Conor Friedersdorf writes: Mahad Olad, a high school student, used to be active in “the local social-justice scene” around Minneapolis, Minnesota, attending meetings and leading demonstrations for feminist, LGBT, and anti-racism groups. Then he became disillusioned.
When he was just 16, the ACLU profiled the teen activist. He came to the U.S. as a child. Later, his immigrant parents took him back to their home country, Kenya, so that their son could experience what it was like to live in that culture as well.
“In Kenya, he saw the harsh realities faced by women trying to access reproductive health-care services and how the gay and lesbian community is forced to live underground,” the ACLU explained. “While Mahad cares about many social-justice and civil-liberties issues, he is especially drawn to reproductive freedom and LGBT rights because of his experience in Kenya. He has been one of his school’s biggest advocates for comprehensive sex education and has helped to organize events at his school to teach students important information about comprehensive safe-sex practices, something that his school does not teach in class.”
Two years later he was sending off a frustrated email to me.
“I genuinely cared about these causes—still do,” he wrote, referencing everything from anti-racism to LGBT rights to reproductive health. “I believed I was doing something noble. At the same time,” he added, “a large part of me was not quite in agreement with some of the views and concepts espoused by social-justice groups. Their pro-censorship tendencies, fixation with intersectionality, and constant uproar over seemingly trivial and innocuous matters like ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘microaggressions’ went against my civil-libertarian sensibilities.”
He fit in fine at the ACLU. But interacting with social-justice groups made up of high school and college students, he increasingly found himself having to bite his tongue.
“I never voiced my personal disagreements because having dissenting views is strictly forbidden in the activist circles I was a part of,” he explained. “If you’re white, you will be charged with being a ‘bad ally.’ (There’s also certain gatherings you cannot come to because your mere presence might be threatening.) If you’re a person of color, your disagreements will usually be dismissed as some form of ‘internalized racism,’ ‘internalized sexism,’ or ‘respectability politics,’ among many other activist jargon’s thrown at individuals who do not conform the groups views.”
Eventually, he started to speak up anyway, he said. [Continue reading…]