What Message do we Send When we Don’t Show Up for Social Justice Work?
In our participation guidelines for Talking Together for Change, we define three expectations: Trust, Commitment, and Respect.
About commitment, we write that “out of respect for the work each of us is doing every time we meet, it is essential that every member show up.”
This may seem like an obvious or unambitious expectation. Yet, I’ve learned from experience that not showing up creates a climate of indifference that can be a significant barrier to change.
When you don’t show up, this signals that you may not be putting in the effort needed to make a difference in yourself and for others. Don’t get me wrong, just showing up isn’t enough in the long run: what you do, say, and take away is equally vital. However, especially if you are a person who is not directly impacted by oppression based on your identity, not showing up – to social justice oriented professional development, dialogues, community initiatives, protests, etc. – conveys a message about the value and importance you ascribe to this work.
It makes it easy to claim ignorance of oppression when we don’t take the time to be at the events or part of the conversations where these narratives abound.
It makes it hard for people to count on you as an ally, or better yet an accomplice, when you don’t show that the priorities of equity and justice that are central for marginalized groups of people are also your priorities.