You’re on Instagram scrolling through the usual mess that is your timeline when something of relevance catches your eye.
Maybe it’s a video of our criminal justice system failing to actually enact justice, a politician calling for justice at a rally, or of foreigners undergoing conditions so inhumane that you have to pull the phone away from your face for a few seconds to undo the trauma you’ve just experienced.
Whatever it was you just watched; a flame has been ignited, and you desire to take action.
You begin playing your part. You start attending city hall meetings and join your local activist groups.
If you’re white you might feel like you’re finally putting your privilege to purpose.
If you’re black or Hispanic, you probably feel like you’re better than the next average Joe because you’re finally backing up talk with action.
Whatever and whoever you are, understand that as long as you’re not doing your homework behind the causes you’re taking part in, especially when they directly affect others, then all the things you’re doing are only going to cause more problems.
Let me repeat this again, and this time I’ll paraphrase.
If you want to help someone, or a group of people, and you come into their corner of the world and try to solve their problems without getting proper consent; all while simultaneously forgetting to actually connect with them in order to better understand and eradicate issues, then you are only going to cause more problems.
It’s a simple concept that seems doable but is not being done.
And how do I know? I see this issue play out in my own city, right here in diverse, magic Miami.
Let me explain.
In various organizations (that I won’t name because I refuse to be petty), they’ve inspired young activists to exhibit their passion for causes that deal with injustice or gentrification through meetings or hosting their own events in order to engage the community.
These events are often free to the public (I mean they should be since the public inspired them, but I digress). Although the goal of these events is to spread awareness of said issues through an artistic medium or something more group centered and interactive, these meetings or events often end in the focus either being too centered on the art or get completely lost in translation.
It’s disheartening and upsetting to witness.
I equate this rising issue (or has it always existed?) to having a kidney doctor who feels like he can assist you with your heart problems all because he’s a doctor.
Yes, his intentions are good in that he’s trying to heal you, but how can he help you if he can’t even properly identify what the problem is?
The only way he can successfully do his job is if he studies cardiology, just in the same way an activist can effectively represent their cause by studying the root of it through learning from, and even working directly with those affected by the very issues they’re fighting against.
I’m sure that it’s very easy for activists to get swept up in the fight for righteousness. But if you get so swept up that you allow your white guilt or bleak ignorance to overshadow the actual cause, then don’t swear you’re doing what you’re doing for the people; you’re doing what you’re doing for your ego, and that’s not ok.
To close, the obvious point of this article I addressed in the seventh paragraph: do your homework before coming into someone’s world with the promise of making their problems go away.
Maybe, and just maybe, if you do that right, justice will prevail.