What’s the Point?

I appreciated reading Hilary’s blog this week. I have had some of the same thoughts, and I wanted to reflect on how I’m feeling now that my first semester is approaching crunch time.

In her blog post, Hilary wrote, “In a social system that is so vast and so diverse, what difference will my single voice have on the current structure?” This question is precisely what I have been struggling with throughout the semester. I have this greater understanding of systems of oppression. But I have no idea what that means for me in terms of the bigger picture.

I think that the real issue is coming to terms with the fact that I am not a superhero. The ELPS 432 course exposes us to so many new ways of thinking and pieces of knowledge that have altered our habits and behaviors. The point of the course is not to turn us into the social justice police. We have to live our lives. Sometimes, that means that we may not be able to confront social injustices. Some systems of oppression will hit us harder than others. And we have to be okay with that.

Which battles do we choose to fight? I think that those choices are more telling of our identities and how we wish to use our voices to impact the current structure that Hilary describes. What kind of social justice warriors do we wish to be?

As I reflect on my blog posts, I realize that I have written all of them at my parents’ home in the suburbs. I think living and working in a city like Chicago is overwhelming when combined with our studies in ELPS 432. We see systems of oppression in action daily–on the bus, on the train, and on the streets. When I come home to the suburbs, perhaps I see it less; perhaps I turn off my social justice radar.

What’s the point? Why learn about racism, classism, ablism, sexism, etc.?

When I think about my future as a student affairs professional, I imagine my life working like that. To understand identities and systems of oppression is vital to working with college students. I can only try to understand their stories and moments of vulnerability if I can be aware of the types of oppression that they may have faced in their experiences. I can only create change that will impact students or an institution if I am aware of the isms. But I will exhaust myself if I have to think about social justice when I go home, as well. Just as we talk about setting boundaries with students and colleagues in the field, we have to consider the boundaries we build around social justice.

Sure, it will never go away. We will experience the isms in our personal lives and when we leave the work space. We have to realistic about how we want social justice to play into our professional and personal lives. As much as we might want to look away from the isms, we cannot predict what we will encounter on the way home from work or once we get home. I suppose we are signing ourselves up for lifetime learning and awareness to social justice.

Ready or not, here it comes.



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