books on Race Every White Person Needs to Read
- Parents-Talking to Kids About Race
Check out this incredible poem by Sherman Alexie titled, Hymn.
Anita Dharapuram is Executive Director of a Los Angeles based non-profit LA HI-TECH, a 20 year activist and proven leader in the nonprofit sector.