In practice, anyone who has done social justice work is immediately confronted by the overwhelming variation in ideology, experience and intentions among those who want to make a difference.
Now, as campus nervously awaits the inauguration of our president-elect and prepares to double down on social justice issues, it’s almost a given that CAPS is about to receive an influx in student demand. And yet, perhaps because the plethora of issues outside our campus have shifted our attention away, we’re not talking much about CAPS these days.
As organizational theorists would argue, Stanford University, like many other modern universities, is less a cohesive institution and more an “organized anarchy.” An institution organized in this way is difficult to understand, let alone organize against.
This is usually the trend: misinformed criticism of leftist activism or culture result in high-profile strawman arguments in popular media, which activists take great glee in tearing down. Real issues go unsolved, and both left and right further cement themselves into ironclad camps.
On Tuesday night, a hundred people gathered at Pigott Hall to begin organizing a unified coalition against oppression, hate and intolerance in the wake of the 2016 Presidential Election. In the audience were undergraduate and graduate students alike, as well as faculty and staff and non-Stanford-affiliated community members looking to contribute to the discussion. This meeting was an effort to bring together people – some of whom had never organized before – to strategize, organize and create a comprehensive coalition against hate and in support of marginalized and targeted communities.
2016 has been one of the worst years in recent memory for trans communities around the world. The 295 murders worldwide and 24 murders in the United States alone broke the previous record (271 and 22, in 2015), despite the increasing visibility of transgender, gender-variant and intersex people in society. As I wrote for 2015’s Trans Day of Remembrance, “never before have trans people been so visible in media and popular culture, and never before have trans people been so violently under threat.”
Right now, I’m scrolling past reblogged suicide hotlines and an endless stream of Facebook posts reacting to the news. I have to remind myself that the stages of grief include denial, anger, bargaining and depression, and the reactions of our generation are mourning perhaps the single biggest death of our lifetimes so far: the death of the status quo on an unimaginable scale.
Over the last year, advocates for LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination legislation campaigned tirelessly in the wake of gay marriage victories in 2015. A broad coalition of organizations and advocacy groups fought to ensure protections for queer and trans people on a state level, working with state legislatures around the country to create statutory protections in employment, housing and public accommodations. As 2016 nears its end, however, that coalition shows signs of falling apart.