People from small towns know what it’s like to feel aghast at the size of Ithaca’s population of social activism clubs. In a town of 10,000 people, I knew of only a few clubs focused on these activities, and most of them were for raising money for cancer patients; local humanitarian aid was about the closest thing DuBois, Pennsylvania could bother to care about. Ithaca is like a giant cluster of people that care about anything and everything imaginable. With four LGBTQ clubs, a feminist club, several clubs for various racial identities, multiple humanitarian aid clubs, and even a club that campaigns for better understanding of mental illness, Ithaca College feels like it represents every social issue imaginable.
So where the hell do I go from here?
Upperclassmen make it clear that you’ll join many clubs and keep only a few of them; underclassmen are going all zombie on me, straight out of The Walking Dead. There’s no one around to tell me which clubs are intersectional and fight for total equality. A ton of options suddenly mean that I have to be picky with the type of social justice that I get involved in. I can want to fight for a lot of things, but I only have so much time that I can use effectively.
I’m forced to actually think about myself and list my priorities. I’m a male feminist, but I also heavily identify on the LGBTQ spectrum. I love the idea of helping people in third-word countries, but I’m sketchy on how the aid organizations use their funding and marketing techniques. I want time that I don’t fucking have.
Overwhelming doesn’t begin to cover it. Ithaca has all of these options. I love options as much as the next person; these options force me to actually give myself a path to grow on, and they force me to think about what’s important to learn in social justice. People like me – people that have always wanted to be social activists on a more local level – it’s important to have the revelation of importance. If something isn’t important to you, if something doesn’t light your fire, then you can’t expect yourself to suddenly find the passion for it all of the time.
The trick is that you still have to care about it. If you don’t care about it, then you aren’t practicing equality. A social activist that ends up perpetuating inequality with no intent on fixing it? Total bullshit.
Get involved in what is important to you on a personal level because it is what you will give the most passion towards. Just don’t make the mistake of assuming that something you aren’t involved in doesn’t exist or doesn’t have an important agenda. The first thing that I learned about my budding social activism, something I learned very soon after college started, is that it’s important to support the fight for all kinds of social justice. Even if you’re only on the front lines for one or two of those fights.
Amateur or not, you have to pick up your sword and your shield. Be prepared. Help your comrades. Ithaca College has all of these options because the world has a lot of things wrong with it. Social activists have to support each other while learning to specialize. Learn how to hone your passions and use them to make the world a less shitty place, because you might as well when you have so much available to you.
This article was written by John Jacobson. Email him at jjacobs1[at]ithaca.edu