On Being an Advocate for Social Justice When Everyone’s Afraid

Being a social worker means balancing the personal and the professional. I truly do not believe that someone can or should compartmentalize. To be an effective practioner and advocate, your work must be impassioned and authentic.

Part of this work– this duty– is to speak out against social injustice and to be competent allies both in our professional lives and our personal lives. These conversations are already hard in times of peace. I sometimes find it difficult to manage the various roles in my life with the role of ally. Keeping the conversation in a safe and educational space while still be true to your values is like walking a tightrope in the wind.

Events like the bombings last weekend in Paris make this task more challenging. The fear-based climate pushes people away from compassion and courage. Usually kind-hearted people resort to us-and-them thinking, with “them” just assumed to be dangerous. People who already had intolerant views feel safe and justified in expressing them. Those who do hold tolerant views, but don’t often speak out, find themselves attacked when they do.

For each of the next 5 days, I’ll write about one conversation that you can have to promote peace.

One important note: To be effective, you must be credible, consistent, and compassionate.

Your message is far more likely to have an impact if you’ve already established yourself as a credible, consistent, and compassionate advocate. In times of fear, there are so many competing voices. People will turn to you and trust you if you’ve done this hard work.

Please check back tomorrow for a post about conversations with the angry/intolerant.

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