Murder in My Milieu

Being murdered is an occupational hazard of being an activist. How many activities can this be said of? Dying of drug overdose is (or has been) a hazard of the music scene, accidental death a hazard of the building trades, being shot by police a hazard of being a poor person of color, being murdered by a relative or stranger is a hazard of being a woman, especially a poor woman of color.

But being murdered to stop you for speaking up and acting against corruption, exploitation and injustice? That is a hazard specific to activists, including activist journalists.


Over the course of nearly five decades of activism, at least five people I’m personally acquainted with have been murdered for struggling against injustice. And I will state for the record that I have never been part of any armed liberation struggle in any country. Activists absolutely do not need to be part of or proponents of armed struggle in order for arms to be used against them. Most activists who are murdered are working peaceably in their own communities for causes of community uplift such as saving aspects of the environment, their cultures, their livelihoods or the lives of their families and people.

For activists, murder is the final stop on what is often a long string of aggressions. That killing is at the bitter end  of numerous injuries, affronts, indignities, attacks. Or, I should say, it represents a bitterend for the victim, but the pain and terror continues for their often wide circle of loved ones.

Murder also intersects with activism in that some people become activists because murder has found them and pushed them, tear-stained, screaming with anger and pain, onto the path of activism. Along with the direct suffering come the effects on those surrounding the murdered, the collateral damage. The PTSD. Even the folks who become more active, more energized and committed, still undergo the same human suffering.


The terrible worst consequences, murder, as well as torture and disappearance, do not only happen to activists, but they do to an extent much greater than for practically any other group. These and other occupational hazards of being an outspoken activist—which increase the more outspoken and effective the person is, need to be acknowledged.


I wonder what the percentage of risk is for activists, compared with those pursuing other . vocations?

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