There are many more Americans today (June 29, 2020) that are vocally supporting the fight against racial discrimination than there were on May 24.
While this development is welcomed by most long-time activists, it’s only human that some of them might think silently to themselves, “It’s about damn time.”
It’s natural and intuitive to resent the “bandwagon jumpers” and “fair-weather friends” who have suddenly discovered a passionate commitment to pursuing a more just society.
But bandwagon jumpers and fair-weather friends are both the symptom of and the cause of change, and should be welcomed into any movement you support.
The fact that supporting a particular movement has suddenly become trendy is the catalyst for change. In a democracy, politicians respond to voter preferences, which means that popular policies tend to become law. (Policies supported by deep-pocketed special interests also tend to become law, but that is a problem for another time.)
Moreover, there is a strong feedback loop. The more mainstream a movement becomes, the easier it is for the next person to join. After all, everyone else is doing it! This is a good thing. In the past week, I have been asked to give my time to a number of organizations that mentor professionals who belong to underrepresented minorities. These opportunities make it easy for me to do good; it should not be surprising that when it’s easier for me to help a cause, I tend to do more for it.
That’s right, I’m a bandwagon jumper too. Do I feel good that prior to May 25, while I did many things to help underrepresented minorities, the majority of my philanthropic time was devoted to general social impact and promoting women in the high tech industry in particular? No. But I also realize that feeling guilty does nothing to help others, and usually gets in the way of making a difference.
That brings me to another nuance: While you should welcome bandwagon jumpers, you should also take into account the faithful and persistent support of long-time supporters. They should not be penalized or pushed aside by a sudden influx of inexperienced but enthusiastic Johnny-and-Janey-come-latelys.
I love to write and speak, and certainly I intend to leverage that love in support of the causes I adopt. But I am not, nor should I be the face of racial justice. If you are a bandwagon jumper like me, raise your voice in support, but then pass the microphone to those who have been in the fight longer.
To that end, if reading this essay has prompted you to self-reflect, I recommend that you continue your journey by reading these pieces from my friends and fellow Silicon Guild members: