Why I Pressed Follow on #teargas

The simple answer? Because it scared me. And we all know how I feel about fear.

When I clicked on #teargas on Instagram, the images and art and quotes created a knot in my chest, right in my core. It was a knot of anxious, aching fear and my instinct told me to quickly close out the search and go back to looking at cakes and cute kids. But I knew that doing so would be a fear-based decision, and as much as I appreciate fear, I work hard to not make my choices based on it. I aspire to make choices based on love and service, my top two core values. For me, in this case, it would have been neither loving nor serving for me to ignore what #teargas was showing me.


So I clicked follow. And the fear magically disappeared! The knot is gone! Psyche. Of course, nothing magical happened. I’m still scared of what I see in those squares, and I still feel the knot. But you know what is different? There’s more than fear – there’s hope and empowerment and energy. Hope that things can (must) change. Empowerment that has me thinking maybe I can do something to help. Energy to use my voice (ahem, this article you’re reading right now) to speak to what’s happening. I feel fear AND hope AND empowerment AND energy at the same time, which is much more enjoyable than just plain old fear on its own.

Am I a hero for clicking follow? For posting about why I clicked follow? Nope, not even close. I am doing the ABSOLUTE BARE MINIMUM by staying educated on current events and clicking follow. Because of my privilege (I am confident I will never face being tear-gassed at the US/Mexico border), I can easily ignore headlines and back out of Instagram searches and pretend mothers aren’t being attacked alongside their babies. My choice to neither pretend nor ignore is not an act of heroism but an act of recognizing how easy things are for me and how hard things are for others. Period.

My commitment to love and service dictates my staying informed and facing the discomfort of differences in privilege. It’s for these same reasons that, as an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I listen to podcasts like Mormon Stories. It’s why as a financially-privileged American, I serve the homeless and make monthly donations to poverty-stricken families. It’s why as a white person, I follow accounts like Shaun King’s and read books like Between the World and Me and Please Stop Helping Us. And why as a mother of white boys, I follow accounts like Feminine Shift and Awards for Good Boys and why I read books by and about women and people of color to them.

My intent here is not to show-off but to show rather than tell what can be done if you’re demographically like me. It’s so easy to fall into a lull and embrace the comfort of privilege, and believe me, sometimes I do. Sometimes I even crave the ignorance I enjoyed for the first eighteen years of my life (until I left my conservative Utah upbringing for the liberal environment of Washington, DC). It’s familiar and comforting. But, I’ve realized more and more, it’s also dangerous and offensive.

If you, like me, find yourself wondering where to start when it comes to social justice, human rights, and gender equality issues, consider finding some accounts or hashtags that scare you. And click follow.

  1. Loved this post. I’m currently in a class where many of our discussions are centered on topics of immigration, social and Civic duty, stigmas, woman’s and minority rights and suppresion, and how policies protecting privilege perpetuate negative and oppressive cycles. They are hard topics with no clear answers, but I’m glad this class exists and that these discussions are happening. For many it’s the first time they have been confronted with the idea of privilege. It’s silence that feeds and fosters the status quo. I agree it is so hard to stay informed and not loose hope or faith, which is why ignoring the issues looks so attractive. I struggle daily with feeling helpless in a hateful world, and I often feel overwhelmed and wonder if my actions make a difference. It is hard to see how the life cycle of a news story covering a violent act is days, but the solution to address the issue will take generations. Always learning and engaging is the only way I can see to bridge the time descrepancy. But im grateful to see my peers trying to face and take on the same struggle. May we be the generation to raise awareness, not get discouraged and stand for right whenever we can, may our kids learn and catch our passion and then continue to spread love and promote equality however they can. Thank you for your example and using your platform for healing, raising awareness for difficult and challenging issues, and to empower others.

    1. Amen, sis. Your class sounds so interesting/hard. And, knowing you and what you’ve already done in your own life to confront silence and expectations based on gender and mental health, your work is happening and changing future generations already. xoxo

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