Friday, June 15, 2007

Social Injustice: Part 2

Part 1 here.

In my last post I talked mostly about the problems I had with the tactics the group on campus used. This post will focus mostly on the problems I had with their message. First, they assumed that everyone had to feel just as concerned over the issues they presented as they were. Second, they called themselves one thing but represented another. The third issue is a bit more complicated and so I will explain it when I get there.

Not everyone is the same. We all know this. We’ve had it drummed into our heads in both the secular and Christian worlds for decades. Some of us have had it drummed into our heads for as long as we’ve been alive. There is a lot of truth in the sentiment, although perhaps not in its usual application. Still, the fact remains, I will be passionate about issues in Kosovo, my friend about issues in Africa. I will passionate about feminism, or the response against it, my neighbor about racism. I cannot and should not be equally passionate about every social injustice out there. I deplore them, or most of them, but I will not care as much about some of them as others. That’s the way I am. The group on campus wanted everyone to care equally and if we did not, we were bad people. I personally refuse to be guilted into pretending a certain amount of concern for something when I really don’t care that certain amount.

While the group said that they were concerned with “social justice/injustice” (since they think we don’t have any), the only concerns they really brought forth were racism and sexism. My roommate pointed out that if they were really concerned with social justice they could have talked about poverty, hunger, and medical care. They did not. While the group tried to paint themselves as altruistic do-gooders several students ended up feeling that they were really addressing personal grievances; i.e., they were not really all that concerned with others.

As I already mentioned, the third issue is a bit more complex. It really stems, not from the group itself, but from one of its supporters. During a discussion about the recent events in my English class a young man said, “Well, we can’t ever really know what it’s like to have people tease you because you’re different. We can’t ever really know what it’s like to walk by people and hear them whisper and wonder if they’re whispering about you.” I looked around the room and saw people nodding their heads. Inside myself I thought, “I can.”

You see, I was teased all through middle school. I was nerdy, not pretty, and I wore skirts every day. It was a recipe for disaster. In some ways it gave me a toughness in the face of adversity and derision. For that I am very grateful. In other ways it left me scarred. I have indeed walked by people and heard them whispering and wondered if they were whispering about me, wondered if they were saying, “Oh what a strange girl.”

The social justice campaigners might think that all the teasing came about because I was a girl. After all, that’s really the only minority I’m a part of. I’m white and I’m Christian. The world should be handed to me on a silver platter, right?

Well, not really. I’m white, but my family has never had much money. I’m not bewailing the fact. In some ways I’m glad of it. It’s kept us from a lot of temptations because we simply couldn’t afford them. I’m Christian, but that has never been a guarantee of safety. In fact, the more Christian you are, the less likely it is to be so. It is because I am Christian that I wore skirts every day and so it is partly because I am Christian that I was teased. I do not fit into any of the boxes that the social justice people have prepared and labeled, therefore it is quite impossible that I should ever have experienced any of the behaviors they are trying to eradicate.

They’re wrong. Somehow I doubt they’ll learn otherwise because those of us with stories to tell are all too often afraid to smash the nice labeled boxes. People tend to get angry when you smash their boxes. I did not speak up in class and share my side of the story. Part of this was cowardice. Part of it was also that the flow of the discussion had moved on and it didn’t seem like the right time. Part of it was that I was so dumbfounded by the statement that my brain hadn’t begun to function again.

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