By Sparrow Butler
Do you really know what it means to be a social activist?
The growth of social media, fake news, and biased opinions integrating journalism is changing the way many people view social activism. This misunderstanding makes some students skeptical about being actively involved in their communities, and politics in general. However, social activism, at its core, is not what it is often portrayed through the eyes of our media-obsessed world.
Gloria Gasa, a premed student, shined light on one of the many reasons people are often cynical about social activism. “I feel that protesters take up other people’s burdens without doing any research on it themselves and try to make it their own problem, when really they often don’t have anything to do with the issue at hand,” Gasa said. “I think it is a really negative thing, in today’s society, because you see all the riots, walk-outs, and sit-ins that cause unnecessary disruptions in the classroom.”
Pensacola State College (PSC) Health and Wellness Professor, Paul Swanson, is very aware of the decline in his students’ political involvement, and he believes it has a lot to do with a lack of awareness about how to be an active member in society.
Some students are scared that if they become politically active, sharing their views will come off as disrespectful to others. Gasa said, “You can try and make people see your side, but if you’re going to go about it by breaking rules and causing commotion, you’re just adding to the negativity.” For this reason, it is important that we first learn how to be respectful activists for what we believe in without just adding to the noise.
To help expose the truth about what activism really is, Swanson dedicates a period of his Concepts of Life Fitness class every semester to getting his students involved by asking them to write down politicians’ phone numbers and email addresses. By doing this, he creates a learning environment where students can talk openly and collectively about the issues that concern them.
“Talk with other students and don’t be afraid to talk to people who don’t agree with you. You’ve got to be able to have a civil conversation with people who think totally differently [than you],” Swanson said.
One of the most influential assets Americans have is their right to vote, but we must remember that it is not only a right but a responsibility. Swanson stresses the importance of getting together with other like-minded people to make a difference through voting as a bloc and choosing how you, as a generation, spend your time.
“Use buying power to vote with your pocket book… if the environment is important to you, buy things that are organic. Your buying power will change politics. If you, as a group, buy organic, more stores will start providing it, and you’ll see the prices go down,” Swanson said.
In a world full of difficulties, it is important to remember that often it is the small gestures, like using buying power, that cause the biggest waves of growth. Rosa Parks first showed us an example of quiet resistance when she refused to give her seat up on a bus in Montgomery, Ala. in 1955. This act of defiance was one of the first usages of a nonviolent approach to activism.
Social activism, by definition, is an intentional action with the goal of bringing about social change. Whether that means using your buying power to benefit the environment, sitting with the people who would generally be part of the “outcasts,” or using your voice to contact our politicians and ask for change, is ultimately up to you.
So, fellow PSC students, get informed, read both sides of the story, vote whenever possible, and don’t be afraid to stand up as a social activist for the causes that concern you and future generations to come.
Our time is now.