It is not about me – a reflection on social justice advocacy

When I was googling about Tim Wise to learn more about his anti-racism work, I came across one of his posts  in which he was venting about being persecuted and threatened by his detractors for speaking up on behalf of people of colour who have been oppressed by white supremacy. A few fellow people of colour found his post offensive as his post somewhat came across as if he was in a way also attached or accustomed to his own white privilege. For example, someone commented on his post, saying:

David Ikard Tim, while i applaud the work that u do i find this post very problematic. tho white hate groups r targeting u–which is deplorable–ur venom seems directed at folks of color that question ur sincerity or see u as a white activist pimp. this smacks of oppression olympics and will ramp up this type of criticism rather than quiet it. u do hv wh privilege and u hv been able to gain an audience that a lot of folks, like myself, will never hv, in part, on that basis. i’m a male feminist scholar that receives a lot of attention, in part, bc i’m male in fem studies. just the way it is. my pro-feminist agenda doesnt mean that i have or ever will experience the sexism that most women–especially blk &brown–have to deal w/ on the daily. ur work remains important and i hope u keep up the good fight. however this type of racial venting is harmful and i think ur smarter & better than that.

Yes, like the person said, it is true that as much as Tim Wise has been doing a remarkable job in challenging white supremacy and advocating justice for black and brown people, he can never experience the racism that black and brown people have to deal with on a daily basis, so it is understandable that his racial venting came across as offensive to some of the people whom he has dedicated his life to fight for. I learnt from Wikipedia that Tim Wise later regretted his post, saying that it was inappropriate and he would strive to do better as an anti-racism activist.

It is not about me

If there is anything I have learned so far, at least from what I gather about social justice advocacy, it is not about me, especially if I happen to belong to a privileged group and I want to advocate justice on behalf of the oppressed group – I need to bear in mind that I can never experience the kind of injustice and oppression and micro-aggressions the way the less privileged people experience on a daily basis, so there is only so much I can relate to in terms of sharing in their grievances and sufferings. I will probably always be viewed with suspicion, with regard to my agenda for helping them, simply because I am not one of them – I am just someone who happens to have a certain measure of privilege by virtue of my skin colour, nationality or whatever, and I am someone who wants to use my privilege to speak up and stand up for them.

So whether I am praised or criticised for being a voice for the oppressed, I must remember that it is not about me. If I do well and get recognition or accolades, it is not about me – it is not about my efforts or my talents or whatever. On the flip side, if I am ostracised or mistreated by the oppressors for helping the oppressed, it is not about me – it is not about my sufferings or sacrifices or whatever. Simply because no one owes me anything – I willingly put myself in this assignment. No one needs a saviour too, whether a white saviour or yellow saviour or a saviour of any other colour, especially if a saviour is not from among the oppressed group, so I don’t see myself as a saviour or hero or martyr or anything like that.

So it is not about me. It is about their suffering and oppression, and their desire for liberation from suffering and oppression. It is ultimately about US – one body of humanity. It is about the universe being manifested in different forms – healing and balancing itself/ourselves through mutual love, expressed in manifold ways in diverse individuals.

And maybe – just maybe – this is the reason Jesus was manifested in human flesh. In order for God (our highest self) to free us/himself from oppression, God has to come in the form of a human being to experience what it is like to suffer oppression as a human being. This is so that he can relate to our sufferings, and we in turn can relate to his sufferings and take comfort in knowing that we are not alone.

To take this thought a step further, in order for the Jews as an oppressed group of people who were suffering under Roman rule (a picture of a privileged system or supremacist system) to be liberated from oppression by a saviour, Jesus needed to be manifested as a Jew in order to represent them fully. For every oppressed group of people, a representative must suffer and/or die in order for new seeds of love and liberation to be born. The African Americans have Martin Luther King Jr, for example, whose legacy of hope and restoration continues until today.

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