San Antonio is fortunate to have an abundance of progressive and social justice oriented organizations. From pro-labor groups, to leftist groups, to women empowerment groups, to LGBT empowerment groups, to progressive news organizations, to immigrant justice groups — San Antonio seems to have everything for progressive-minded people.

Unfortunately, finding a true safe space to create a community can be difficult.

The reason for this difficulty is that, for a true progressive community to become a reality, we as a people must unlearn problematic social conditioning that creates social barriers and prejudice and then apply what we have learned in all facets of our lives and, most importantly, our interactions with others.

However, based on personal experience, I’ve noticed that people claim to be knowledgeable about issues but then disregard that knowledge when communicating with people in public or private spaces.

This inconsistency creates a situation in which a member of a progressive group will give an eloquent speech on misogyny, sexism and violence against women when discussing politics, but will later disregard the roles these systems play in our day-to-day lives.

They will do this by casually making a rape joke, complaining about being “friend-zoned,” making comments on a woman’s choice to not shave, or in cases of liberal politicians, pay women within their political group a lower wage than their male counterparts.

Another exampleis when a member of a progressive group is outspoken about the rights of LGBT people in regards to marriage equality, work discrimination and access to lifesaving health care, but will casually say “that’s so gay” to dismiss a person’s humanity. They will use slurs like “dyke” or “faggot” in a conversation or ask belittling and dehumanizing questions about a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

I’m not saying conservatives are any better. I’m saying I have noticed that progressive groups (and people) are quick to point out problems within conservative groups, but fail to address manifestations of the same problems in their own groups (and in their own lives).

Actions like the aforementioned not only hurt people, but also hurt the development of these groups. When a group markets itself as inclusive to a certain community, but has people in positions of authority who are not conscious of how their actions can be alienating towards the people for which they claim to advocate, that cognitive dissonance can push away people who would have brought a new perspective to the table and helped find solutions to improve the group.

Additionally, the contradictions within these groups can hurt their ability to bring about real change that positively affects San Antonio residents. How can progressives fix a problem they are a part it?

Although San Antonio has the potential to be a great city, full of innovation and growth, we would achieve that more quickly if we began working on ourselves and applying our knowledge of social justice to our personal lives and interactions.

I’m not perfect either. I have said and done things consciously and unconsciously that have contributed to someone feeling excluded or belittled. I have to work constantly to hold myself accountable and to own up, apologize, and work hard to not repeat those actions when I am called out.

However it is one thing for a person (usually someone who is a member of a marginalized group) to make mistakes or not fully take a person’s experience into consideration and another thing for a person of authority and privilege to purposefully replicate harmful structures of dominance over another human being while claiming to have reached nirvana on progressivism.

As Spectra from Spectra Speaks eloquently said, “Dear Activists, you cannot bring about any kind of change in the world if you haven’t learned to embrace the self-awareness, vulnerability, courage and humility required to bring about the change in yourself.”

“Bottom line: Stop using all that’s wrong with the world as a distraction from facing all that can be made better within yourself.”

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