Should Activists Take A Break?

Should Activists Take A Break?

Some say there’s an appropriate time and place to point out moments of inequality.

On my way home tonight, I witnessed something I had never seen before. I was waiting in line at the convenience store to pay for my late-night snack, and there were two people ahead of me. The person at the register trying to pay for his food was a homeless man, and the person after him was a big man who seemed around 25 or 30. The first man was 37 cents short of his total. As he was rummaging through his belongings to find the last few coins, the line kept growing. The man behind him grew incredibly impatient and said, “keep it moving, you lousy piece of shit.”

This man buying smokes and three cans of whipped cream decided tonight that he was more human than this man in front of him paying for food. He decided that this man in front of him was worthless and didn’t deserve the one minute to look for 37 cents.

I should have stepped in; I should have paid for the items of the first man in line. I should have said to the second man in line that what he was saying was awful and that people shouldn’t be treated this way. I should have done a lot of things, but I didn’t because as a woman and a person of color, I didn’t feel safe.

Earlier today while I was eating lunch with some friends, one of the ensembles at my school put on an impromptu performance in our cafeteria. They sang three songs about Jesus. They sounded beautiful and I appreciated their musicality and their confidence. It’s so important that people are able to say and sing what they want and we truly are lucky to have this right because many countries do not. However, it was hard to stay positive in this moment. While I do believe freedom of speech is incredibly important, I did not appreciate being forced to listen to music about beliefs I do not share.

If we were at a concert venue and I was uncomfortable, I would just leave the situation. But they were singing songs of worship in the place where many of us try to enjoy a meal together, which is also one of the few places on campus where we don’t hear music. I was incredibly uncomfortable as someone who grew up in a household learning about Hinduism and my best friend was frustrated that this performance was happening considering he was observing Passover. When I expressed my anger about the situation, I was shut down. I was made to feel that my comfort didn’t matter and that I should get over whatever I was feeling.

In this situation, I expressed my thoughts and feelings about how this performance was insensitive to those observing Passover and insensitive to those who don’t share the same beliefs as the singers, and I was shut down. It’s moments like these that make activism hard to keep up. If my friends, family, and others around me repeatedly shut me down, I don’t want to keep speaking my mind. If I am constantly made to feel like my needs are less important than those around me, then I will stop speaking up when my needs aren’t being met. If I am made to feel like I am less than my peers, than I will start believing that I am less than my peers.

Human rights activism is so incredibly important to me and I’m a firm believer that the appropriate time and place for activism is always. This isn’t a popular belief among many activists, and among my friends especially. But I believe that it’s so important to fight for equality. As a woman and a person of color, I see quite a bit of racism, sexism, and blatant disregard for anyone who isn’t a straight white male. The majority of my friends, who are white and grew up comfortably, don’t see the racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination; just because they don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been shut down or made fun of by some of my best friends because they don’t have the same experiences of discrimination. Racism is real. Sexism is real. Microaggressions are real.

This isn’t to say that I haven’t been incredibly lucky to live such a cushy lifestyle and to be studying at such an incredible school. I have the world in front of me, which is not something many people can say. But just because I am lucky and live a good life doesn’t mean that racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination don’t exist in my world, or the worlds of those around me. Activism is important, but if you’re not comfortable being an activist, please consider supporting those around you. It’s hard to stand up for the seemingly unpopular belief that we are all equal, but it’s a stand we must all take together.

Equality is necessary. We are all human. We all deserve love, respect and kindness and I will never stop fighting for that.

Food for thought: think about the encounter that I first told you about—with the homeless man and angry man behind him waiting at the register in the convenience store. Did you picture these people as being of a certain race? If so, who was what race? Take a look at your thoughts and think about possible prejudices that might be deeply embedded into your subconscious. Being aware of our underlying thoughts and feelings is incredibly important to begin the move towards achieving equality.

Cover Image Credit: Roger Williams University

Popular Right Now

To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.


So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?



Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?


This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

Related Content

Facebook Comments