Become a passionate force for belonging in a world that needs it

Become a passionate force for belonging in a world that needs it

What drives your passion for social justice? 

In one form or another, it's always been there for me. When I was a kid, I'd feel it pretty intensely anytime I saw someone being judged, excluded, or bullied for being different, by both teachers and students.

Sometimes I'd get pissed. Sometimes I'd feel scared, and sometimes I'd feel nauseous. It wasn't until I was older that I connected the dots, and saw how that strong reaction was linked to my own experience of feeling like a misfit. 

And every now and then, I'd find the courage to take a stand.

Infographic: Love + Strength in Social Justice Organizing

Infographic: Love + Strength in Social Justice Organizing

There are two big ways we tend to view political organizing. One approach is from a place of strength. The other is from love.

  • Strength is setting and enforcing boundaries that protect what we hold dear. It’s also containing, neutralizing or marginalizing the opponent.
  • Love is acceptance, compassion, and a humanizing force. It’s also engaging and persuading the opponent.

I have written about this before, and I put together the infographic below to illustrate what Carl Jung called “the tension of opposites.”  

It’s a big topic, but to help boil things down, I focused on this question:

How do you deal with people who say or do racist things?

Activism as Ritual: A Reclamation of Love and Justice

Activism as Ritual: A Reclamation of Love and Justice

Caro Acuña is a dear old friend of mine. We met while working at a nonprofit in Berkeley. I was 22 and pretty confused about life. She was 30 something, and she struck me as having more wisdom and heart than just about anyone I’d met.

One afternoon I asked for her help with a troublesome relationship. She sat down with me in the shade of a tree, and taught me the concept of emotional boundaries. It was a revelation.

I couldn’t get enough of her. Still can’t.

Talking about racism isn’t divisive. The way we talk about it often is.

Last week, I dove into an online conversation with someone in my network about the politics of talking about institutional racism. 

The crux of his argument, (I believe) was that when people talk about white privilege, or criticize America for its institutionalized racism, for instance, we are being divisive, and even racist (against white people) or classist. 

I disagree. But that’s not the point of this post. 

Zainab Chaudary fights bigotry through the power of story

For many activists, the fight for change is personal. 

And that deeply felt connection to a sense of what matters drives organizers like Zainab Chaudary.  

I recently had a conversation with her about her work at ReThink Media to shift the narrative of Islamophobia in the US. She talked about what it's like to work on such a personal issue in a time of heightened divisiveness, shared some great insights about how attitudes shift, and where she draws strength to fight back against fear and hate.

Below is an edited transcript of that conversation.