In college I was Queen of the Boycott. As a Social Work major, it was my job to know about all the evil going on. Boycotting businesses, corporations or people was the only sane response to ALL THIS DESPICABLE INJUSTICE OUT HERE!!!!!!
Because if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. Right?
One year while I was a student, I boycotted Target for blocking Salvation Army from ringing bells outside their doors. I boycotted Wal-Mart for something related to them being a huge corporation (can’t remember now). And I boycotted the Dillard’s department store for rumors of racial profiling.
It became very difficult to shop.
Sometime later I boycotted Starbucks for their support of Planned Parenthood. (I know PP provides essential healthcare for women, but their profits come at a price, which was my concern – they are known for skirting the law by not reporting rape, abuse or human trafficking violations. Don’t believe me? Check out these videos here.)
Last year, I found out that many large chocolate vendors purchase their cacao beans from companies who essentially force children to harvest the beans. It’s more or less slave labor.
So I boycotted all chocolate, unless it was made via Fair Trade.
I told my friends at work and posted about it on the blog. I wanted people to be angry with me. Children were being forced to harvest our chocolate. This was appalling and disgusting to me.
But no one jumped on my Boycott Bandwagon. No one. Except my husband, reluctantly, but probably only while I was around.
I couldn’t understand why no one else was OUTRAGED. Except that they loved their convenience and coffee and chocolate too much to care about people who had no voice.
A few weeks into my chocolate boycott, Greg Gutfeld released his book, The Joy of Hate. The Twitter conversations around the book were the beginning of the end of the Queen of the Boycott.
With my head tucked near the tail between my legs, I heard the shrill sound of my tiny, angry voice, raging against the corporate machines. Alone.
And I finally admitted to myself that I loved the anger more than the people or the cause. I just wanted to be mad. To be in the center of the commotion. To be the one who knows what is going on around here.
Yup, that’s what my anger was about. And that’s why all the super right and super left people on your newsfeeds and at your dinner parties drive you crazy. They aren’t truly angry about injustice. I mean, maybe a little.
But they love to be angry.
Anger is a power emotion. Anger makes us feel as if we know something important, and we are doing something about it.
But we are kidding ourselves. No one is innocent of atrocity out here. We are all guilty.
After some investigation, I learned that Starbucks’ support of Planned Parenthood was through a matching fund offered to their employees. Their staff have hundreds of charities with whom they can partner, and Starbucks will also contribute to the charity of their choice.
Also, many other companies that make our food and computers and make our lives go all support Planned Parenthood. My own employer, the US government, offers the same matching program for charities, and Planned Parenthood is on their list.
So should I boycott my own employer? How would I even do that?
Anger is easy, but it quickly becomes a game of blame-shifting and faux activism. So here are three things I learned from being a Fake Angry Person:
- I am just as guilty as everyone else at perpetuating injustice. I work for an organization that partners with a business I don’t believe in. If they are guilty, I am guilty.
- People who do things I disagree with also serve and support organizations I believe in. Many charities I would personally back are funded in part by Starbucks or the government or other corporations. We are capable of great good and great evil all the time.
- Anger and outrage are not the means through which social change happens. Action is. It takes peaceable, level-headed, strategies, fueled by an awareness of injustice without a raging, fist-swinging preoccupation with it.
This was a painful lesson. Mostly because I don’t like to be wrong. Without all the answers, I am presenting to you what not to do. I am still learning how to be mad, because sometimes that is the appropriate response. But for the love, let’s not stop there. Let’s really do something about it.
Now be honest: what is your pet cause or your favorite thing to be angry about?