Updated: Sep 17, 2018
It is not my place to tell anyone how to go about securing their freedom. I will not presume to know how every member of the community envisions liberation and I am no authority on how to make that vision a reality. I applaud the activist community and the people who have dedicated their lives to bettering our condition, who work tirelessly for justice and equity. I’ve said many times that the struggle is and should be multi-faceted. I’ve agreed with and supported activists who’ve asserted that we each have roles to play in the struggle. I’ve also let it be known that my role is to sacrifice. My role is to refuse to comply. My role is to engage in direct action.
My role is not to accept that I live within a society that tells Black people that if they want to remain employed, they have to endure micro-aggression, prejudice, blatant racism, discrimination, and similar forms of oppression and trauma. I am not willing to remain silent while my friends are fired from or disciplined at their jobs because of the color of their skin. I won’t limit my response to Facebook posts or conversations with other activists. My response to hostile work environments being forced upon people of color is to refuse to be complicit in that act of violence by cooperating with and perpetuating it. My response to hostile work environments being forced upon people of color is to find and create alternative work spaces for my people to occupy. My response to hostile work environments being forced upon people of color is to pressure the people responsible for those environments to change them. I will not criticize the way others respond, but I will say that THIS is the response I believe in.
I believe that sacrifice is a necessary step in the journey to liberation. I came to that conclusion after studying our history. I can not think of one major victory that didn’t follow major sacrifice.
What if Harriet Tubman had listened when people said “No, Harriet. Freedom from chattel slavery is not feasible for us because we could die in pursuit of it?”
What if Ida B. Wells had ended her anti-lynching campaign when she started receiving the death threats? She had to leave her home to continue her work.
What income were garbage collectors earning during the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike in 1968? They had to forgo weeks of wages to fight for better working conditions.
The list goes on and on. I can’t give you an example of a time when it wasn’t necessary to sacrifice to affect change, but I can tell you how Black people came together to overcome the challenge that sacrifice presented. I can tell you about The Freedom Quilting Bee, a black worker’s cooperative that helped fund the civil rights movement and support those within it. I can tell you about The Free African Society and the Negro Mutual Benefit Societies of Philadelphia. I believe that we have a better chance stepping out in courage than remaining in situations of injustice in fear.
My intention is not to force those who aren’t ready to step out. My intention is to step out in courage myself and invite all who ARE ready to join me so that we can combine like efforts to affect change. So, I will continue to respond to oppression with direct action. I will continue to take risks and I will do so in the hopes that others will share my beliefs and do the same.
I don’t believe sacrifice is or can be “inaccessible”. We all have freedom of choice. While the consequences of those choices may look different for each of us, ultimately it is up to us to determine which consequences we’re willing to face and which we aren’t. I am not willing to face the consequence of indefinite oppression so that I can avoid the consequence of losing my job.