The Audacity of Apathy

Thousands of birds falling from the sky.

Rates of homelessness rising everyday.


Gross acts of domestic terrorism.

Millions of people unemployed, uneducated and unheard.

Where is the outrage? What is happening to this world?

Oh the Audacity of Apathy.

This week marked the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the assassination of  Patrice Lumumba. People across the globe remarked on the significance of these two men and the overall fight for freedom. While they both lived in two different parts of the world under different conditions; the systems of oppression were very similar. The fact that an individual could be killed because of an ability to mobilize, ignite and agitate people into action was dangerous. These two men put their lives on the line for a freedom neither would live to see. They had the audacity to dream, to fight and to sacrifice; where can we find that audacity today?

Malcolm X, a leader I continue to learn more about, once said that Patrice Lumumba was “the greatest black man who ever walked the African continent. He didn’t fear anybody. He had those people [the colonialists] so scared they had to kill him. They couldn’t buy him, they couldn’t frighten him, they couldn’t reach him.” Malcolm X was a self-educated man, he didn’t attend college. He knew more then than I know now, I want to know what Malcolm knew. I now have the privilege and opportunity to know even more. Our access to information my generation holds is unparalleled. We have a responsibility to harness it and USE it to transform our communities. In Washington, DC alone I can be in a room with 100 Black people and every single one of them will likely have one, two or three degrees. Unfortunately, possessing degrees does not equate to possessing intellectual fortitude and the empathy to build power in our communities across the country. We need more self-education and ownership over our formal educations. Education facilitated by those not invested in our communities, not from our communities nor based on the narratives of our communities; breeds apathy.

Inaction is consent.

We simply can not be comfortable with the status quo. Thinking about reality is tough and apathy is numbing. The audaciousness of apathy allows Black communities to boast the highest incarceration rates, the lowest graduation rates and continue a cycle where some “make it” while most never will. It’s not enough for me to be able to succeed if my cousin can’t even read. How dare I?  It’s not enough for me to gain access to resources and knowledge if I never open the door wider for the next young Black person. How dare I? I do not face the danger of being lynched for picking up a book, how dare I not pursue self- education? How dare I not do so with great fervor and an unrelenting spirit?

What is our responsibility? What is our duty?

I’ve internalized the idea of consent through action and inaction.  Whether  you give consent through the ballot or by staying home, you’ve made a choice. Your choice impacts what the results of the election are regardless of whether you entered the booth or not. Whether you give consent to the violence running rampant in your community or not, you’ve made a choice. Your choice impacts the safety and mental health of your community regardless of whether you choose to speak out against violence or not. Whether you give consent because of fear or profit, you’ve made a choice.

Choosing to be apathetic in the face of so much blatant disrespect for life is perhaps one of the most audacious acts I see everyday. Our leaders display apathy each time they speak-out late or simply decide not to speak at all. Our people lack a collective consciousness of our struggle. Our people lack self-love. Our world lacks love.

The Audacity of Apathy in the face of so much is deadly. We cannot afford the luxury of apathy regardless of individual wealth or success. We will rise together or we will fall together. Only we have that choice to make.



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  2. Great post. Wonderfully written- you have a beautiful voice.

    I do agree with you. It’s a radical notion, but we should accept the idea that inaction = consent. This radical way of thinking could really change the world.

    • I don’t think it’s radical at all. Or maybe that’s because I have the viewpoint that both of you have, that change is our responsibility. My biggest struggle to date has been dealing with individuals who don’t care about issues. I can understand not caring about everything (we all have a limit on what we can be passionate and informed about), however those who choose to live in their bubble without seeing how their actions (or inactions) impact society is beyond frustrating.

      I’ve been told that I can’t make people care. I’m finding it so hard to accept and internalize this message. Maybe the struggle lies in making people care. Because the ones who genuinely do will find a way to affect change (even if we don’t always agree with their approach).

      • True, I don’t think it’s an exceptionally radical notion that we have a responsibility to give back, but I think most people do.

        I think it’s radical because if everyone thought this way, the world would be *way* better than it is now.

        I too find it difficult to deal with people who simply don’t care about change.. I am still learning the best way to reach out to them and help them realize the importance of this work.

        On the other hand, I’m also dealing with some sense of disillusionment; does our individual efforts actually make any difference? Or is the world headed towards progress regardless of what we do? Sigh.

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  4. This is great stuff. Really great. One thing, though — I’ve been thinking about the idea of “apathy” a lot, and the more I do the more I doubt its usefulness.

    A lot of what’s taken for apathy is actually, I think, despair. It’s a nagging, grinding, chronic despair that leads a person to think that what’s wrong will always be wrong and that they can’t play any part in changing it. It’s not apathy, because apathy would mean that they didn’t care. They do care, often, but they’re resigned to things the way they are because they think they’re powerless.

    This is something I talk a lot about with students when they bring up the question of campus apathy. I ask them whether the problem is that other students don’t give a damn about the barriers they’re facing, or whether they just assume those barriers are insurmountable. My hunch is that it’s usually mostly the second, even when it looks and sounds like the first.

    • You make an awesome point when you said “I ask them whether the problem is that other students don’t give a damn about the barriers they’re facing, or whether they just assume those barriers are insurmountable.”

      I guess my struggle then really is convincing people that the barriers are not insurmountable.

      • That’s exactly it. If the problem is apathy, you have to convince them to care. If the problem is perceived powerlessness, then your task is very different.

        The bad news is that convincing people that they have power is hard. The good news is that the best way to do it is to just go out and make change — which means that the work of activism and the work of movement-building wind up being the same work.

  5. I read each and and every post. You lay your thoughts out in a clear and concise manner. I truly enjoyed this post. I’m sharing it with my students tomorrow and we are going to have a class discussion. I have enjoyed your thoughts since day one and looking to reading more!!!

  6. Apathy and Freedom walk hand in hand. Freedom is the immunity from obligation or duty. Apathy is the direct result fron lack of obligation or duty. The Audacity of Apathy is simply the embracment of Freedom. As much as your are Free to care someone else is a as equally Free not to care. Long live Freedom.

  7. A high IQ doesn’t guarantee a high EQ.

    The stronger people around me are, the stronger I am.

    I could go on and on about the need of giving back and the need of creating a society that encourages that.

    So much of it is about habits.

    But that is all I have to say.

  8. I completely agree with you! If apathy is to strong a word, ambivalence is not. It is not paralization from despair — it’s more “what can we/I do about it?” Watching the protestors in Egypt should shake us up, but it won’t. Knowing that American car manufacturers and banks are still making money hand over fist after *we* bailed them out should enrage us — it doesn’t.

    What will it take for *us* to move together and protest something again one day?

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  10. I feel very strongly about the access of knowledge that is at our fingertips and the lack of use for information and facts and informed decision making! It is horrible that people will not take 10 mins more to just educate themselves on something other than bossip or entertainment on the internet. Good points and thus must continue to be pushed!

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