ICAS Scholar-Activist Profile Series – November 2014: Amber E. George
What catalyzed your activism?
Ever since I was a little person, I have always been socially conscious of people and things around me. I become quite passionate when I witness the experience of struggle; be it human, nonhuman, organic, or even inanimate. My philosophy towards life is quite simple; improve the lives of others (with others) whenever I can and always leave something better than I found it. This is what inspires me to be a social justice scholar-activist-ally. I work on social justice projects because I want to help liberate everyone, oppressed and privileged alike that are harmed by systemic oppression. I do this work for them, for me, for us, and for future generations.
What are some lessons you have learned along the way?
It’s absolutely imperative that we approach activism and social justice initiatives with a spirit of interconnectedness. If we attempt to dismantle one system of oppression like speciesism in isolation, without considering racism or sexism for example, we are doomed to fail. We fail because these systems intersect to accentuate and strengthen one another. It’s also important that we check our privilege and monitor our location within these systems of oppression. We must first hold ourselves accountable for bringing about justice for all then we can impose this responsibility onto others. This is not “his difficulty,” “her issue,” or “their fight,” but rather this is “our problem.” We are all in this together. One must recognize that while no one person made this oppressive system, we are all still a part of it. One may scoff at this idea but once one gains greater awareness, the path to enlightenment becomes all the more clear. You have the power to transform feelings of guilt into empowerment. Be proactive. Understand that conscious recognition of the system is a gift, not a burden. Don’t be discouraged. Take one day at a time.
Do you have strategies for avoiding compassion fatigue?
As a very passionate and dedicated person, I struggle with this. You have to first take care of your self before you can do activist work. Burnout or fatigue often creeps up because we’re so engrossed in helping a cause that we often forget to help ourselves. It is incredibly important to practice self-love that involves loving oneself – caring about, respecting, and knowing oneself. Another way to avoid burnout is by sharing the brunt of the work to change the world with good company. Find other activists and allies to offer each other mutual support.
What projects are you currently involved in?
I am currently editing a volume that explores nonhuman animal representations in the media with fellow ICAS board member, JL Schatz. I’m also editing another manuscript that explores Eco-ability. On the local level, I’m an organizing member of Binghamton Can Do Better, a group that encourages residents to pursue alternative non-violent/anti-oppressive educational and entertainment venues as opposed to circuses and zoos. On the national and global level, I continue to be a proud board member of Institute of Critical Animal Studies (ICAS) serving as the Executive Director of Finance.