Imagine the audacity and the desire to ask for money, for more support, for more energy from working people amidst a pandemic where thousands face evictions, millions remain unemployed, and folks don’t have food on the table.
Well, you never had to imagine that because that’s what we’ve seen in the past few weeks.
I’ve been trying to really grasp the level of dehumanization and belittling of these once in a lifetime circumstances one needs to have in pursuing a political fundraiser. And frankly, I still find it disgusting. For those with the means, you could help pay someone’s bills, donate to a food bank, help jump-start or contribute to a mutual aid project in your area, or even help give a houseless person $10–20 for a warm meal. But instead, we are implored to continue to not meet the immediate needs of those around us for candidates and politicians that tell us flat-out that they will not support the policies we want to see implemented.
All of this necessarily brings us to a more pertinent discussion about the way with which we become conditioned to believe we have to do something far grander and beyond the scope of where we are to make an impact. I know I’ve been more than guilty of this throughout so much of my life. I would consciously at times act all posh and move like I didn’t want to do the small things to help people here and there instead of working to support folks in the immediate present. I would claim that by doing the “intense” constitutional law reading and heavy policy research that I’d crack the code to do far more than if I just gave my money and resources to those in need immediately.
And I was just flat out ignorant and awfully selfish for believing in that.
I grew up with the Obama pathway as the right way to help folks (wrong for so, so many reasons and the essay hopefully on this man will come in the near future). It was through a lot of re-education and honest conversations with myself about why I thought I was better than anyone to justify my futile academic exercises while others could not even pay through another electricity bill. It’s of course not to say that pursuing academics and staying in school for me won’t be a necessary training ground for coming up with the solutions to free us all; the point I want to make is that you MUST ground your work in the realities of the folks you are trying to work in solidarity with.
It is the words of Mariame Kaba when she speaks about helping meet the needs of people today that center how I approach living and learning and writing. She noted that we must “try to reduce the gap between your values and your actions.” For a while, I automatically assumed that my values would allow me to just naturally follow into the actions I wanted to take. Instead, I’ve realized that it is only through repeated trial and error, attempted action after attempted action, that I’ve been able to sort of grasp some sort of footing in what I want to be and who I hope to become.
Destroying the systems responsible for keeping people oppressed for centuries is daunting and it is a task of a lifetime. But that goal shouldn’t and cannot stop us from being compassionate and giving whatever we can to people now, today, those in our immediate circles and communities. I’m grateful to be in a position where I can give my time and resources to folks, and I plan on continuing to do so for however long and however much I can. If you also have those means, do the same. We cannot keep delaying working to help those in the immediate present while we also strategize for liberation.
Being Noah Tesfaye #159: In Hope of a Reprieve from Dehumanization
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