White middle-class progressive folks are prone to feel a sense of individual burden or despair in facing an unjust world. Used to having our individuality and agency flattered, we face evil, destruction, unfairness, and oppression and think, “How could it be so unfair? What can I, with my sense of how to make things more just, ever do to make the system more just?” And with that, we often either sink into complacency (“nothing to be done”), or we begin holding forth to those around us about how much better we’d do things if only the powers that be would listen.
But activism is not mainly about explaining your smart idea to the powers that be. Institutional power seeks only to maintain itself. Power has no in-built drive toward rationality or fairness; few institutions have any free space in which a new idea is given a “hearing.” Instead, activism is mainly about building the strength– and amplifying the voice– of the people whom power ignores, diminishes, scatters, silences, or crushes. Want a fairer world? Fight to make room for those most excluded.