Can you keep your activism off my LinkedIn? No, ma’am, I cannot.
By NATALIE MCCABE ZWERGER
I am the same person on LinkedIn as I am on Facebook, IG, Twitter, & Threads. I work in a field where we don’t separate out emotions or injustices from “workspaces” or “networking sites.” The very nature of my work is emotional in addressing injustice. I bring my full and whole self to all the spaces I hold. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I speak out frequently. I hold myself to account in that way. If there were more time to get all the things done and still be an attentive mother, partner, daughter, and friend, I would speak out even more. I am an educator, advocate, and attorney. I lead an organization, RE-Center Race & Equity in Education, doing phenomenal work. I am blessed to work with a team of powerful change agents, who enter and exist in spaces defying the inevitable invitation to be comfortable or silent on issues of race, power, and privilege.
You will hear me speak. You won’t see me contain my commentary to one location to preserve your emotions and comfort. You will actually hear me question what it is IN YOU that is NOT inclined to speak out.
I sleep on pillows upon pillows of privilege. As a flip of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality, (which so many folx misunderstand) which names where folx hold multiple marginalized identities they compound each other, what about my compounded privileges?
Cis white woman
Cis het white woman
Non-disabled cis het white woman
Catholic non-disabled cis het white woman
Catholic non-disabled cis het white woman with significant socioeconomic advantage
My privileges compound (Howell, 2019). By the way, as a woman I do experience harm, dismissal, bias, and discrimination. However, my womanhood, in tandem with my whiteness, means I have weaponized powers like tears and crying for safety and comfort, that can be wielded in violently powerful ways. So, I argue those pieces of my identity operating together are a force for potential harm…or potential influence as it were.
I am an Executive Director because of my compounded privileges. I can write blogs like this and the pieces linked above because I face fewer risks under the protective bubble of my compounded privileges. Even though pieces of me do face historical exclusion and harm, for example, being a Boricua, the harm is mitigated & lessened, the blows softened in this skin.
I received this question when I posted on LinkedIn (and my other platforms) about the genocide in Gaza:
“Are we now using LinkedIn to discuss major issues such as this, where many people are emotionally raw and grieving from loss? Is this a new political platform or a networking site? There has to be a better place to share.”
“There is no better place particularly for those of us who have platforms and influence to speak out as loudly as possible against the ongoing genocide. As I put my young child who is fed, bathed, safe, with access to all she needs to survive and thrive, to bed, I cannot fathom ignoring the mothers and families who are starving, drinking water meant for toilets, and acutely aware a bomb may fall on their homes this very night. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t speak out on every platform, “networking site,” and in every space I enter. Those of us who are feeling emotionally raw and are grieving are still alive and privileged for that in a world where thousands can’t guarantee their breath tomorrow.”
Essentially, this question is a solicitation for comfort and avoidance. It is inquiring about why we can’t all just ignore what hurts and use other spaces for our activism, our viewpoints. What a privilege to compartmentalize if not completely avoid discomfort. What a privilege to not have to worry about actual safety to body, self, and family. What a privilege to exist in online spaces where you ask others to turn off what is emotionally hard to process.
When asked to quiet, I raise my volume.
Now, admittedly, y’all, being silenced is a trigger for me. Men have silenced me. Bosses have silenced me. I am often told I am too loud, too much, too aggressive. When I was younger, I was bossy. When I was raped, it was my fault. I am accustomed to saying what people don’t want to hear. I lead an organization where we work with people to process and confront what they would rather hide from. If the truth is inconvenient for you, that’s more about you than it is about the truth itself.
I am now living into my full season of speaking out. I will not be silenced for your comfort.
My offering is- if you find yourself seeking to disconnect- or even ignore a push to face what is complicated and hard and emotional, how are your privileges at play? How are your privileges compounded? How might your compounded privileges create shadow spots where you seek to avoid confronting hard truths? We can emote in multiple ways. We can grieve, be afraid, and angry, and still stand up to injustice. We can do hard things. But growth comes through tension and often thrives in pieces of ourselves that we have sought to quiet over years of our lives. My hope is that there is a future where we move, not from a space of fear or caution, but a space of declaration and authenticity such that privileges make us accountable and accountability becomes an expression of love. And when we are fully expressed we can also hold multiple emotions at once and move in closer proximity to our own humanity.
This post was originally featured on the Everyday Race blog.
1Howell, Junia. (2019). The Truly Advantaged: Examining the Effects of Privileged Places on Educational Attainment. The Sociological Quarterly. 60. 1-19. 10.1080/00380253.2019.1580546.