“Low ego. High impact.”
I don’t want to write this, but it’s an important conversation to be had.
Our Movement for Black Liberation, though growing, is fragile. We’re essentially in the beginning stages of creating a society in which racial, gender, and economic equity are cornerstones. These bedrock principles can only be realized through tangible work and measurable outcomes. The journey will be long, grueling, time consuming, and exhausting… and for these reasons, we cannot afford the arrogance that is slowly blighting the space.
I call it arrogant activism. An unfortunately counterproductive situation in which committed organizers become more transfixed with public praise and large social media followings, than with actual work. We usually associate the likes of Al Sharpton with arrogant activism, but I’ve seen firsthand how some grassroots organizers, once humble, slowly transition from believers in a just cause, to media marvels.
Such a slope is slippery; those who put in the work rightfully deserve accolades and public attention, especially when their labor yields sustainable results. Black women and queer people of color, in particular, deserve immense recognition for our labor, considering a bleak history of having our work either usurped by cis-gendered heterosexual men, or ignored entirely.
But when just recognition becomes the goal and not the byproduct, there’s an issue.
There’s also an issue when resentment is festered between organizers, another situation I’ve witnessed firsthand. Again, the Movement is powerful, though fragile. We simply do not have the means or resources to disconnect ourselves from one another for specious and materialistic reasons. Instead of uplifting Black organizers and leaders who are publicly recognized for their labor, I’ve seen organizers disregard and devalue the socioeconomic work of another in favor of the bruised and unfed ego of one’s self. Such a mentality is shamefully harmful.
Self-aggrandizement is yet another strain of arrogant activism. Again, from personal experience, I heard an organizer tell an anonymous audience that their contingent was the “most important,” than any other. I balked. To hear these words was almost painful; how is it possible that in a Movement that requires cohesion, we’re still clinging to notions of hierarchy and superior significance?
Arrogant activism is a loose result of capitalism. Capitalism cultivated an enduring belief in hyper-individualism. When analyzed through a proper lens, it’s apparent that capitalism and racial justice are completely juxtaposed. We can’t approach racial, gender, and economic justice with a capitalist mindset.
For our Black future, we must be more innovative and creative in how we want our society shaped. We must dispel arrogant activism if we want our future to continue in solidarity and peace.