In times like these we often find ourselves drawn into intimate and public struggles for justice. Whether it is advocating for yourself in salary negotiation for a new job, speaking up when someone ignores your position in line at Trader Joe’s (this has actually happened to me more than once, I mean I’m short but not that short), or participating in a group effort to demand changes at the structural level in your community—ours is a life filled with small choices that have grand impact on the kind of world we occupy. My spouse, who is an historian, cringes when I make this problematic comparison, but I still find it meaningful to say that we are living in our 1960s moment.
But like so many other people whose presence is absent from the public narratives that celebrate the marches, martyrs and monsters of that decade, it’s challenging to determine how we fit into this complex web of tensions and conflicting energies, of #BlackLivesMatter signs and Go-Fund-Me campaigns. Some approach this moment with a renewed energy built on indignation, and others are confused and still struggling to figure out what to think and how to feel. Some folks will say they’ve already lost too much to keep fighting, and others will persist in their strategy of habitual, quiet steps of resistance. Injustice manifests in many forms, and the struggle for justice is multilayered.
I’m not here to tell you what to think or how to act, but my aim is to offer you guidance on what to think about. Your existence in this time compels your engagement in the happenings of this time. Do take yourself seriously as a thinking, feeling, active being. Here are a few questions that deserve your time.
What do I know now, and what else do I need to know to act responsibly?
It may seem obvious, but the truth is that we all take certain literacies for granted. Get clear about your blind spots and seek out opportunities for meaningful exposure to those things that you don’t quite understand. Claiming your truth is most powerful when you can also articulate why it is true.
What efforts best align with my purpose?
The best way for us to have a positive impact is to offer the best of ourselves. That is not to say that we shouldn’t stretch beyond our comfort zones. Rather, it means that we must be strategic in leveraging our strengths. If you aren’t clear on what it is you do best, I recommend this free assessment designed in collaboration with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania: click here.
What am I willing to give up?
There are intended and unforeseen consequences to advocacy, no matter what form it takes. I am constantly helping my students examine the costs of their service when they opt to prioritize that service over class attendance, study time, and even showing up to take a major exam. When you are clear about what you will and won’t sacrifice during this season in your life, you can operate with inner peace even in the midst of mayhem.