It is undoubtably true that America today remains a very troubled place. We may lead the world on may fronts, yet whilst we jump into meddling with the affairs of half of all the other nations on the planet, we seemingly have been consistently unable to resolve countless issues at home.
This is deplorable and frankly, disgusting.
America claims to stand on the side of the just, the right, the writers of history, the leader of the free world—yet so many within her borders are treated unjustly, wrongly, cast aside, and not free by my means, but she can’t be moved to care.
Hotbed issues ring in our ears constantly.
Gay marriage. Pro-life v. pro-choice. Gun control. Glass ceilings. Racism. Discrimination. Oppression. Sexism. Classism. Inequality.
What do these words mean for anyone? Here’s an idea.
It’s also simply amazing what it takes for anyone to begin talking about any of these issues. It’s amazing what it takes for any of these thoughts to run through the minds of an average citizen of this “great” nation and, more importantly, stay there.
And apparently, it seems to require the lives of innocent children for that to happen.
Many people fighting these battles on any of these topics stand on the side of social justice—but I have personally been trying to understand what those two words (and any of the issues/words above) mean.
To me, social justice means that I can have the same opportunity in career advancement as a white man of similar educational and career experience. Social justice means that I do not have to deal or address stereotypes that affect who I am because they wouldn’t be important. Social justice means that just because I cannot afford an education with a price tag in the hundreds of thousands, I can graduate from a respectable institution within a respectable amount of time.
Fighting for social justice means fighting for the simple right to be given an equal opportunity as everyone else.
I have previously discussed what I see as a black-and-white foundation that lies within the groundwork of this country’s social, cultural, and political framework. When it comes to the battle for social justice, it’s more a muddy, grey, unnavigable territory.
The “cycles of oppression” that have come to dominate the cultural and social establishment in the United States are perpetuated by both the oppressor and the oppressed. But the reasons behind this is not what I want to focus on or talk about. I want to discuss what I’ve noticed to be a step forward in the right direction to begin breaking this cycle.
It’s all about understanding.
The absolutely brilliant Dr. Shakti Butler visited Wesleyan again recently to bestow on this campus more of her very raw thoughts on this matter.
She talks about the need to understand—and “understand” is indeed vague, but that’s exactly the point.
In order for any of us to move forward, you have to first understand yourself, understand others and where they’re point of view is coming from, and understand the humanity that exists within both sides of an argument—to see the opposing side as indeed human.
Although I found those thoughts to have been extremely enlightening when I first heard them last year and again a week ago, what really resonated with me and what I feel like has completely changed my perspective on many fronts.
And that is that before you can do anything else to help others or even to reach out to others, before you can love someone else, before you can give anything to this world we live in, you have to first understand, accept, and be at one with your very own self.
That’s what I find to be the biggest hurdle for myself.
When it comes to social justice, I do think that the biggest hurdle and the biggest problem is the lack of understanding for others and the lack of understanding between two opposing people, but for myself, the most difficult thing is really understanding who I am, who I want to be, and conversely, who I am not, and who I don’t want to be.
Dr. Butler talks about the necessity to be aware of your present, to really understand that we don’t walk in the past nor in the future, but in the here and now—which she stresses that we forget.
And I agree with her, one hundred percent. We forget about who we are as we are caught up in this long moment that is life, we forget about who we are but instead think of who we want to be or who we were, we forget that as I am currently sitting here, my heart is, in fact, beating, and I am taking each breath with a purpose—whether I know it or not.
I sometimes forget who I am when I’m caught up in the mess of things, and now that I’ve realized that, it’s driving me crazy. Personally, I know that I’m trying to reconcile these three fronts—who I am, who I was, and who I want to be.
There’s nothing more important, I don’t think, to truly take the idea of carpe diem to not mean anything ridiculous or crazy, but to remember that we don’t live in the past or the future, but the present.
So now, whenever I hear anyone (or a particular someone) worrying about time or the absence of time in the future, I really cannot understand. Because why would you rather accept unhappiness now to prevent it in the future rather than at least being happy in the present?
And no, that wasn’t a tangent. I titled this post as such for this very reason—I believe that people have forgotten their humanity, I believe that people have been so caught up in this fight for social justice that they have forgotten that they are all worthy to truly live, and although it is important to breakdown those barriers that prevent one from truly living, it is also that we cannot forget that we do deserve this life.
We forget that we are who are. We forget that this moment that we live in is fleeting and irreplaceable, and that the biggest regret in life is regret itself.
The internal struggles are the most difficult ones to overcome, I believe. But once they are overcome, the external can only follow suit.
So we need to wake up, but in a different fashion. We need to stop characterizing our way of life to be that of a single path, but to accept that every person has their own, extremely unique way—and not everyone can reach success through the same means.
But it is also that we need to begin looking to ourselves to truly understand the depth that surrounds these battles for equality, as well as begin to understand others—for without understanding, we will not get anywhere.