picking the battle

Do you list social justice as a core value?  Are you passionate about creating change?  Do you ever get stuck and feel overwhelmed with how much change is needed and struggle with where to start?  Me, too.

The really great thing about something being a core value, though, is that I will always feel that desire to pursue change, despite the struggle.  At the end of the Social Justice Training Institute, everyone gets a social justice related pin through an activity where everyone picks up a pin face down and then you exchange them with others until time is called.  The idea is that the pin you end up with is the pin that was meant for you.  Here’s what I ended up with:

If you want peace, work for justice. *

In my opinion, there is no better quote for me than this because if I want peace, internally, I know I need to work for justice.

Still, it can be easy for me to hang out in my privilege and not take action.

Two case-in-points:

#1: Toms Shoes vs. “Truly” Helping:
I read this great article about how Toms has a great idea, is marketed well, but isn’t ultimately solving the problem.  Inside, I had always kind of felt this way.  Sure, someone in need getting a pair of shoes when I buy one is a nice perk – if I was going to buy the shoes regardless; at the same time, it’s also a way to feel a little better inside about ourselves.  It’s like the $100 a plate formal banquet to raise money for the hungry — why don’t we just feed them?  Well, because it’s harder to feed them and we don’t always know how.

#2: The Idea of “Professionalism” and the Embedded Hierarchy / Power Dyanmics:
Waaaay back in April, this tweet came up in my feed:

Well, I’m ready now, I guess!  Joe Ginese and his All About Development post had my brain spewing ideas faster than I could collect them.  Therefore, when Lisa’s tweet really got me thinking about this topic back in April, I was actually writing this post about conferencing instead.  In addition to Lisa’s tweet, back in January, #SAchat tackled Dressing for Success: Is it a Privilege?  I wasn’t able to participate in chat that day, but I definitely read the transcripts.  I 100% understand that there are reasons to dress professionally (& repercussions if you don’t).  I can also agree that there are ways to dress professionally on a budget, but there are repercussions there as well – like how nice your suit is or whether it’s a brand name.  Now, for me, it’s easy to see how rooted our society is in socioeconomic status and deconstructing that – well…yeah.  Here’s the idea that creates the dissonance for me: I believe that our perception of what is professional is rooted in what upper class white men decided was appropriate attire long before I ever lived.  Royals wore the predecessor to the suit, politicians dressed in coats and ties, and women wore riding jackets with billowing skirts.  Dressing for success implies that we need to tailor our attire to a culturally inherited idea of what conveys power, respect, money, and knowledge.  Just like Mr. and Mrs., Sir and Ma’am (Madame), dressing “professionally” engages us us in this “required” nod to our predecessors.  Is this a discussion I can engage in?  100%.  Is this something I feel like I can change?  Not really.  I can dress informally, but that doesn’t send the same message as refusing to buy a product (not that I’m refusing to buy Toms – more like refusing to buy things like the currently trendy t-shirts emblazoned with so-called “Native American” prints and patterns).

Practicing congruence (acting in line with one’s values) and living authentically could mean that I would question each person wearing Toms and ask them why not just donate the money – or wearing sweats every day as a refusal to comply with an antiquated system.  Yet I do neither of these.  I see it as choosing my battles because if I didn’t, working for social justice would overwhelm me.  I would constantly feel angry and powerless.  And yet I know that my ability to choose is a privilege in itself.  It’s cyclical and complicated, but for now, it’s how I manage.

How do you manage?  What are your strategies to address injustice without getting angry at every commercial (don’t get me started on advertising/gender norms)?

*footnote: I only just found out today this quote is from Pope Paul VI; to be honest, a lot bubbled up for me in that moment based on my experience/opinion of the Catholic church – my vision of justice doesn’t always jive with theirs.  Going to have to spend some time unpacking that one.

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Filed under life stuff, relations, social justice, student affairs

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