The guest writer of this piece is Elsa Hollyer. She grew up in Vermont, and is a junior transfer student from a college in Southern California. She’s majoring in Music Therapy, and minoring in Peace and Social Justice. When she graduates she intends to apply my passion for Social Justice work into the field of Music Therapy
“All…are therefore involved in this oppressive system, and none of us can control whether we participate, only how…” – Allan Johnson
It is not difficult to see all the problems we face on a global, national, or local level in society, if you know what you’re looking for. It is pretty easy to learn about the problems, but it is much harder to actively be part of the solution. As Johnson articulates above, you are either complying with oppressive forces, or you are working to undo them; there is no such thing as neutrality.
As a white woman, it is simply not enough to understand racism and the structures that maintain racism; I have to do more. Knowing about racism is half the battle. There is always more to be done and there is more than one right way to work against oppressive structures. However, the actions we take should be guided by an understanding of the problem we’re combatting and the actual needs of the individuals who are marginalizing, as blind action can actually be incredibly harmful. A recent article entitled “Accomplices Not Allies,” describes some of these individuals as “Floaters.” Floaters are self-proclaimed allies who do not take responsibility for their actions, even when they are detrimental to a social justice cause, and put others in danger. Despite good intentions, these individuals are not great allies. As Dr. Grant says in Jurassic Park, “Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.” (more…)
Olivia Barrows is a first year student at Pacific University planning to major in International Studies with minors in French and Gender & Sexuality Studies. Barrows came to Pacific from Colorado because she wanted a small school with a positive social outlook, and Barrows says she has yet to be disappointed with that decision.
I came to Pacific from Grand Junction, Colorado. I woke up to the classic Colorado Mountains and sunny skies every morning, but the social landscape waiting for me outside was a far cry from the liberal living space offered up by Boulder and Denver. Instead, I come from a guns blazing, diesel chugging, Planned Parenthood rejecting town. I spent my high school years watching fellow male yearbook editors be recognized for their efforts while I didn’t even get a handshake at the end of the year from the principal. As a result, I entered college unsure of my worth to the world.
So when I finally found a group of people who accepted me and were as passionate about creating social change as I am, it was one of the most heartwarming moments of my life. This happened at the Social Justice retreat. We were pairs, engaging in dialogue about how we fit in with various social justice movements. One of the questions we were tasked with discussing was “why are you involved in social justice?” I answered by verbalizing my commitment to creating a better world for my brothers and for the women who will follow me. There was a point in the discussion when my partner looked at me and said, “I’m so glad to hear you say that. I feel the same way.” (more…)
Talking about social justice is easy when those around you are working for the same issues. The real work begins when you talk about social justice issues with those who don’t see the world through the same lenses. Teach them what you know. Convince spectators to take action. Embrace the uncomfortable. Know that means you’re doing something right.
It’s okay to be vulnerable. Just because you see injustices that other people suffer from, doesn’t mean you don’t suffer from injustices of your own. Your struggles are not any less valid than theirs. Let down your walls. Take time for self-care. Vulnerability is not weakness.
Just because you see your privilege, doesn’t mean you are any less of a social justice worker. Privilege is not something to feel guilty about. It does not mean you cannot do social justice work or that the work you do is less real. Being an ally is a powerful tool.
Never stop learning or listening. If you’re brand new to social justice work or if you have years of experience, consider the value of other’s experiences. Listening to new ideas could very well improve your own movement.