Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Insulated from Injustice

We truly are insulated from injustice.

If we are White, we do not experience the injustice of racism. If we are middle class, we do not experience the injustice of poverty. If we are male, we do not experience the injustice of being female. If we are American citizens, we do not experience the injustice of working in a country that doesn't value you as a person. If we are American, we do not experience the injustice of working conditions in some third world countries. In each of these situations, White, middle class, males, and Americans benefit from their insulation from the injustice the other person experiences.

Here's my theory. Although we may feel bad that injustice happens, we are not concerned enough to do something unless it directly affects us.

White people do not feel the sting of racism like a person of color. Middle class and wealthy people do not experience the effects of being poor like someone who has had to go without health insurance or whose children are enrolled in schools that don't receive the same funding as middle- or upper-class schools. Males do not comprehend their dominance in the workplace like a woman whose opinion is brushed aside until a man makes the same statement or whose salary is less than a man doing the same job. American citizens do not understand the plight of immigrants. Americans do not feel the pain and exhaustion of working in sweatshop conditions 20 hours a day, 7 days a week like someone who works to provide cheap clothing and other products, often without getting paid, for people in the richest nation.

As long as I am comfortable, as long as I am benefiting, as long as I can't see or feel the frustration, pain, and/or misery, as long as it doesn't hurt me, I can ignore the realities.

Think about it. Isn't that the truth? Read the article that's attached by clicking the title of this blog. How many times have you shopped at Wal-mart or Target or Kohl's? Did you know they use sweatshop labor? For me, the lure of cheap clothing is much stronger than worrying about some child in Bangladesh whose face I will never see.

What can change our feelings of not being directly affected by injustice?

In my mind and in my experience, relationships. Until I know and listen to someone who has experienced some of these situations, their pain is not my own. I love this quote:

If you have come to help me, you can go home again. But if you see my struggles as a part of your own survival, then maybe we can work together.

~Lila Watson, Australian aboriginal woman


Helping is one-directional and only lasts for a short time. In a relationship, a friendship, your pain becomes my pain and vice-versa. Though forming a friendship with children in Bangladesh may seem impractical and impossible, there are plenty of people here in the United States who experience injustice. By getting to know them, asking about, and really listening to the injustices they experience, we can learn from them how to fight the battle of injustice. Hopefully hearing and fighting the injustices here will encourage us to also fight the injustices abroad.

Injustice does not have to be a part of our society. But, to make it go away, we have to be courageous enough to get to know others and stand with them in their fight (their "struggle") to make it end.
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