Written by Claire Langenbach-Wood
At a glance, social justice can seem broad and overwhelming. Looking closer, it can seem a little less broad (or not), a bit more complicated and much the same on the overwhelming front. However, being an activist for social justice doesn’t have to be as difficult as it may seem. It all starts with how you think. Now, I don’t want to tell you what to think. What you think is entirely up to you. I just want to highlight some ways of thinking that might allow you to see the world differently, from a different angle and maybe more critically. This is what social justice is all about – if we rely simply on the information that is given to us, we end up thinking the same way and through a very narrow lens. One source is just one person’s thoughts, and what is presented as fact, is just one person’s version of reality, and not all realities. Social justice requires an understanding of not one perspective, but many.
So step one is letting go of the idea that your perspective is the perspective. Yeah… so we can’t get rid of that idea completely. What we understand about the world is always going to be effected by our beliefs and our experiences. Look at it more as recognising that EVERYONE’S experiences are as valid as our own. Due to the connectedness of our experiences, all of our actions in favour of our own lives are bound to affect the lives of other people, whether that is negative or positive.
Step two is to educate yourself. This doesn’t take as much time as it may seem. Most of us spend hours online, so why not spend 20 minutes learning about a little social justice. Something I noticed when I wanted to learn more was that my Facebook and Instagram feeds were filled with stuff that required thoughtless consumption. To combat this, I started liking/following pages or accounts that had stuff to say about social justice, and that gave me new ways of thinking about the world and activism. It doesn’t take long to skim through an article or read a post. Stemming from this is that social media is a really good place to get messages out to a bunch of people. If you see something you think is important, SHARE IT! Activism doesn’t work if we all remain separate individuals, it works when individuals form a powerful mass. If you aren’t much of a reader, then podcasts are a neat way to acquire information, and videos or documentaries are just as good. Type in an inequality out there that you are interested in and you’re set. An important thing to remember is to make sure, however you are educating yourself, that you have multiple sources. Getting all your information from one place isn’t gonna give you the whole picture, especially if it’s from a mainstream media source.
Next up, check your privilege. Depending on who you are, where you were born and your circumstances, our society may favour you or discriminate against you. Our world is unequally divided between the powerful and the powerless. We are not taught about many inequalities by institutions such as schools, universities, mainstream media and the government, because the power of the most powerful lies in the exploitation of the people below them. Power lies in the hands of the capitalists who seek to divide us by our differences so that we, the people, cannot unite. Exploitation persists if the people don’t see this oppression, or choose to ignore it. People we need to rally around and support right now are people of colour, first nations people, women, the working class, LGBTI+ people, people with disabilities and people with mental illness. Use your privilege to make silenced voices heard. If you want to know more about white privilege, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh is a really important read. This is the link: https://www.deanza.edu/faculty/lewisjulie/White%20Priviledge%20Unpacking%20the%20Invisible%20Knapsack.pdf
Thought is the beginning of action. If you want to be an activist everyday, start by challenging the way you think and share these challenges with those around you. Protest isn’t always on the street. It can start in the home. We can all be powerful catalysts for change if we give ourselves the opportunity to be.