By Emem Obot @femme_meme
Activism: Remember Why We Do This
I love my community. I want liberation. That’s it. That’s why I do this, and that’s why I will gladly give my life to this movement (within reason, so the government doesn’t come after me). Every person deserves and needs basic human rights, access to resources and opportunities, and representation within local, federal, and international institutions. This movement has introduced me to many amazing and passionate individuals who are dedicated fighting unjust systems.
But I have also met people who engage in this work for the limelight.
Activism/organizing is fad for some white, upper middle class, liberal, college kids, a space of domination for the power-hungry and glory seekers. In the age of information and social media, it’s easy to become a talking head for the movement, whether it’s being a popular Twitter account speaking on social justice issues and vagina, or parading around as a trans activist while still maintaining racial hierarchies between yourself and black trans women.
Consequently, activism has become vulnerable to America’s pervasive celebrity culture, and we’ve created hierarchical values for the actions and worth of individuals within our movement. We idolize and glorify community members and create them into prophets above accountability and ignorance. We watch, criticize and/or praise their every move. We make them entities above ourselves which are sometimes bigger than the movement. Thus, community members are no longer accessible to the community (with the exception of DeRay McKesson pictured above).
As long as we allow ourselves and the culture of activism to be surrounded by leaders with the most awards, followers, and likes and leaders get paid the most for speaking gigs, activism will never lead to the revolution many of us dream of. Organizing is not a cute liberal hobby to make some extra cash and make your resume look sweet for when you decide to run for office. It’s a form of resistance from an oppressive state and culture and it functions to uplift the voices and societal status of the oppressed. It is not for economic exploitation and ego boosting. This culture of glorification is another force we need to keep out of activism.
We must fight not only the state but also detrimental ideologies such as celebrity culture. I am a problematic ass individual, who is constantly unlearning, redefining, and growing everyday. I question constructed realities, but I also want you to hold me accountable. I want you to challenge my beliefs. Ask me questions. Dissect my thought process and my privilege(s). Do not make me a prophet or omnipotent. Don’t praise me for seeing humanity and fighting injustices. I don’t need praise for doing the right thing. There is nothing commendable about it because it is something everyone should do.
Emem Obot, (no pronouns), Editorialist
Emem Obot is a sophomore at American University in Washington, DC. Obot is majoring in International Studies with a focus in Identity, Race, Gender, Culture and Human Rights. Obot is passionate about anti-black activism with the intersections of feminism/womanism and LGBTQ+ rights. Obot is also the co-founder of Blackout: Generation Liberation, an organization dedicated to the fight against capitalistic cisgender heteronormative patriarchal white supremacist systems through education and community outreach. Obot identifies as agender/ genderqueer and uses no pronouns.