Anthony Carter

Confessions of a Reluctant Activist

Filed By Anthony Carter | October 18, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: bell hooks, love, not for profit organizations, patriarchy, queer activism, social change, social media, white male, youth advocacy

A while ago, I was hired at what I was led to believe (and told repeatedly during the interview process) was a very progressive forward-thinking and moving organization.

BlackWhiteHands.jpgWarning! If somebody has to keep telling - and not showing - their politics there is trouble afoot. After the initial hiring, I was left to flounder because no one really knew the nature of my job or how to train me in the mastering of it. It was brutal. There was no way to measure my effectiveness because it was unclear as to what I was expected to do.

The folks who hired me were clueless in their expectations of me and being young and unschooled in the ways of on-the-job politics, I was unaware as to how to ask for clarity.

The white supervisors in charge - although trying to commit to diversity - had done very little work decolonizing their minds and therefore actions. At one point, I believe I even asked something along the lines of: "If we keep discussing dismantling the prevailing power structure (the constant quoting of bell hooks made me think we had a shot at doing just this) who are we planning on putting in charge when this happens?"

I was sacked within a day or two of asking the unspeakable.

This reminds of me of why so many social movements fail to reach their fullest potential and fizzle once the leadership is terminated and or "fresh blood" is brought in. Within so many of our movements and attempts to dismantle the current regime, we often fail to do the work necessary to ensure that one group of dictators is simply not replaced by another.

Without love as the guiding principle and a firm committment to mental health, we can only recreate the thing we fight so desperately to eliminate.

Having witnessed so many politicos railing nonstop about what needs to be done and by whom, I have seen very little work on personal development. While I know of several people who claim politics and enjoy a good banner wave, I know very few who are committed to their own personal growth.

It is very easy to attack the enemy in front of you. It is far more challenging to attack the personal demons we all carry.

Recently, I witnessed a discussion devoted to thinking and solution creating to solve several problems that the Republican party created and the Democratic Party has yet to dismantle. While everyone seemed bright and capable, one or two white males consistently dominated the conversation.

At a table of ten people, two ran the entire discussion.

With a proper amount of decolinization, these two would have shut the hell up at some point and allowed someone else to speak. We cannot demand that others (Republicans, Tea Party peeps or whoever the "big bad" is this week) treat us with respect and then refuse to look at how race/class/gender privilege derails even the most progressive and well meaning attempts to institute change and determines whose voice gets to be heard.

At the same gathering, I also witnessed a very brave and insightful young woman say to a group of folks, that as a young woman of color she felt it was her duty and right to "take up space." The brave young woman who put her mind and physical self at the center was bravery in action and clearly on the road to decolinizing her mind and was willing take us along for the ride.


Whenever someone dares to speak not only of what they are committed to doing and why without justifying their choice, it sets the stage where there is an opportunity for power to shift. Whenever a person has done any kind of work on the self, there is a possiblity that not only have they started an ongoing battle for social change but they have started it where it matters the most.

So few of our progressives do any type of emotional work.

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