As a storyteller, I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the world collective that is social media. As a deeply introspective and introverted person, I’ve always known to be wary of it. I’m acutely aware of how easy it is to dash of something on a keyboard and present it to billions of people with barely a second thought. Luckily for me, the shortage of power, time and internet connectivity in the part of Nigeria where I live implies that whatever I manage to post on social media has been considered and mulled over repeatedly. This is not so for a lot of people, and nowhere is this more evident than Twitter. Because of the enticing shortness of a tweet, people often dash them out frequently, especially as the important of ‘hot takes’ and viral tweets cannot be overemphasized if you want to gain internet fame. A lot of people are often less cautious than they should be, and this has led to a lot of disasters.
When I became more involved in feminist movements, I discovered that Twitter played a major role in visible activism, so I decided to join. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’ve seen a lot of good and sadly, some bad as well. The worrying parts, however, are when the ‘good guys’ seem to go to the bad side for a while.
I’m one of a group that believes social justice activism must be absolutely intersectional. Simply put, I don’t believe you can be an activist and be guilty of any of the ‘-isms’. Intersectionality means if you stand for justice, you stand for it across the board. It’s a simple enough concept, one that many activists claim to subscribe to, but all too often an opinion comes up which is in sharp contrast to the principles of intersectionality.
I have witnessed numerous permutations of activists turning a blind eye to systems of oppression not directly in their sight. I have even seen some actively participate in the bigotry. I have seen feminists be transphobic, racial equality advocates being sexist and socialists being racist.
A while ago, after one particular feminist I respect made some transphobic comments and stuck by them, I was forced to examine the reasons why activists always seemed to blunder when it comes to other people’s troubles. In the course of a discussion with some like-minded people, I realised the reason is that all activism is, to an extent, personal. Some are more than others, but for us to be able to keep a fire burning, it needs kindling, and the kindling of activism is the experience of injustice and unfairness. For this reason, it is difficult to understand and relate to the struggles of others if you have never walked in their shoes. This is, of course, not to excuse any form of discrimination, but it’s important to understand that not every unpleasant statement from public figures is meant to be insidious. What is despicable is persisting in bigotry after being corrected. I generally lose respect for anyone who chooses to die on the hill of blatant prejudice.
However, mistakes do happen, and if growth is to occur, people have to be given room to make them. A lot of issues can make a person say unsavory things, but backlash should take other things into consideration. As humans, we all need empathy, discernment, and understanding if we are to coexist in harmony. Only with these virtues can change finally start to take place.