Seeing someone be a woke social-justice warrior is not uncommon; everyone aspires to be an activist. “Wokeness” dug its roots in the modern-day pop culture, establishing as an adjective that puts everyone under a good light.
With all of India showing up for #BlackLivesMatter, questioning state-sponsored violence and asking for defunding of the police, the performative nature of wokeness is evidently seen. Let me tell you, we need to be aware of the complex structures that lead to societal oppression. But, to choose what injustice to stay silent to is not only a privilege but also a damaging move.
Why didn’t “I can’t breathe” not remind us of the migrant workers who were killed by the apathy of the Government? Why did we not think of the students, activists and protesters who were abused during the Delhi Pogrom? Why are we turning a blind eye to the injustices in Kashmir? Why didn’t we recall the death of several manual scavengers? How are we not thinking about Devika, the Dalit woman who had to kill herself due to the lack of access to educational facilities? Where are our voices when citizens continue to remain political prisoners under various draconian laws?
India reeks of this hypocrisy where police brutality in America is questioned but these citizens remain silent spectators to the brutality in India. Why do we not think of the marginalized communities that can’t breathe in the unquestioned injustices against them?
It isn’t wrong to voice out opinions in support of issues that other societies face. There was outpouring support for Sudan, Hong Kong and Palestine. But, what stops us from resisting the injustices the oppressed face in India?
Allyship is difficult. An ally has to constantly understand, empathize and remain angry against injustices. There is a lot of learning and unlearning that goes into it. Those who are privileged in the society should do the labour of being a part of the struggle of the vulnerable. Those with power can challenge the structures that put them in a position of power.
Instead of the performative resistance, we need to collectively work to dismantle the systematic power and control in all societies.
By: Meghna Menon