Activist: A person who is active in efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis.
Bully: A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.
Just as it’s a thin line between love and hate, the line between activist and bully can sometimes seem non-existent. Don’t get me wrong, I am full support of activism. After all, activists are crucial in creating positive change to the status quo. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Harvey Milk and others like them helped shape some of the greatest social and political changes of our time. Until we reach either utopia or nuclear armageddon, there will always be a need for activists and what they can achieve.
Like the best of intentions though, activism can go awry in a heartbeat and lead to its less flattering cousin, the bully. While I understand bold methods are occasionally necessary to accomplish change, getting an audience to accept your point of view and forcing it upon them are two different things.
Recently, there was a call to action for people to boycott Chick-fil-a because their parent company provides donations to conservative, right-wing groups. Nothing wrong with that right? Boycotts are one of the oldest forms of activism. As this movement got underway, large media attention was drawn to the issue causing much debate among the masses. Another goal achieved for activists. For me though this is where the line began to get blurry. Whether through personal conversations or social media, I began to get involved in discussions where people began demanding to see which side my loyalty belonged to. How dare I deign to consider eating at Chick-fil-a, if I truly support equal rights for everyone? I myself was unaware that a fastfood chain held the keys to my liberty. I read demands from people’s Facebook walls crying out that if you didn’t back them on this boycott, defriend them immediately. Really? Over a sandwich?
In my opinion this is where activists become bullies. Once threats or intimidation are used to force a concession from another party, activism is no longer part of the equation. Think about it. If you have to demand that someone adopt your way of thinking, have you really achieved your goal? Did genuine change really occur?
I don’t mean to undermine the importance of activism and the dedicated people who champion their cause. However, I’m to the point where I also won’t sit by and allow someone to bully me into their way of thinking. Too many times activists get caught up in an “all or nothing” type stance. The world is not that black or white.
I feel that effective activism truly comes from presenting your position in its most honest form, so that it shakes the foundation of what people are thinking. Intimidating or threatening someone into supporting your cause seldom has the desired effect. As we all know, no one likes a bully. Instead, I encourage all activists to shout their truth as loudly as they dare. Just make sure that toe doesn’t go over the line.
For more information on becoming an effective activist check out the link below.
How to become an effective activist in 12 steps – wikiHow