Social commentaries

Staying the Course: thoughts on changemaking in an online age

August 8, 2020

Latifa Daud
Latifa Daud
Lit sign reads "Hope"

Over the last few months, our world has been through significant trauma, Black Lives Matter, Covid-19, and the famine in Yemen are just some of the events that have caused a reset and a conversation about the need for change. My social media has been flooded with calls to do better, check your privilege, and have difficult conversations.

The question I’ve been asking myself is, how do we ensure that things do change as a result of these calls to action, how do we keep up the momentum? Once the hashtags are no longer trending, what then?

I will never forget the 24 hours following the Christchurch Mosque Attack. Within minutes of the reports of the shooting, my phone was buzzing non-stop with people saying how shocked, surprised, and saddened they were. I wasn’t surprised, but that’s another discussion.

The Aotea Square vigil drew in Aucklanders from all walks of life wanting to express themselves and feel the togetherness we were all craving at that point. After that, vigils and conversations continued, as did the attacks on women wearing a hijab.

New Zealand attempted to do the work, but ultimately what has changed?

Soon after the Christchurch Mosque Attack, the news cycle moved on. Snippets of updates emerge sporadically about sentencing and the odd hate crime – but ultimately, some of the dedications people made to ‘do better’ became lost, as normalcy resumed.

We have to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. We know that social change is a long, painful process, but what matters is that we stay the course.

Changing laws is one thing. Changing centuries-old mindsets that perpetuate inequality is another. The women’s rights started more than 50 years ago, and we are still working to realise gender equality and racial diversity in boardrooms. The Black Lives Matter movement has been around for years. The world is finally listening and responding. Corporations are vowing to educate themselves, and colonial statues are finally being taken down.

But the online momentum has dwindled.

Does that mean the ‘work has stopped’? No. But we must process these events our world has navigated through and move forward knowing how we will make positive change, continue making space and listening.

I understand that this path is emotionally draining. I needed a break too. My shares and analyses have reduced dramatically. It’s a tough balance, wanting to be informed while checking in on your mental state. A balance that is a privilege to maintain.

While the trends on Twitter may have changed, the action continues. Some are busy reading and educating themselves. There are those writing to their elected officials. There are those engaging in difficult conversations with their children, friends, and elders. All of these roles take up energy and are all necessary.

You might be wondering, if it’s not online, how do you know these things are happening? The answer is you don’t. It’s not about knowing what others are doing. Rather it’s about focusing on what you need to do on what you can do. It may be easier to block it all out and instead focus on living in your bubble. Others may start their efforts with full force, and then collapse. There is a cost to both of these. The course of action I’ve discovered is best for me and may help you is: First, take small, sustainable steps. Be realistic, take breaks if you must, but keep moving forward. Social change is a marathon.

Second, use your skills. If you’re a writer, an orator, an artist, or a networker, use the language you speak best to get your message across. The world responds to passion.

Third, check your intentions constantly. Is it about you, and how many people know your name, or is it about the bigger picture? Never forget what you’re fighting, who you’re fighting for, and why. The centre of the conversation is always the movement.

As John Lewis said, “pace yourself. We used to say that ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part. And if we believe in the change we seek, then it is easy to commit to doing all we can, because the responsibility is ours alone to build a better society and a more peaceful world.”

Stay the course, make sure you do your part.