How would you define Social Consciousness? To heavily paraphrase Steve Biko, voice of the Black Consciousness movement in South Africa: “Social Consciousness is the acceptance, rejection, and application of the value systems of where you live, and/or call community.” Yet, with the rapid development of social technology, and the rise of social activism, Social Consciousness is no longer limited to our immediate communities, and as Steve Biko voiced “the Countries of our birth.” The evolution of Social Consciousness has all but erased the communal lines, and has bonded with our urgency, and agency in such a way that it is now intrinsically tied to our own consciousness of self. Social consciousness has now become who we are.
Does this mean that we forget our communities, and the Countries of our birth, developing a more self-centered view of how the community should serve us? At its foundation, regardless of the evolution, Social Consciousness is still a collective community voice. As musician Brian Eno so artistically explained, “When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That’s one of the great feelings—to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.”
Like most things, Social Consciousness is subjective, it is a compilation of our lived experiences, upbringing, environment, religious and moral values, plus our educational resources; because all these things serve to inform us, there is no standard to test our social consciousness. What we can do is ask ourselves the hard questions, seek out our whys behind the whats, and then walk in that truth towards, and amongst our community.
As Dwain Wellington Rattray shared, Social Consciousness “is recognizing the intricacies of a community.” In an effort to recognize these intricacies, I have gathered some important questions to ask ourselves in testing our social consciousness. This is not a frivolous beauty magazine quiz, rather a mirror to our intentions, helping us to recognize our personal intricacies while settling into the intricacies of our community.
Is your Social Consciousness self centered or community centered? In navigating through the understanding of what makes your community tick, are your thoughts centered on what can you do for the community, or what can the community do for you? Let us be honest, both are productive, and both get the work done, yet only one is intentional. Referring back to Brian Eno, the community does not immerse itself into the sound of your voice, rather your voice immerses itself in the collective voice of the community. Reconciling with your intent, your “why” will save you inauthentic interactions, and wolf in sheep’s clothing articulations. The vibes do not lie, and knowing your “why” helps you know your limit, your spending point, and your energy exertions.
Can you articulate your Social Consciousness in your own words? Once again, the “why” of your understanding of self in/and community, is as important as your understanding of self in/and community. It is easy to mishmash a social consciousness based on memes, reposts, shares and re-tweeted snapshots of information. If you cannot articulate in your own words your social consciousness, and back up your “why”, I encourage you at the very least to click the links, read the articles you skimmed over, and engage with those in your community. Ask questions, attend networking events, attend talks physically or virtually, there is no shame in saying, “I do not understand it all, and I am willing to learn.”
Does your Social Consciousness demand what it is not open to give? Often in recognizing our community, the passion that arises from the protection of what is being created and nurtured causes us to demand tolerance, and acceptance while responding with intolerance, and dismissal. We all have the right to voice, walk in, and live out our beliefs and subjective social consciousness in the ways we see fit. As a family is made up of all types, so exists the same beauty in community. In affirming others that their story, their voice, and their being is valued and necessary, we must recognize that this value and necessity also extends to those of opposing beliefs and views—save for those that are oppressive, and violent whose views are steeped in the very systemic/systematic ideologies against which we are struggling. Although very cliché, the golden rule transcends all religion, and sense of morality, and settles into the realm of necessary human interaction: “Do unto others, as you want them to do unto you.” What you demand and require, is what you must also be willing to extend.
How intersectional is your Social Consciousness? Recently I tweeted, “I’m super woman, but I don’t want to be anyone’s champion.” The truth is, we cannot fight for everyone, and stand in to champion every cause. What we can do however, is understand the intricacies of that which makes up our community, and be mindful to not dismiss, ignore, or label anyone’s fight insignificant because we do not agree, and/or understand the urgency of the struggle. Understanding that oppression exists in our community on all levels, and in all systems, and that all forms of oppression have investments in each other, is integral in recognizing our communal space. I appreciate Urban Dictionary’s offering on Intersectionality: “Intersectionality states that one form of oppression can be shaped by and can shape other forms of oppression.” An example of intersectionality would be: a black woman experiences intersectionality because she experiences both racism, and sexism. How open are you to learning, understanding, and articulating that these intersections exist?
A true [r]evolution in maturity occurs when we start to see ourselves as a whole in the greater whole. Social Consciousness as Karl Marx defined is not determined by the consciousness of our (individual) being, rather it is determined by the consciousness of our social being. When we begin to see ourselves as the keeper of our brothers and our sisters, the recorder of our stories, and the mobility of our struggles, those that live in our communities, and the Countries of our birth will live with a greater intent, with purpose, and with understanding of how and where they fit in.
Lamoi is a writer who believes that everything in life stems from love. Her mission is to spread her philosophy to all brave enough to embrace. You can find Lamoi on twitter: @LaLaArdor.