Campus social justice: Turn idle intentions into action

Marcus Trinidad, Associate news editor

As a generation characterized as idealists looking to create an inclusive world, we sure don’t like to talk about it.

Sure, there are the Facebook posts people share, but when do people have a face-to-face conversation about race.

People are scared to talk about social justice in everyday conversation because of the fear of being ridiculed as racist, homophobic, ignorant, or Trump-like. We intend for inclusion—but when the time arrives to show solidarity we fall short.

Intention is good, but not good enough.

People are quick to show support when there are drag shows, luaus, cultural nights, pow-wows, and heritage months; these are all good things. It is easy to show support by attending. Yet the cultures that are represented are much more than these one time events. To only participate in these events to show solidarity works to weave together a single narrative—a single story.

If these big events are the only times we interact and engage with cultures, it can be harmful. It perpetuates a culture where we ‘other-ize’ cultures by romanticizing and exoticsizing them in a way where it defines them. The LGBTQ+ community is more than just drag shows. Native Americans and First Nations are more than just pow-wows and salmon bakes. My Filipino culture is more than just another cultural night.

We are many people with many stories.

Behind the scenes of those big productions are stories of trials and triumph, history and individuality, oppression and liberation, appropriation and reclamation. Our stories are as broad as they are nuanced, but those are the stories people often do not get to hear, nor do they want to hear—they only want to see us dance.

Those are difficult topics and difficult conversations. Yet, those topics and conversations need to be had, but it is often avoided because it makes us uncomfortable. But oppression lives with the oppressed everyday. People in power, or even allies, can walk away from the issue whenever it becomes inconvenient for them.

People often wish to move on from the past, refuse to see race or color. It is an easy out—but that blindness and color blindness, in my opinion, is an attempt to be the new passable form of ignorance.

To not recognize the past, or people’s race, gender, sexuality, religion or any other personal or social identity is to disregard their life experience: both their past and their present. It reduces LGBTQ+ culture to just a culture; Latinx culture to just a culture; oppression as a past culture that somehow does not exist today.

Again, the intent seems to mean well, but to only see people as any other person looks to strip them of their identity.

Just ‘moving on’ and just saying ‘we are all human’ is not enough to heal the divide. If someone hurt you and told you to ‘move on’ only seconds later, then I am sure it may end with someone getting a black eye.

An alternative was developed by Desmond Tutu, a man who helped heal South Africa’s deep divide after the Apartheid regime, healed the country with the exact opposite approach we are taking today—he advocated for an open dialogue of forgiveness and remembrance. He advocated for restorative justice.

Desmond Tutu said, “Forgiving is not forgetting; it is actually remembering—remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.”

Forgiveness is a powerful tool. It gives power to the victims, the oppressed. It forces those with power to listen to those who do not have power. And yet, those in power do not become oppressed, and yes, they do indeed survive this encounter.

They survive because revenge is not the goal of Forgiveness—the goal is healing.

The opportunity to have these conversations are far and few between due to the cultural avoidance of these topics. It should not be taboo to forgive. The need to heal should overcome our discomfort.

In order to properly forgive and to properly be inclusive, there needs to be a willingness to go to the events that explore the trials and tribulation of the oppressed, not just the fun festivities. These events can be like the Speak Out, CRF workshops in the residence halls, Native American Headdress Cultural Appropriation, ‘My Pronouns are not Preferred.’ They are not glamorous, they are not entertaining, but they are necessary conversations.

These events do not look to ostracize or extract guilt from people with privilege—it gives a voice for the voiceless. It becomes a space for listening, a space for forgiving, and a space for growing. Just because your major may be in a STEM field it does not exclude you from the conversation. We are all interconnected—our future is interconnected.

If we do intend to be the generation which creates an inclusive future, we need to participate in those spaces that make ourselves vulnerable. It is when we are at our most vulnerable is when we learn what true compassion looks like. True compassion is when we learn what living on the margins is like; It is when we learn being different does not mean being separate or bad, but it is when we realize how much we need each other.

If we do intend to be the inclusive generation, we need to be able to visualize and articulate that future. We cannot build that future if we do not communicate with each other what it will be. We cannot build that future if we do not educate ourselves. Staying silent with good intention only promotes business as usual. If we intend to stay silent, our future will blow up in our faces. Social justice starts by stepping out of our comfort zone.

In order to be the future we want to see, we need to dare to speak together; dare to listen together; dare to forgive together; and dare to imagine together.

The opinions expressed in Trinidad’s column do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff.

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