The reality of standing up

Happy Monday everyone! I hope that you and your families are all doing well. Thank you once again for joining me for some Monday reading. As you have noticed, a lot of the pieces I write are about things that perplex me and things I still have no answers to. I guess, I want people to be as perplexed as me and ask themselves the same hard questions I have been asking myself. 

http://www.ucf.edu

I have always been a loud-mouthed person…I always speak up to injustice and wrongfulness without second guessing and I have never found it hard to stand up for other people even if I am not particularly interested in what has upset them. I guess you can say I have an unprovoked fighting spirit. In this respect, I do not think I work well in bureaucratic environments because I believe in rebelling against ‘the system,’ (yes, I see the irony of this sentence considering I am an aspiring politician). However, because of this nature of my character, there have been many situations where people have asked me to voice their opinions on their behalf – which I have, and I have gotten myself in some trouble while doing so. Not that I really cared about the trouble, as I said, I like to speak epically in situations where I feel there has been some sort of injustice committed. What I always questioned was why don’t people just stand up for themselves? If they think something is so wrong, why don’t they just say it… I would. How ignorant was I? I stubbornly thought this for a while and even asked people why they don’t just protest themselves. It took me a lot of these questions to realize that the reason I could protest so easily was because of privilege. Privilege in the simple fact that I had always been the person to cause this sort of trouble, so I was handled in a different way to someone who was quiet and did not necessarily know how to fight people who had more power than them (institutional power in the examples I am thinking of). Privilege in that I have always been supported so I have always been taught to stand up for what I believe in, even if I am alone in that belief. Privilege in that I come from a good home, so I have never been scared to speak up even if it means losing that position or job. I began to understand that people do not have these privileges to back them up in certain situations and so, if it is between accepting something unjust or ending up in a compromising position, the former is the logical choice.

While I am using a personal example to explain the privilege that is associated with standing up to injustice and/or inequality, this privilege can be exemplified on a much larger scale. Looking at Zimbabwe, the question has been asked by young people time and time again… why is no one standing up to any of the horrific things happening in the country? I have asked my older family members the same thing, why have you done nothing all these years? Things are getting worse and worse and yet none of us are standing up. One of the answers came to me during the Black Lives Matter Movement. I couldn’t help but marvel at what was going on in the US and I thought wow, why don’t we just do that too! The honest answer is that we are afraid, we do not have the same privilege of protection that Americans do. If an American dies in protest, there will be international outcry but if a Zimbabwean dies in protest (which thousands have over the years), it will not even make an international news story, if even a Zimbabwean news story at that. Our government would kill us without questions of morality or humanity if we dared to protest for a better Zimbabwe.

Another reason Zimbabweans do not protest even though we are suffering is also something I did not consider because of my place of privilege. I have lived in peacetime my entire life, I have never witnessed a war or even layed eyes on a gun. Due to the political complexity of Zimbabwe, even if we were to get through the protest stage alive, a war would most likely erupt. It is easy for someone of my generation, who hasn’t witnessed much violence to say “let’s fight!” because we do not know what the reality of that means. I look towards other African and Middle Eastern countries who have stood up to their governments and I see the somber reality of what would happen to my home if we dared to stand up. So that really leaves us between a rock and a hard place. Either we continue to live through tyranny, or we die.

Through understanding these realities of privilege in areas of life that most of us don’t even recognize, I understood how hard it actually is to stand up (in any context) when you are against a side that has all the power. While I can do it on a small scale and not be as worried about the consequences, the situation of Zimbabwe breeds deep, generational consequences. So, I speak to Zimbabwean youth who have asked their parents time and time again why they have let all this unfold, to understand what standing up in this situation may mean. In such complicated situations as these what would then be the best solution? Do you stand up or do you hang on to the semblance of security you have?

“If you build the guts to do something, anything, then you better save enough to face the consequences.” 

 – Criss Jami, Killosophy

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