To each, their own definition and method of fostering justice, peace, equality etc. And it is true that with different conceptions of ways to continuously transform our societies for the better, there is a common ground. A common ground of fear. Having fear does not mean that there is an absence of courage. It just means that usually in the quest for change and a desire for a better society, there are those emotions, threats and doubts that transform into fear.
I do not always want to seem as the advocate in the room. I will be honest with you that I have overheard racial slurs and stereotypes and did not react. It is indeed true that one does not have to respond to every ignorant or evil statement. However, most times, my decision to not react is as result of fear. Usually, the fear of alienation and/or the fear of attack. Some of us can agree that stereotypes tend to come out when people feel comfortable with each other. So, in terms of fear of alienation, I may keep quiet or address the issue in a different way than I feel that I should because I do not want to have a fall out with someone who’s relationship with me, I cherish. In public, I am very less likely to react because I want to safeguard myself from harm or verbal abuse.
Sometimes, you may fear not mainly for yourself but for those that you cherish – family members, a spouse, friends etc. You may find yourself carefully selecting the approaches that you take towards social justice, for example, for the sake of the safety of your loved ones, especially if you do not reside in a democratic and free state. You could fear that benefits will be withdrawn from you and replaced with sanctions, if you decide to take a bold step towards what you think is the right move for your community.
It is okay to be afraid and again, the feeling of fear does not mean that you are no longer courageous. I think that fear sometimes is a guide. It can help us choose our battles wisely because in truth, we cannot react to everyone and everything. However, there is a difference between letting fear guide you and letting it rule you. Sometimes, it takes trying to see that our fears were just a figment of our imagination. It takes trying even while feeling afraid, to discover that people are ready to support your quest for a better society and that their influence and numbers are more than those of your detractors.