A multicultural, interdisciplinary overview of activism as a means to an end.
As a social ethicist and Unitarian minister, Welch (Communities of Resistance and Solidarity: A Feminist Theology of Liberation, 2017, etc.) balances idealism and pragmatism, arguing that “we can be morally pure but strategically inept, and when that happens we lose.” Through surveys of literature, personal experience, and profiles of those on the front lines, she makes a case for “visionary pragmatism” as “an alternative to utopian thinking or cynicism and despair.” She finds kindred spirits where others see resistance or compromise: socially responsible corporations, socially engaged academics, a movement dubbed “Solutions Journalism” (which some would consider crossing the line from observer to participant), and Barack Obama, disparaged by some activists as too moderate but praised here for “one of the ongoing legacies of the Obama presidency—a catalytic form of civic engagement—not utopian but committed to the creation of microtopias that bear the seeds of ongoing critique and engagement.” The author’s approach stresses progress and process rather than pie-in-the-sky goals that see protests dissipate when they are unrealized. She allows that there are many different approaches that can be employed to achieve similar ends and that any sign of progress might well intensify resistance (Obama followed by Trump). Throughout, Welch draws from a tale told within the Potawatomi Nation of the “Windigo, a person driven by greediness with a heart as cold as ice, only focused on his or her own needs.” She urges white activists to recognize the Windigo within, to see how its spirit within the nation has exploited others, and to strive for an inclusive society that reflects and serves our better natures: “Helping people to create organizational structures and policies that identify and check such implicit biases or prejudices is essential in our work of creating a society and economic system that truly embodies our values.”
More of a call to reason than a call to arms, the book offers hope in the face of great challenges.