Silent Protests Are Still Protests

By Malahni Banta

We live in a time when social justice is thriving and many, many more individuals than ever before are standing up for what they believe. They are voicing their opinions and fighting for a change, no matter how long and strenuous the fight may be.

In the midst of chaos and discourse, we are met with the beauty that is unity. A great number of different groups of people, all with different stories, backgrounds, hair textures, and names, all are joining together for a common cause and hope for change.

The Internet is a wonderful place for much of this to be brought up and brought forth. Meetups, protest times, debates, and news coverage can be found with a click of a button. With the help of a screen and Internet connection, we can learn about an injustice going on across the country or globe and ways we can help achieve justice for our faraway brethren.

During times like these, though, we seem to forget that introverts have a place in activism, and we forget that some of the most influential individuals in many prominent movements and revolutions were introverts. While it’s undoubtedly brave, noble, and admirable for some people to step out into the streets bearing their hardships and their voices, it’s just as brave for the quiet folks to protest, speak, and rise up in their own ways.

Rosa Parks—one of the most well-known civil rights leaders and activists in history—was an introvert. She did not fight; she did not yell; and she did not wear her emotions on her sleeve. And yet, we teach children about her in school, refer to her when speaking of great leaders and visionaries, and celebrate her legacy during Black History Month.

As a young African-American woman, I am very familiar with the need to fight for my rights. While I am much further ahead from where my ancestors were a century ago, there is still much room for improvement—something I have learned not to forget.

It’s easy for me to voice these thoughts and concerns. My Twitter page is full of tweets reflecting current events and ideals. If I’m sitting in a coffee shop with a friend, I could go on for hours about reform and change. Yet, the thought of going out to rallies and protests frightens me.

I attend an extremely liberal art school in Manhattan. Social justice is one of the most important aspects of this school’s approach to teaching. Every week—every day, even—there is an event or rally to raise awareness about issues, injustices, and ideas. They’re held all over the city—some out on public sidewalks, others in crowded dorm rooms or spacious conference rooms.

They all seem to call for some form of social commitment, one many individuals—myself included—find difficult to offer up easily. It’s not that I am scared to fight for what I believe in—there have been times when I have gotten into serious, heated debates with my peers about their racism, sexism, etc. What holds me back is the idea of being vulnerable for an unspecified amount of time, out in public, on crowded concrete or grass fields. I’m expected to come with the same intensity and fire that my extroverted friends seem to offer without having to think twice about it.

Normally, I deal with such situations by leaving a party early or turning down an invitation completely. My friends and family don’t take offense to that because they know I am an introvert and enjoy solitude more than I do the company of others. But in situations such as public protests, especially when my people are hurting and I am called to action, is “’I’m an introvert” enough of a reason to step down from the stage I am called onto and hand the microphone to someone louder than myself?

I say no. Activism is not restricted to protests of individuals who march in the streets and chant in unison with their peers. I see activists as individuals who are actively working to make problems and injustices known and pushed to the forefront of people’s minds. As a person with a modest, yet notable following on social media, I’ve had people reach out to me and express their interest in and admiration of my speaking up on topics such as mental health and sexual assault through my writing.

It was through these messages that I realized that despite my fear of going out and marching or my low, shaky voice in public, I had the power to be an activist, all on my own terms. And that, to me, is what activism is all about.

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  • S L Burns

    “all on my own terms” This is the phrase that got my attention and prompted me to read this. My own terms include engaging respectfully, with peace of mind and without stoking my own anger, expectations and blame of others. I’m exploring how to do that. It seems in this extremely disrespectful and agressively dishonest environment that learning to engage on my own terms is a matter of self-preservation and lighting a candle for others who intend to do the same.

  • Eroñus Manalo

    Great post! Activism in our own way, I also personally believe in that.

    The Philippine National Hero, Jose Rizal, was an activist against injustices during the Spanish colonization in his country. I consider him as an introvert. His most famous contribution to the Philippines’ liberation from Spain, is his two novels—Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo—written to expose the anomalies and injustices, and to awaken the minds of his fellow Filipinos. His books became controversial, were banned, and he was condemned and executed by the charge of subversion and heresy.

    As the saying goes, which I think is more appreciated by introverts, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”