Not your SoapBox

***Note from the editor : this article was originally published on Medium.***
soapbox is a raised platform on which one stands to make an impromptu speech, often about a political subject. The term originates from the days when speakers would elevate themselves by standing on a wooden crate originally used for shipment of soap or other dry goods from a manufacturer to a retail store.The term is also used metaphorically to describe a person engaging in often flamboyant impromptu or unofficial public speaking, as in the phrases “He’s on his soapbox”, or “Get off your soapbox.” Hyde Park, London is known for its Sunday soapbox orators, who have assembled at Speakers’ Cornersince 1872 to discuss religionpolitics, and other topicsBlogs can be used as soapboxes within the context of the World Wide Web.

I stopped actively watching the news about 2 or 3 years ago because I got so exhausted with the constant bombardment of opinions masquerading as facts. Propaganda being packaged as truth. But there is no running away from opinions and propaganda. I love social media because it has allowed me to connect to the world in a way I could have never imagined before. To hear stories and experiences from other people who are unlike me yet at the same time just like me.

#WhyISTayed #WhyILeft #MeToo #BlackLivesMatter #DressLikeAWoman #BringBackOurGirls #AllBlackWithADoek #Dhuku4Tuku #IAmWinnieMandela

These hashtags came together and simply multiplied and united the voices of people around causes, around movements and around shared grief. These hashtags have taken activism to the 21st century. Like all things however there are 2 sides to the story. #BlackLivesMatter was met with #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter. So it’s easy to see how things can get messy.

I will admit I have a very skewed relationship with activism. On a emotional level I get it i admire it but on a practical down to the numbers sense I don’t. Yes, #MeToo has seen more reported crimes against women but it hasn’t correlated with improved legislation and decreased crimes against women. #BringBankOurGirls gained international appeal but ultimately up to today not all the girls are back and the sentiment and fire behind the hashtag has long died. And therein lies my issue. In a bid to be woke, to get likes and retweets everyone has become a keyboard warrior, an “on trend activist” but what happens when the hashtag is no longer giving you the likes that feed your ego?

I have seen one too many people hop on causes because hashtags have made them so easy to join without committing the actual work needed to solve the problems. My friend Mubanga Kalimamukwento wrote a blog “Legislation: Is It Ever Enough?” In it she points out that even legislation is not enough to solve these issues that there is more work to be done. For me the work is simple “CHECK YOURSELF”!!! Before you get on that new hashtag ask yourself some few questions:

 

  1. Are you well informed on the issue at hand?
  2. What are your motives?
  3. If there were no reposts no accolades would you still want to support this cause?

I recently got into a dispute with an acquintance over a cause and hashtag. My argument was simple the hashtag was not aimed at helping the women rather than villainizing the perpetrators. To me, it matters a lot what our intentions are. It matters, whether we raise our voices in solidarity or in condemnation. In a lot of literature you hear the theme that certain crimes are only taken interest in if the victim fits a certain criteria but also in my experience certain crimes are only pursued to punish a desired and alloted villain. Rape, hunger, poverty, abuse, persecution etc all these ugly things have real victims, real survivors and real pain. Do not use the pain of others as a soapbox for your agenda. Do not hid behind someone’s pain to persecute others… If it justice we seek, If it equality and equity we seek, let us do it with impartiality and commitment. Commitment to the work that needs to be done when the crowds and the applause are over. Commitment to ensuring better even after the villain we can easily hate has been persecuted. Let us rally behind causes with integrity to hold the mirror to yourself and to be willing to hold accountable those we love and those we hold on pedestals.

Above all let us respect the victims, the stories, the survivors, the people whose causes we claim to be in solidarity of. May we come to activism, to being allies with a sombre heart, humility and sincerity.


Featured image | Patrick | Tom Hodgkinson | flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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