Interesting post about the uses and changes of activist language, that strikes me as relevant to a lot of the conversations that people get into on the internet when it comes to trying to not offend one another, directly or indirectly.
If a handful of time-travelling activists from our own era were somehow transported into a leftist political meeting in 1970, would they even be able to make themselves understood? They might begin to talk, as present-day activists do, about challenging privilege, the importance of allyship, or the need for intersectional analysis. Or they might insist that the meeting itself should be treated as a safe space. But how would the other people at the meeting react? I'm quite sure that our displaced contemporaries would be met with uncomprehending stares.
We can reverse the scenario, and the picture looks similar. If a group of time-travelling activists from the heyday of the New Left, members perhaps of the Black Panther Party, the Organization for Afro-American Unity, or Students for a Democratic Society, were transported to a political meeting of activists in our own time, they might quickly begin referring to the need to unite "the people" in a common struggle for "liberation," by constructing "an alliance" based on "solidarity." In this case, the problem would not be one of understanding, so much as credibility. They would be understood, I imagine, at least in general terms. But would they be taken seriously? The terms in which they express their politics — the people, liberation, alliances — seem like (and indeed, are) a throwback to an earlier era. It seems likely that they would be deemed hopelessly insensitive to the specificity of different struggles against privilege. They would be accused, perhaps, of glossing over key issues of "positionality" and "allyship" by referring not to "folks," as most contemporary activists would, but to "the people," as if it were unitary and shared a common set of experiences.
It's a nuanced and respectful piece, worth a read and a conversation, imo. I'm on the younger side, but most of my activist background is rooted in labour issues, so i'm more familiar and more comfortable with the older set of concepts, and I admit I occasionally find modern privilege-speak grating. I can honestly quite sympathize with people are suddenly encountering it on what seemed like a totally innocent internet comment and finding it just bizarre. This article went a long way to making me a little more respectful of that language and what it's representing.