People care about different things.
Rightly or wrongly, people react strongly to some things that other people are not affected by.
Even when, objectively, they are not comparable, there is no way of controlling what issues will push buttons for people.
Over the last year, I have been so aware of who is saying /doing /posting /liking /sharing /commenting on particular issues. People who might shy away from “political” problems have felt comfortable speaking out against food safety restrictions caused by Brexit, or women’s reproductive rights being curtailed around the world, or the disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard or, more recently, the controversial and short-lived European Superleague.
It’s interesting, and disappointing, to see what truly prompts a reaction in people that is strong enough for them to finally take action and seek change. For them to protest and sign petitions.
But we cannot control what we react to – rightly or wrongly – if an issue doesn’t feel personal to us, then it will likely not feel important to us. Why would we take a stand against something that we don’t feel affected by?
It’s hard for me to accept that – it feels like a heartless approach for us to shrug our shoulders and claim racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia etc., etc., is “not our problem”. But, much as I wish we could, we cannot force people to care about something they do not care about. Which means we cannot rely on people caring about issues for them to be fixed.
When people are forced to pretend they care, they pay lip service. When people actually care, they demand change. As Ben Lindsay, CEO of the award-winning charity Power the Fight, tackling youth violence in the UK, highlighted so well:
This is how change happens – by demanding it through any means necessary. Performative allyship is not the way forward. But it is what happens when people are forced to pretend they care about something they don’t truly understand. (The pointless black squares on Instagram last summer were a perfect example of this!)
Thankfully, we don’t need everyone to care in order to effect change. Caring is not enough. Caring is not effective. We need clear, tangible, structural change, to distribute power equally.
As Stokely Carmichael so eloquently put it, racism is not about people’s perspectives so much as it is about the power they have to act on their opinions:
Eliminating bigotry of all kinds is not necessary so much as it is to hold people accountable for their actions, and prevent them from forcing their hatred onto other people. (I dare to hope the guilty verdict returned recently in the Derek Chauvin trial, convicting him of the cruel and inhumane murder of George Floyd, is one step towards holding people in power to some form of accountability.)
So the path to progress will not be achieved through winning “hearts and minds” but through implementing fair, equitable, inclusive processes and policies.
Holding people accountable for their actions.
Having clear consequences for people’s behaviour.
The system needs to change to allow people to follow, rather than waiting for everyone to care enough about the problems other people are facing. Regardless of what we personally care about, everyone deserves the freedom to live to their lives freely, to achieve their full potential.