By Hailey Joy Scandrette
The word resistance, for me, conjures up images of Leia Organa commanding rebel forces in the efforts to take down an oppressive empire in Star Wars, Sophie Scholl and her fellow White Rose activists who were killed for standing up to the Nazi party, and Harriet Tubman not only having the courage to escape slavery herself, but returning so many times that over the course of her life she helped around 1000 other enslaved people escape their captivity. While I hope that I could be as courageous and faithful as these badass women if the time ever came, the reality is that most often resistance doesn’t look glamorously brave and daring, it looks small and consistent and intentional.
Over the past few months, I have been feeling an urgent need to delve deeper into understanding and enacting what resistance means for me. This is not to say I didn’t already feel a need to resist evils like white supremacy, imperialism, mass incarceration, and the other forms of oppression prevalent in our country that I feel go against God’s desires for humanity and the way Jesus instructed us to treat one another. These issues have long weighed on my heart as I’ve learned more about how people without the privileges of being white and middle class experience life in the United States and around the world. However, the new presidential administration has increased my concerns and the urgency I feel when I think about how to love my immigrant neighbors, my black neighbors, my Lantinx neighbors, my Muslim neighbors, my indigenous neighbors, my LGBTQ neighbors, my disabled neighbors… the list goes on and on. It’s easy for me to send myself into a panic thinking about how emerging legislation and increasingly normalized bigotry will hurt and terrorize my friends and neighbors. This is obviously completely unhelpful, so I try to move quickly away from fear and anxiety towards practical steps I can take to care for and support oppressed groups and individuals. I’m going to be honest; this can be very challenging. Not because there isn’t plenty to be done; there’s a wealth of opportunities for me to offer support and care. But because it’s hard for me to tell how much I’m supposed to sacrifice.
I think in Christian culture especially we can tend towards a romanticization of martyrdom. This is not to say that people who give up their lives to do what is right are not admirable and that their contributions are not valuable. But I do not believe that we are all called to run ourselves ragged in the name of Jesus. We can offer much by sustaining ourselves so that we can stay in the fight for justice and love for the long haul. Burnout is so prevalent in many careers devoted to serving others: social work, community organizing, nursing, etc. This may seem obvious (as it should) but I need to say it to remind myself: a huge, unseen but crucial part of resistance is self-care, doing what you need to do to keep caring for others. I’ve struggled with internalizing this reality for a long time, but it feels more relevant now than ever. I’m in my final semester of university and I live with chronic illness, so most of the time I only have energy to push through whatever assignment is due next, then rest, then push through again. I often feel guilty that I’m devoting the majority of my time to activities that don’t feel like they serve others, such as school work, self care, maintaining my personal relationships.
So, I want to take a moment to advise myself, and anyone of you who struggle with similar feelings, to take a broader view of resistance and recognize the work you’re already doing and not giving yourself credit for. I study US history with an emphasis on race and gender in social justice movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. That is an act of resistance. If you read multiple credible sources to better understand the bills enacted by the current administration, that can be an act of resistance. If you are listening to people with different life experiences than you in and seeking to understand and love them well, that is an act of resistance. If you are making conscious choices about what your money goes towards and supports, that is an act of resistance. If you vote in your local elections, that is an act of resistance. If you are building community with people who are also seeking to serve and love our neighbors, that is an act of resistance.
Yes, there may be a need for bigger acts of resistance as well, and I hope and pray that you and I will both take these opportunities to stand for justice and love as they come. But none of us can do everything, and there will always be more for all of us to do. So I am trying to focus on moving forward, taking the next step, educating myself, supporting the people around me, recognizing the work I’m already doing, sustaining myself, and grounding my resistance in love for my neighbors above all else.
I’ve compiled of a list of types of resistance to remind myself and others of what I want to be doing and what I’m already doing to oppose oppressive power and narratives that marginalize individuals and groups,
Avenues of resistance:
-Educating myself and others about issues, dynamics of privilege, systemic oppression, historical context, etc.
-Participating in community organizing and local politics
-Engaging in relationships with people of other races, religions, nationalities, etc.
-Building community and support systems
-Understanding and consistently examining my own biases and limitations
-Being intentional about where I spend and invest my money and resources
-Attending marches, protests and direct actions
-Writing to or calling congresspeople
-Using my voice to amplify voices that people may be less likely to listen to (through writing, sharing other people’s writing or story-telling, etc.)
-Using my privilege to build bridges when this is possible
-Creating and celebrating art that invites me to embrace my own and others’ humanity
-Engaging in self-care in solitude and with trusted friends and family
-Supporting the community organizers and activists in my life by bringing them meals, inviting them for dinner, helping them move, babysitting their kids, etc
-Practicing compassion with myself and others and embracing imperfection as I seek to grow wiser and kinder
-Acknowledging when I am wrong and apologizing for harm I cause
-Support minority-owned small businesses and non-profits
-Cultivating a personal ethic that values human life and dignity above all other earthly things
-Etc., etc., etc.
If you are already consciously doing any of these things, I see you, keep going. If you’re not, consider this a call to action. Individually, we can’t do everything, but we can (and should) do something.
Hailey Joy Scandrette is a senior at San Francisco State University studying US History, and Counseling. When not ears deep in primary source analysis and note taking, she enjoys thrift shopping, writing, climbing trees, and going on long walks with her friends and family. She is passionate about social justice, living incarnationally, loving and serving others, and almost anything else that she has any opinion on.