Thursday, January 29, 2009

What IS Social Justice?

A couple of weeks ago I went to the social justice retreat that was coordinated through the SLiCE office here at CSU. I had no idea what to expect going into it. Social justice was never something that was ever even a thought in my brain. Diversity, as it's been beaten to death, was never even such a huge "deal" to me before I came to CSU. And by deal I mean I merely treat everyone as equals and race, gender, sex, age, SES, etc have never been things that I oppress others for or even take into account. I see humans, I see people....I don't see the labels.

While at my time here at CSU several people have come into my life who have a passion for social justice. One being my bisexual black boss that's a woman, Bethel. The other being my roommate Britt. I know inequality exists in some areas but at the same time, don't I fight those inequalities by not perpetuating the system?

Anywho, I went to Estes for 2 1/2 days of intensive social justice discussions and activities. While I was there, I first had to conquer the task of labeling myself. I mean it's hard because I don't ever define or label myself. When it comes to my personality, I'm a plethora of just have to see what my mood is that day. When it comes to my looks, appearance, etc I once again just think of myself as human other than the occasional as a woman, you need to feel at a certain comfort level to walk alone and yes I do have to have men open jars for me. Whatever, I don't think that much of it. My circumstances are my circumstances and that is reality to me, I don't dwell on it.

Then came the task of labeling others which is hard. A) I don't ever do it and B) as a white person I've been told I'm racist my whole life if I label ANY person with ANY I don't. But I had to. I then had to identify where I fall in all of these regards to "privilege" and "oppression". This actually pissed me off though.....because these labels and identifying privilege and oppression was in turn instigating stereotypes....which INFURIATED ME and I was surprised that it doesn't infuriate those who are fervently for social justice. Isn't the point equality for all.....not perpetuating stereotypes?! I didn't get that. But I also found that though I'm told as having certain characteristics should make me more privileged or oppressed, I found that I didn't agree with many of these attributes.

A few examples:
1. Even as a victim of sexual violence, I do not view that attack as an oppression. In fact it was empowerment to me. It sucked. And yes I realize the institutions in place may be in the favor of men (well as I'm told anyway) but this guy didn't attack me because he was a man and I was a woman....what was in him was evil. Pure and simple. For the number of women he has attacked, there's no sex attached to it, it's pure evil.

2. I grew up in the working class. My parents first years together including years after my birth were made up of three jobs a piece and little extra income, if there ever was any. They started their own business and we moved up to the next tier (I don't know the right class term) but here we are back at square one, barely getting by. I consider myself working class. Though I did get the opportunity to go to college, it has been paid for almost on my own. I work my way through my life. I don't identify my existance as based upon where my income or my parents income limits me. It is what it is and I make do. But I work for what I have.

3. As a white person, I'm supposed to be considered an agent of racial injustice. How does that work if being white has worked against me my whole life?! Politically correct if the first thing that ever has to be a consideration when opening my mouth in fear of being told I'm discriminatory for not using the right world. I grew up believing monolinguil meant you only spoke Spanish (not one language....just Spanish). I've been called every "racial slur" against white people known to man. I've had teachers purposefully try to ruin my grades by losing work or the like because I was the white girl. How am I the agent?

Along those same lines....based on my time in Estes.....I would now classify myself as bi-racial. I am white. I am very proud of my Irish and Czechloslovakian roots. However, I'm also Native American Cherokee and I am very proud of that too!! Apparently this means I'm bi-racial though I've never thought of either one as a race, rather a heritage. My race is human.

Anywho, I don't know how I feel about all of this. It angered me during a few activities when the men were honestly wanting to know some feelings of the women about being a woman and how a certain activity made them feel and then the facilitators jumped down their throats saying that it's because of their "privilege" that they can even ask that question, that women don't have the same privilege. Fuck that. If I want to ask a question to anyone as a woman I will, my voice is and will be heard when it needs to be. It has nothing to do with race or gender. And how are you supposed to know how a "target" group feels if you can't ask them questions?! Honestly, isn't understanding where those you are oppressing' come from, isn't that part of the getting-to-know, learning, and healing process?!

I just really don't like being labeled. I don't like having to be politically correct when I have no idea what each individual "desires". Seriously...there's Spanish, Mexican, Latino, Chicano(a), Hispanic....Black, African-American.....Homosexual, Gay, Lesbian, Queer, am I supposed to know what an individual wants to be called?! If I say the wrong thing I'm being discriminatory according to those who are social justice advocates.

It was a good learning opportunity but just angered me that they are trying to fight inequality with inequality. They are perpetuating the system, by being so nitpicking and detailed, not being as open and receptive as I feel they should be. They use labels and stereotypes to fight labels and stereotypes. They are humiliated and proud for the same things. I just don't understand it.

To me there is one race, the human race. There is one color, the color of the person's soul. SES, age, gender, sexual orientation don't matter to me!! There are of course generalities among populations. I'm white, I can't dance, it's a fact. There is a reason behind the madness, you don't need to get offended over it.

Treat everyone with love, respect and decency. Recognize them for their beautiful wonderful qualities, embrace their flaws, and love them where they are at. Treat them all as you would treat yourself. Isn't that what equality and social justice is all about?!

1 comment:

A Lady Called Amy said...

I whole-heartedly agree.

I suppose I've never written down the thoughts in so many words as you have here, but I know I randomly think the things.

With Obama being inaugerated and everyone making a big deal that he is our FIRST black president, I get frustrated because, while I know that it is a historical moment, it is a shame that there is so much focus on his color. People keep saying "we've come so far..." But if we'd really come that far people wouldn't be saying anything having to do with race. He's a person, he's our president, hopefully some good things come of it. Any emphasis on race seems discriminatory, in my opinion.

I think, along with people's race, religion, SES, gender, sexual orientation and such there needs to be more understanding/openess toward people with "special needs." I have a few co-workers that fall into this "class." And other than looking different, and maybe doing things a little more slowly than the rest of us, I don't see a difference. With one particular individual I found myself having conflict. I have been trying to get to know him better and have actually found some common interests with him. People look at me with pity when they see he is talking to me, and when he walks away they comment to me... but it doesn't bother me. He is very smart when it comes to a lot of things and I admire him for that. I hate labels and judgement. I probably would have went crazy at the retreat you went to.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)