Social accountability has been the hot topic for the past few years, but what does it really mean? Simply put, it means we're all in charge of making sure everyone in society is treated fairly and has what they need. But let's face it, we're all guilty of some level of hypocrisy in this area. We scream about issues while ignoring solutions, use accountability to gain social status, and pretend like we're morally pure. Let’s break it down.
FIX MY PROBLEMS NOW!
One of the most common examples of this hypocrisy is the way that people demand action on social issues, while ignoring solutions that would actually help marginalized groups. For instance, many people will march in protests to save the rainforest, while simultaneously supporting policies that harm indigenous communities and restrict their access to natural resources. Many people fight for domestic violence protections but ignore the 1 in 4 men who will experience it and that 2 in 3 children who experience corporal punishment are boys. Many people want to abolish police but then celebrate the rape, assault, and murder of people they don’t like in prison.
This behavior creates a disconnect between the rhetoric of social responsibility and the reality of people's actions and undermines the legitimacy of our social accountability initiatives. This is one of the most valid critiques of the liberal rights movement that we like to ignore because it mostly comes from our ideological opponents. Instead, we should hear the honesty in the cacophony and work to square these contradictions in our logic.
Another form of hypocrisy is the way that people use accountability as a tool to gain social status. In today's society, being seen as socially responsible is an easy and well-trodden path to increase one's social capital and reputation. People use this to their advantage, by making claims about their socially responsible behavior, even when they are not actually doing anything to address the issues they claim to care about.
Most of the time people making the most waves are doing so quietly. Like Beyonce’s fiftyleven song credits allowing Tina Marie to get her first Grammy Award win posthumously. Like RuPaul igniting the careers of over 200 queer men, women, and gender non-conforming folks worldwide who otherwise would’ve had decades more continued trudging and struggling in relative anonymity. Like myself and other small business owners creating positive work environments and taking ownership of the labor market on their terms, without constant press releases. Like the people on the streets supporting the so-called dregs of society, the people even you and I forget.
My grandma used to say, “If you got time to fight, you got time to clean.” If you have time to loudly shout about what you’re doing, you’ve got time to do more. To be honest, my intuition says if you mostly spend time complaining about the issues, you’ve got time to do more, too. On some level, the behavior is attention and clout seeking and on no level helps the world. *Michael Jordan Voice* Stop it. Get some help.
The Moral Purity Lie
Having said that, I think we should tackle the last and most controversial hypocrisy: no one is morally pure. The person writing this and every single person reading this is (on some level) racist, sexist, classist, nationalist, homophobic, xenophobic, greedy, and self-centered, because we’re human. I know it sounds cold, but we’re not monsters because we think we’re better, support our own, or ignore the plight of others. It’s too human to be a fault.
We only have so many things we can care about. We only have so much energy, emotional bandwidth, and physical capability. There’s no way we could know about, express care for, or act on the plight of every group with issues because they all have issues, and all deserve to be addressed. Our job is to handle what we can and not be a roadblock for the rest. Plus, on some level, it’s patronizing to suggest every group with issues needs help from the outside.
SAVIOURS NOT NEEDED
It's important to understand that communities and marginalized groups have the capacity to advocate for themselves and find solutions to their own issues. The suggestion that every group with issues needs outside help is not only patronizing, but it also undermines the agency and autonomy of these groups. Instead, it's crucial to listen to the voices of those most impacted and to provide support and resources in a way that empowers rather than undermines.
This requires engaging authentic collaboration, being open to learning and growth, and recognizing the expertise and experiences of marginalized communities. Social accountability means working together to create a more equitable and just society, and this requires acknowledging and valuing the strengths and resilience of communities.
We can't just pretend we're perfect, have all the right answers, and be everyone’s savior. We gotta be honest with ourselves and each other and work together to make the world a better place.