How I Stay Happy While Fighting For Social Justice.

*this post originally appeared on*

For anyone who cares about the marginalized, every day is emotionally draining. There isn’t a moment that goes by where you can’t find countless examples of unnecessary cruelty toward oppressed people, and it’s hard not to think about how we are so far from where we need to be in addressing injustices even in the most progressive parts of the world. Recognizing this can be depressing and it’s hard to stay positive most of the time, and yet, somehow I do.

Unless you only know me from social media, where my posts and debates have gotten me accused of being “angry all the time” and have caused people to reach out because they are “worried” about me (LOL, thanks y’all), you’ll know that I’m generally upbeat, hopeful, and in good spirits. This doesn’t mean I don’t get angry (I probably am angry all the time), and it doesn’t mean the world doesn’t sadden me, but I am also able to largely enjoy life, have fulfilling experiences and friendships, and look forward to the future. This is important as I believe people who are concerned with the state of the world are not only deserving of happiness, but the most deserving.

These are some of the skills I use to stay level-headed. Of course, I’m not a psychologist, so some or all of these may not work for everyone, and if you suffer from clinical depression you should certainly seek professional assistance in coping, but I hope some of these skills might help some of you too:

Focus More On Creating And Sustaining Safe Spaces Than On Trying To Change The World.
It is going to take generations and generations to finally enact the change we wish to see in the world, if that ever happens at all. If you think you’ll see the world suddenly stop being racist, homophobic, misogynistic, disablist etc., or even something close to that anytime soon, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Something important that can happen, and has been happening, is the creation and maintenance of safe spaces for marginalized communities. I find these secure places in communities of gender affirming, queer people of color. These are places where your struggle won’t be consistently ignored or dismissed, most microaggressions are understood and forbidden, and allies won’t badger you with constant questions on how to “make them understand” something they aren’t too keen on understanding in the first place. Speaking of allies…

Lose The Need For Allies.
Once I stopped worrying about gaining allies, my stress level decreased ten-fold. It’s not that allies aren’t important, it’s just that it isn’t our responsibility to create them. It also isn’t helpful or effective to try. The people outside of your community who REALLY want to help will go out of their way to educate themselves without making you explain something you’ve explained already a thousand times. Yes, they will sometimes make mistakes, but they will also recognize their propensity to make mistakes and not take offense to being called out. An ally that needs you to frame your argument in ways that make them more comfortable is not here for real change. If you need to make an ally comfortable in order for them to support you, they are only interested in the badge of honor that comes with claiming to fight for social justice, not the hard work that comes with that. These are not people that will be effective in your fight and will undoubtedly constantly frustrate you.

Take Pleasure In Small Victories And Be Skeptical About Claims That Things Are Getting Worse (Even If Sometimes They Are!)
As I mentioned earlier, major change is eons away, but there are very real, small steps in the right direction that are happening that deserve our acknowledgment. It’s slowly becoming less acceptable to publicly commit violence against queer people. Social media has created an entirely new platform for marginalized people to organize, mobilize, and have their voices heard. Every day I get further along on my road to recovery from misogyny (it is also VERY important to find happiness in the personal progress you have made!). Even when acknowledging the things that have gotten worse – how the police have been increasingly militarized, money has overwhelmingly taken over the government, and how it is becoming increasingly clear that progress for one marginalized community rarely translates into their support for progress for other communities — I can still be thankful that I’m Black and not being enslaved and that Women can vote. This allows you to…

Recognize Not All Change Is Concrete.
I get it, we want things that are tangible and that have effects we feel immediately, but a lot of social change is simply concerning the tone of the discourse, or changing what’s socially acceptable to say. Making sure that the anti-gay business over there loses money isn’t going to destroy homophobia, but it will discourage other business from flagrantly attacking queer people.

Have Conversations On Your Terms.
If someone is antagonistic outside of a safe space and you don’t have a support system to back you up, understand that you don’t always have to argue. If what you’ve heard or seen bothers you and you feel the need to talk about it, sometimes it’s best to take the conversation back to your safe space where you will be understood and your pain will be tended to.

Allow Yourself To Firmly Defend Your Safe Spaces.
Don’t feel bad about blocking, defriending, unfollowing and disinviting people from your safe spaces when they are threatened. If your space is a personal blog or Facebook page, use that block button liberally. There are so many places where you will deal with antagonism, don’t fall prey to the idea that this has to be one too.

Change Your End Goal From Winning Debates To Changing The Starting Point Of The Conversation.
One of the hardest things to do is to change someone’s mind. There’s nothing people hate more than being wrong and convincing someone that they are will almost never happen over the course of one debate. If that’s your goal, you’ll find that you always come up short. What you can do, however, is make sure to bring up points that haven’t been made before and you can outline what conversations are about. For instance, when discussing street harassment, you’ll almost always find men who make it about them : “so I’m not allowed to say ‘hi’ to Women anymore?” But street harassment isn’t about men, it’s about what Women experience. When you’re debating, always bring the conversation back to what it’s really about to prevent derailment, and even if you don’t change any minds right away, at least the conversation will make some sense.

Sometimes, It Is About The Lesser Of 2 Evils.
It’s easy to feel powerless in a country that is run by 2 parties that are both controlled by corporate interests that have no desire to change the status quo. I know so many people who opt out of voting because our choices are all shitty and I completely understand that. However, SOMEONE is going to win, and if we’re going to get hurt anyway, I’d rather be slapped by a child than punched by a boxer. We can work to dismantle a system while minimizing the damage it does at the same time. I will reserve the right not to go out holding signs and endorsing anything that is going to eventually hurt me, but I will not be entirely powerless when I’m given a choice about my well-being, even when those choices are shitty.

Accept, explore and deal with sadness
Even after taking all of the steps above, there are times that I am still completely demoralized or just want to cry and give up. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t try to force yourself to stay strong when you’re not, it’ll only keep you from dealing with what’s making you weak.

I hope some of you are able to use these skills when they are needed, because, let’s face it, something will definitely be needed soon (ahem, the Darren Wilson Indictment).

What techniques do you use to keep your head on straight in this world? Do you disagree with any of mine? Comment below!

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