I have been struggling with how to do the work many of us call ‘Social Justice.’ I understand the why - at least I believe I do. I am on a journey to understand my role in changing the world, which is no doubt a privilege. It has taken some time to get over the fear of doing the work correctly and instead operate from the heart - continuously challenging my perspective.
As I began to engage this work in a healthier manner, I noticed patterns of bad habits that educators exhibit while being change agents. These habits, in the name of justice and equity, get in the way of making authentic, strategic, and sustaining change. Below are ten counterproductive behaviors of Social Justice educators, all explored from the unique intersections of my privileged and oppressed lens.
Let me first hold myself accountable:
I’m guilty of numbers 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, and 8. I must do better and I am thankful and grateful that 3, 5, 9 and 10 don’t, I think, apply to me. That means there is already some growth even though there’s more growing for me to do.
[1. Shaming our allies instead of educating.
Be careful how we hold others accountable. At times, we fall into this righteous place where we live for the moment to be right, but more so to impose the wrath of our rightness. We lose track of educating and become “Social Justice avengers”. We thrash anyone that makes mistakes or does not acknowledge their privilege, often out of ignorance. When we act this way, we instill fear and frustration in our allies, immobilizing them. Before you respond, ask yourself what do you want the result to be? Proving that you “right” or developing a stronger, more capable ally?
2. Lead with our oppressed identities – forgetting that we have immense privilege as well.
How is it that we are some of the first people to forget that we are privileged? Our maleness, middle class, able-bodied, Christian, age, education, or whatever our privilege, emanates from us. It is our being and colluding is as simple as breathing. Own our privilege. Recognize and acknowledge when we have the wind behind us. Be committed to your growth and allow yourself to be challenged on the identities we often leave unexplored.
3. Create competition around being the best at Social Justice – using language as a way to exclude.
We know individuals that lead conversations with big words and no context. After they are done speaking, most are lost and so is their message. Correct use of rhetoric is important, but we must be careful that it does not become jargon. Additionally, we cannot become upset when we are asked to explain or define a handful of words used or ideas explored. How often do we use language to exclude? How often is it intentional? Does using the “correct” and “smart sounding” language validate our worth or expertise?
“IF WE ARE GOING TO ENGAGE IN THIS WORK, WE HAVE TO DO SO STRATEGICALLY, KEEPING THE END IN MIND. OUR RESPONSE NEEDS TO PRODUCE THE RESULTS THAT WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE.”
4. Leading with emotions instead of thinking and acting strategically.
How often do we sound off? There are moments where we just quite cannot hold ourselves together in the moment. However, this cannot be our response the majority of the time. As Chickering said, we must learn to manage our emotions. This serves as evidence that perhaps we are not as developed as we want to believe. If we are going to engage in this work, we have to do so strategically, keeping the end in mind. Our response needs to produce the results that we would like to see. Sometimes our response will show up as joy, compromise, understanding, and empathy. Other times, it will show up as frustration, anger, and disappointment. However, every response should have a purpose. This can be a fine line with regards to maintaining authenticity. We impede the fight for justice when we act out of thoughtless emotion.
5. Not acknowledging our self-work.
We must acknowledge that we are a work in progress. We challenge the oppressive systems and collude in them simultaneously. At every step we have to understand that we are not the authority, but facilitators of dynamic conversations (and we will often fall short). At times, we are engaging from places with tremendous hurt and an abundance of privilege. It makes sense that we have off-moments, or miss something, because of our privilege. We are not the best at allowing ourselves to be challenged. When we block our self-work it means we are no longer growing and we are role-modeling destructive behavior to others. For example, it is highly problematic to be an expert in gender identity and expression and have no understanding of the intersections of those identities within race and class.
6. Caught in constant surprise that people do not know what we know.
Often times, I see others (myself included) blindsided by the amount of knowledge that my peers, students, and superiors lack in regards to justice and equity. The definition of privilege is unearned, unasked, and often invisible. If someone is oblivious to injustice, chances are they are blinded by their privilege. We know this, yet are surprised or abhorred? This is the work that we have committed our lives to; we must develop thicker skins. This is not to say that we will not be frustrated, shaken, or experience hurt and pain. These moments will happen. Yet, this is our purpose. It is not supposed to be easy. As Social Justice educators, we are supposed to put the cause before ourselves most of the time. Do not misunderstand, self-care is important. However, we need to be in rooms and spaces where we are constantly and strategically raising the temperature. Meet students and colleagues where they are and challenge them to be more.
