Jonathan Moore | Politically Erect
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 08:02
I had the privilege of attending a lecture given by former Black Panther Party leader, activist, political prisoner and writer Dorhuba al Mujahid bin Wahad on Tuesday, and what a remarkable experience that was. Without detailing his biography in this column, just know that his words were not only fiery and impassioned but of the most sincere conviction: experience. He spoke of the importance of activism being guided by love instead of hate and urged those of us in the audience to stand up against the racial injustice that continues to permeate the fabric of our society. Perhaps his most riveting question was this: “Why aren’t you outraged?” I swallowed the knot in my throat as he peered into the audience. Again, he asked, “Why aren’t you outraged?”
I am outraged… or at least I believe I am most of the time. As a writer who advocates for critical thinking and feeling about race, gender, class, sexuality and the like, one could say my bread and butter is watering down outrage to fit for print; encapsulating the essence of sit-ins and protests and judicial actions into a 600 word column or 140 character tweet, fit for consumption. And so this has got me thinking. Am I really outraged? If so, why am I doing so little to turn that outrage into action?
Much can be said about the power of writing and the necessity for written thought and opinion to be expressed and shared -- its contributions to dialogues and debates cannot be understated. But something I’ve been struggling with recently is how we move beyond this often academic, sometimes theoretical, superficial analysis, critique or commentary sideshow to something real, something tangible and something revolutionary. Sure, I can sit here all day and talk about queer liberation and the importance of safe spaces for youth and the dire need for more inclusive sexual education in public schools. But how does this translate into anything remotely beneficial to the queer youth of color back in my hometown of Detroit that are caught up in a multi-faceted system of disadvantage and oppression? When does thoughtful conversation verge on academic masturbation? When does activism in the names of millions verge on self-aggrandizement for the person we stare at in the mirror?
I understand I often ask more questions here than I attempt to answer, and this is for two reasons: 1) I don’t know the answers and 2) I know I’m not the only college student asking myself these questions, especially on a campus like Tufts where nearly everyone is passionate about something and we all feel as though we’re “radical” and “revolutionary.” I’m beginning to understand that in an effort to be supremely politically correct and hyperaware of social issues we are losing the ability to ask tough questions that remain unanswered, drowning in information with which we have nothing to do with, and vying to be Ash Ketchum of the oppressed (“… to save them is my real test…”).
The reality is that no matter what I write about in this column -- sexism, racism, wealth inequality, the destruction of our planet, mass incarceration, you name it -- and no matter how outraged you believe you would be about it -- what’s the likelihood that it will ever turn into action? Where do we even begin when the task is building a movement? Perhaps we start with words -- columns, articles, talk shows, banter, debates, forums, polls and studies. Or maybe we say this time, in my life, in my now, I act now. I shout now. I fight now. I risk now.
Then, and only then, will I honestly be able to say that I’m not just outraged, I am furious. And that fury will no longer be for me alone.