Compassionate Change Agent

– Author –


This process of identifying our own privileges and conversely the consequences of being without it is the first step in becoming anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic activists. Most of the work I try to do seems to occur within the home. 

I live with my parents while I’m going to school, and I’m very lucky to have two parents who love me and do not bat an eye at having an adult daughter living at home. My parents and I, however, could not be more different. Most days interacting with them requires that I exert extreme patience and understanding of both the world and the homes they were brought up in. 

That being said, as someone who more or less “knows better,” I also recognize that I have the personal responsibility of offering to educate those who will not otherwise seek out the truth themselves. This is not always easy, for neither myself nor my parents, but it is necessary. 

The most recent conversation I had with my parents revolved around the topic of immigration, specifically of that across our southern border. Their perceptions of immigration, both documented and undocumented, line up with some pretty common myths, such as the idea that undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes, immigrants are “stealing” jobs from Americans, and that the “worst” people from other countries are coming in and raising our rates of crime and violence. A simple Google search is enough to break down these arguments, but I believe that for some people these opinions are more than just opinions, but personal identifiers, as if being anti-immigration is just as important to my mother’s identity as is her Catholic upbringing. 

I hardly expect to change my parents’ minds at this point in their lives, but I know that any change has to start with conversation. But what does happen after explaining to them that undocumented immigrants pay upwards of billions of dollars in taxes for benefits they’ll never receive, that the jobs that undocumented laborers are “taking” are not glamorous but exploitative, and that the majority of violence in this country is home-grown, is that they run out of reasons to stand against the issues, and once their arguments begin to fail, so does the validity of their beliefs. 

As compassionate change agents, I think we at some point come to accept that the change we’re fighting for will not be accomplished in our lifetimes, and at times that notion can be so disheartening that the fight feels hopeless. But it can also bring reassurance; reassurance that there is a need for the work we’re doing, and the reward isn’t in trying to save the world, but leaving it better off than it was when we got here.

Marissa is a student at St Cloud State University.