The most valuable skill that I have learned in my four years now of being heavily involved in social justice work and advocacy is a mental sifting technique. What used to be a general feeling of unease about a person can now be articulated as a warning sign that this is not a person with whom I’d want to work.

Oftentimes, the warning is that this person doesn’t actually have an interest in making the world a better place, bringing about positive change, or influencing people towards a more inclusive, compassionate, worldly viewpoint. Instead, their primary interest in being involved in advocacy is to find and colonize a social space where they will be given carte blanche to be rude, self-centred, obnoxious, and in some cases, outright bullying to other people involved in the organization, with the hope that their behaviour will go unchallenged because they happen to come from a marginalized identity.

It’s tragic how common these types are, but at least now, I have the tools to recognize them early before they inflict any damage on me or compromise my work.