7. Choosing not to challenge family members and elders.
I notice that quite a few communities give their elders a pass. We choose not to challenge them or set our expectations. However, we have little issue setting colleagues and strangers “straight”. I understand that our elders may choose not to change, but since when are our conversations about changing minds? We should be about expanding thought and creating new questions and I think this transcends age and authority. This work is hard and emotionally draining, however we must be vigilant in all areas.
8. Marginalizing the courage it takes to allow your reality to be dismantled.
Have you experienced a moment where everything that you thought you knew was ripped out of your hands? Perhaps, not just your hands, but your heart and soul? Everything that you hold true being constantly challenged and put on display? The way you viewed your family unit? When your question transitions from who am I, to why am I? We are charged with dismantling the life experiences of many, knocking down the walls of resistance and ignorance, and moving with care and intentionality. Do not forget what we are asking others to do.
9. Refusing to hold multiple truths.
How are we creating dynamic change if we do not allow ourselves to fully explore the pros and cons of ideas? How often are we weighing the greater good? I love film and analyzing movies is certainly one of my favorite hobbies. Actors amaze me. Their gift can be transformative, but I can hold multiple truths. Whoopi Goldberg was excellent in Ghost. However, if you broke down her character you would see that it is a glorified mammy caricature. Julia Roberts is positvely charming in Pretty Woman, but is also led and dominated by the gender role that is “man”. Teach for America provides an experience where the privileged have an opportunity to engage oppressed communities. Many of these students will be policy makers and find themselves in influential positions. However, it also promotes the idea of the “white savior”. We have to be able to engage multiple truths in order to move forward strategically.
10. Challenging others to heal, by erasing their pain.
Phrase this differently. At times, we say this to others as if they should forget their pain and move on. I am certain that this is not the intent of facilitators, however on many occasions it is the impact. We are marginalizing experiences. Rather, we should encourage the exploration of that pain. Understand the origins and the emotions in the now and then figure out how to manage the pain - use it strategically for fuel to both continue in the work and grow in perspective.
My hope is that drawing attention to these behaviors encourages a needed conversation between educators. We have room to grow and can do better holding each other accountable. As social justice educators, we have all agreed to continue to critique and explore the problematic ways in which we show up in spaces. Self-work practices should be encouraged.
“If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americana]
Documentary recommendation for the week:
Class DismissedFrom Wall of Films:Class Dismissed provides a critical look at how U.S. history is taught in high school, at the myths that reduce the complexity of history into simple soundbites, and the information that never seems to make it onto the textbook pages. How can we alter this system to address the limitations of the current curriculum, to allow students to find their own place in history and the world today, to inspire them to become active learners andagents for social change? This video takes a beginning step by looking at the textbook industry, standardized testing, the lack of race and class analysis in textbooks, and the teacher’s role in introducing a range of perspectives into the classroom. Featuring authors Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States) and James Loewen (Lies My Teacher Told Me), New York public high school students, textbook industry insiders, and teachers, this is a must-see video for any student of American History.
*SHOUTING TO THE HEAVENS*
A mesmerizing 3-minute journey through 500 years of female portraits.
asexual people are so cool because they can use the term “ace” when referring to themselves??? ace is such a rad word??? stay cool my ace pals
A snippet from an article on Huffington Post about what it means to be working poor.
Pretty spot on…
I got into an argument today with someone who is a landlord, and they were outraged, outraged, to find that their evicted tenants owned an Xbox 360. Never mind that the console was ten years old and worth perhaps $50 on Craigslist, they were outraged that their evicted tenants did not sell it, along with the very clothes on their back, to pay their back rent. I tried to explain to him that when you are $1800 in back rent, $50 isn’t even a dent in that debt. Why bother? Why bother selling that $50 item if it isn’t going to get you any less evicted? If it’s not going to save you, you’ll hold on to it. Money becomes meaningless when you’ll never have enough to hold onto. You just let it flow like water through your hands. It’s all gone anyways, no matter what you do. It was gone before it ever touched you.
This is what middle-class people and above never understand.
