The Politics of Activism: On Rhetoric and Power

By Andie Alexander

“So are you a political activist now?”

I’m not the kind of person who often posts on Facebook about politics. After all, I’m still a grad student hoping to get a job one day, and there’s no telling what sorts of ideas people could formulate about me based solely on my Facebook posts. With that always in the back of my mind, I tend to keep my posts mostly about the academic study of religion (well, that, and pictures of my dogs, obviously, because they’re adorable). However, over the past few weeks, I have been sharing significantly more news articles and reports on my Facebook page. In the wake of this exponential increase in the number of political articles and photos from the Denver Women’s March (see above) on my page, folks were somewhat surprised with my seemingly sudden interest in politics. So much so that some have even called me a political activist.

When others heard these comments about my newfound activism, some agreed in a positive way, while others maintained that I was not a political activist and that I was just sharing information. However, what struck me about these comments was not whether I really am/am not a political activist — to me that misses the point. Rather, I am more interested in this label or designation of “political activist.” For the more I thought about it, I realized that this identifier rarely has a positive connotation. Continue reading “The Politics of Activism: On Rhetoric and Power”

On Privileges that are Not Universally Shared

privilegeAnyone who knows me knows that I walk my dog early each morning — lately I’m regularly going to a nearby park where, well, Izzy goes regularly as well. But every now and then I change it up a little — variety is the spice of life and all that — and so I park here and we walk there or park over there and then we walk here. Sometimes I park in one of the lots but other times I pull over off the small loop of a road and park on the grassy shoulder. Continue reading “On Privileges that are Not Universally Shared”

Strategic Terms for Black Lives Matter

23025758106_5eed9d2a9c_zMany people have pointed out how the label “terrorist” becomes a useful tool for some to demonize an opposing group, so it should not be a surprise that a few have tried to label the Black Lives Matter movement as terrorist. While the label “terrorist” carries significant emotive weight in contemporary society, other terms and labels that may be less obvious also can be strategic tools for authorizing and deauthorizing groups. We need to be equally alert to those less obvious authorizing and deauthorizing moves, even when individuals and groups with whom we sympathize employ them.

This issue came to my mind when reading a commentary (“Civil Rights Activists, Not Terrorists”) that describes an encounter with a police officer who initially dismissed a complaint about a stolen Black Lives Matter banner with the suggestion that the movement had been labeled terrorist. While the frustration at such a use of the label is significant (notably, the officer backtracked when he could not demonstrate that it is actually on any list of terrorist organizations, making me wonder if someone is suggesting this equation to police officers), the commentary from the minister of the church whose banner was stolen engaged in mounds of authorizing labels. Continue reading “Strategic Terms for Black Lives Matter”

It’s All About Us

23021165181_5d611c08df_zThe deadly attacks in Paris last Friday have generated sincere expressions of shock, solidarity, mourning, and anger from around the world, yet that response also generated critical hashtags such as #selectivemourning. As many have discussed in social media and articles, bombings in Beirut the previous evening received only limited coverage in the US media and few mentions on social media. We can blame the media, but that is a little simplistic, as the media not only directs our interests but also reflects them. If sufficient numbers in the audience clamored for more information about the attacks in Beirut or previous attacks on civilians over the past twelve months in Nigeria, Kenya, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, perpetrated by a range of forces, then the media coverage would increase. In fact, most who have pointed out the imbalance in the coverage are only doing so in the light of the Paris attacks. Few changed their Facebook profile photos for solidarity with Lebanon, despite it appearing in the news. Continue reading “It’s All About Us”

Is Your Group Oppressed?

TenCommandmentsAustinStateCapitol“A war against Christianity,” a friend on Facebook asserted, as he pointed to examples in the United States and around the world. The shooting at Umpqua Community College recently and the various occasions when ISIS has executed people identified as Christians provided prime examples. Others making similar claims point to shifts in US policy, including the removal of the Ten Commandments from schools and courthouses, restrictions on official prayer at public schools, and movements to remove “God” from the Pledge and US money. Continue reading “Is Your Group Oppressed?”