As the proper young adult that I am, I have interred many life lessons from movies and television. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Most of the time, for somewhere in between. As ashamed as I am to say this, I got into Star Wars pretty late all things considered. So when I heard this one quote from Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, it hit me pretty hard. Yoda quite famously says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Simple, yet poignant. Quite frankly, it is a call to devote yourself fully to a task, to dive right in and let go of your insecurities. If it means that much to you, find a way and make it happen.
The more that I tried to live my life by this, however, the more panicky and self-defeated I became. Tasks just felt bigger and more overwhelming. If I started something, I had to finish it and finish it well. I couldn’t fail. It was not an option. So most of the time, I couldn’t even bring myself to start.
In terms of social justice, this mindset goes from disheartening to crippling. Being a white, queer, abled, woman, I live in several different advantaged and disadvantaged groups at once. Most people do. So while for some groups I have to fight back as the oppressed, for other groups I have the opportunity to be an ally. Though it may sound nice and pretty on paper, I want to validate that it takes a lot of work in real life - work that is draining, uncomfortable, and sometimes frustrating. Being an ally means first and foremost recognizing your own privilege, which is a battle in and of itself. Privilege, being unasked for and invisible, can only be countered with education and open conversations about oppression with all groups involved. You have to ask those uncomfortable questions, make new relationships that might feel weird or awkward or even scary, and try.
Yes, I said it. The dreaded try. Completely changing behavior and thinking patterns that have developed over a lifetime is an intimidating notion. But the good news is, you do not have to be perfect. You do not have to get it all right in one go. You just have to try and keep trying at every new roadblock. Moments of confusion and confrontation are opportunities for change and personal growth. Our first thought is often what we are conditioned to think. Therefore, judge yourself by your second thought. We are all learning together and, trust me when I say, actively trying to respect and understand difference is the best thing you could ever do as an ally. Privilege is power, and it can be used for good as an ally, but only if we are bold enough and forgiving enough to try.
I'm a bi female undergraduate student majoring in Psychology, with minors in Women and Gender Studies and African American Studies. I am passionate about issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, and intend to get my masters in social work in order to serve those populations.