All very true; I get so tired of arguing with people on Reddit who think that it’s a crime for poor people to have fun. But seriously, we’re still human. I don’t see the point in living in absolute misery for years and years just so that you can save up a meager sum of money. I’m not saying you shouldn’t save or plan for the future, but you also shouldn’t forget that you’re living right now and try to enjoy your life to the fullest. It’s a balancing act, one that some people are better at than others, and one that some people don’t have to do at all and so they just don’t understand it at all, because to them being poor is the absolute worst thing in the world that you can be. I think being utterly miserable is worse than being poor.
All dogs share the same basic digestive system despite the range of physical variations (and attitudes) across different breeds. Every dog is designed to eat a raw animal-based diet, from the Chihuahua to the Great Dane. Breed-specific dog food brands are simply a marketing gimmick aimed at playing on the pet owner’s emotions, and their desire to feed their pet the best possible diet.
I don’t think that dogs need an animal-based diet. If done right they can be vegan and not contribute to the murdering of innocent animals. We’ve adapted and domesticated them enough to do so. They’ve evolved to live without meat just like us.
200% incorrect. Vegan diets are carbohydrate-based. Carbohydrates are inflammatory, feed cancer (glucose), contribute to periodontal disease (leading to systemic organ failure, eg heart), cause insulin spikes leading to a multitude of other issues in the long-term (thyroid, liver, diabetes, heart disease) and also cause pancreatic problems due to extreme stress on the pancreas (secreting heavy loads of carb enzymes over a long period of time). The low moisture content coupled with high plant protein may also cause renal failure in the long term. The preservatives used may also be linked to cancer (BHA, BHT etc), and these diets also skew the omega3/6 ratio, causing further inflammation (linked to cancer again). They cause urine alkalinity leading to urinary problems such as crystals, blockages and UTI’s.
Brief into to dog anatomy/physiology:
- Stomach PH: Their highly acidic stomach is designed for eliminating harmful bacteria and breaking down bone into a gel-like substance. Humans have a much more alkaline stomach acid which is why we would struggle to digest raw bone.
-Digestive Enzymes: Higher level of proteases to break down animal protein. High bile load to help push through bacteria.
-Dental Anatomy: Sharp pointed teeth designed for ripping and tearing flesh and bones.Dogs do not chew their food as we do, they are wired to swallow chunks quickly as a basic survival instinct.
-Jaws: Dogs also have strong jaws that physically cannot move sideways (like your own can). This sideways grinding action is a feature that allows pre-digestion of plant material. Again, dogs rip off chunks and swallow them whole.
-Lack of Salivary Amylase: Omnivores have this for pre-digestion of carbohydrates. Dogs and cats do not. The canine pancreas secretes amylase as a backup, however this does not mean they should be fed a high carbohydrate diet every day for a lifetime. Processed food (incl vegan) is 40-70% carbohydrate.
-Lysozyme: Instead of amylase, dogs have lysozyme in their saliva which is an antibacterial. This may be useful for destroying any harmful bacteria in carrion/rotten food/feces, as well as wound cleaning.
-Gut length: The canine gut is short in length which is because flesh must be pushed through quickly. It does not need to sit and ferment, as this could allow bacteria to multiply to harmful levels. Note that plant eating animals have a long digestive tract and even multiple stomach chambers in order for plant material to be slowly broken down by the necessary enzymes.
-Nutrient profiles. Dogs have 0% biological requirement for carbohydrates. They gain every single essential nutrient from a prey based diet such as Whole Prey/Prey Model. Vegan diets are full of processed lab-made vitamins and minerals. Many vitamin pre-mixes are made in china and shipped to the country of manufacture.
All in all, dogs will survive on a high carbohydrate diet but it will cause systemic effects eventually. Similar to smoking, a junk food diet affects every dog differently and some may be affected more severely than others, and in different time spans. You can also expect high vet fees in the form of dental cleanings, dental surgeries and various health problem later on in life.
It is not recommended that you feed your pet the equivalent of a big mac for the entirety of its life. This is essentially what kibble and vegan diets are. Evolution has changed the appearance and even the behaviour of your dog, but their digestive system is still geared towards meat. Basically, you are paying money to have a company slowly kill your pet from the inside out.
0/10, Not Recommended.
Hard science here for anyone who needs to shut down a “vegan pet owner.” It’s abuse. Feed your animal the substances they evolved to eat or do not own an animal, it’s as simple as that.