10 Reasons Why Activism Is Hard

Activism is hard work. 

This is not a complaint; it is a statement of fact. I do it because I am committed to the cause; because it is necessary, but lawwwd. 😩😩

Anti-Racism involves the outputs typical of any mission, but what makes it more challenging is the emotional and energetic toll that it can take. For me, the writing is the easy part. The not-so-easy part?

❌ The caucasity.

❌ The whataboutery.

❌ The trolls.

❌ The feeling of being unprotected. 

❌ The frequency with which we are disrespected.

❌ The invalidation of our lived experience.

❌And let’s not forget the apparent paucity of budget when the time comes to pay activists for our labor. 😑😑 More on this later.

The sad part is that what I have outlined above does not even begin to capture everything that activists have to deal with. The path of activism can be a stony one because of:

  1. Exhaustion: Activism is labor. When we talk about “doing the work,” the emphasis is on the  word “work”. It is consuming and exhausting. It is also rewarding and fulfilling, without a doubt, but also draining. Dealing with trauma daily – yours, your community’s, your ancestors’ – is not for the faint of heart.
  2. Trolling: Anti-racism activism in particular exposes you to trolls and tone policing. People have a lot of time and bravery hiding behind a keyboard in the middle of a panorama. Many people also seem genuinely unable to see a post that is not for them, or that they disagree with, and scroll on by. 
  3. Danger: Activism can be dangerous. Whether online or in the streets, activists are often bullied, harassed, and threatened. Many even receive death threats. I have not received death threats and hope that I never do, but it is an underlying concern that causes stress. Just recently, someone commented on one of my posts using gun emojis. I reported the troll and got their comment and account removed, but it honestly took a lot out of me. It was a threat. And trolls have been known to escalate from online bullying to real-world endangerment. Just ponder that.
  4. Censorship: The censorship and shadow-banning are rough. It does not feel good to be silenced.  Not only does it erase one’s voice, but battling it also siphons away time and energy that could be better spent on doing the work.
  5. “Exposure”: Many of us educate for free, or for much less than what our expertise is worth. This is because anti-racism activism is our passion. “Allies” who are (perpetually, it seems) “still learning,” and companies with deep pockets, take advantage of that and try to offer us payment in exposure. But exposure doesn’t pay bills. Just because we would do it for free doesn’t mean we should be forced to. Activists want to do the work we love and thrive, not merely survive.
  6. Employment Risk: If you have a 9-5, being vocal about social issues can affect your earning power/potential. You never know who from your current or future company is lurking on your posts.
  7. Lack of Work/Life Balance: Balancing activism and the rest of your life is challenging. It can become all-consuming.
  8. Mental Health Impacts: Overwhelm and mental health issues are always one post, video, text, or off-color comment away. The ubiquity of media and personal electronic devices makes it practically impossible to completely avoid triggering content. 
  9. Loneliness: It can be lonely. Often one is shining a light on issues that many wish would stay in the dark. One is sharing unpopular opinions. As time goes by, one’s circle becomes smaller and smaller. It is much easier for people, especially so-called allies, to ghost you when the going gets tough, or when they simply don’t want to have difficult conversations.
  10. Lack of Support. As alluded to above, you can lose friends and support at the time you need it the most. I am lucky because someone with whom I am very close is also an activist: my sister (activist Sharon Hurley Hall). We are able to uplift and encourage each other, and we remind each other to decompress. However many activists are not so fortunate.

Despite the downsides we activists persist. Because the work must be done. To my activists and *true* DEI experts in the struggle: I see you. I appreciate you. And for what it’s worth, I understand some of what you’re going through. 


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Unless otherwise stated, text and images ⒸLisa Hurley/@happyhappyphoenix

Comments

  1. Kathleen+Hurley says:

    Excellent article as always, Lisa. You clearly outline the difficulties inherent in pursuing activism.

    1. Thanks so much, Mama.

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