James Landrith reminds us that advocacy is about the end goal and not an individuals ego.
I’ve been involved in advocacy work since 1997 on a variety of issues and causes. Actually, I started on April 23, 1993, when I wrote letters to Senators Simon and Moseley-Braun protesting DADT and the persecution of military members based on sexual orientation. I was still on active duty at the time and sick of the paranoia and maltreatment of my brothers and sisters by knuckle-dragging psychopaths, so I spoke up. That was the beginning of over 20 years of advocacy work.
While I worked on many high profile and national efforts, an advovcacy campaign that stands out was from 2002. I won’t go into all the facts here, as you can read it at this link.
That campaign was headed up by the Center for National Security Studies and the ACLU. My online magazine, The Multiracial Activist, was one of 20 plaintiffs to join the lawsuit, looking to enforce the Freedom of Information Act. Eventually, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, who kicked it back like cowards. While we did not win, a very diverse group of activist organizations took part in challenging the Bush Administration on its police state assumptions. It helped to start a national conversation and pushback in multiple directions began across the political landscape.
On other issues, many of the organizations involved were on opposite sides, but we put those away to concentrate on one goal. That is cooperative advocacy. That is acting like a professional. That is how to get things done as a group vs. just making a lot of “righteous” noise.
We didn’t run each other into the ground on the areas where we disagreed. We saved such battles for the days they were to be fought later. We didn’t treat each other like monsters or make hateful and discriminatory comments for the purpose of silencing individual activists. We didn’t make it personal. We didn’t attack. We didn’t promote hate and intolerance. We stuck to the script. We kept on mission.
Advocacy is about the end goal, not our hurt, wounded pride over people disagreeing politely and not telling us we are right and special and geniuses every day, all day long.
Anyone expecting to last longer than a year or two as a serious and effective advocate needs to get a grasp of working together in diverse settings. Not everyone will agree with you at all times. So what. Get over it. If a person wishes to be a serious advocate, at some point it is time to be a grown up about it and get over themselves or they will be ineffective and quickly marginalized – and deservedly so. Further, they will find that fewer people want to work with them over the long-term as they have become known as THE PERSON WHO CREATES BARRIERS and causes strife for those of us actually trying to get things done. Sometimes, serious advocates have to compromise and remember they are human, fallible just like the rest of us and not always “right”. Sometimes, they actually have to listen to someone who disagrees in order to reach a joint understanding on the areas that they do agree.
But what do I know, I’ve only been doing it for over 20 years. I’m still learning how to do this shit…
This post originally appeared at jameslandrith.com