Three Launching Points for the New Year

It’s January, the month of new beginnings well it’s now February of month of love and new beginning 2.0. At the beginning of the year, people often set goals and make resolutions; things like losing weight, reading or exercising more, or maybe even taking better care of themselves. These are admirable goals; I have set some of them for myself. I submit to you that we should also set social justice goals. That is, as we work toward becoming more socially just and inclusive, as a society and as individuals, we have to remember that life is a journey, not a destination. The work requires us to continue to grow and learn, not rest on our laurels for we have not reached our destination. We must refresh ourselves on the basics from time to time. And we need to expose ourselves to new experiences that extend our growth as an agent and ally of social justice. What will your social justice goals or resolutions for 2016 be? I offer these three ideas as launching points:

  1. Choose a better word. Remember the old adage sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me? It’s a good theory but, in the lived experience, it is simply a lie. Words do hurt, and they absolutely matter. The complexity with this resolution is that it requires devoted attention, active listening, and vulnerability. Because our nomenclature around issues of equity and inclusion is fluid and dynamic, it is possible to step in the proverbial poo. You could find yourself stumbling between ‘black’ and ‘African American,’ ‘their’ or ‘zir,’ and “disabled” or “differently abled.” Respect the people you care about. Ask them about the words they prefer you to use when referring to them. Chose a better word.
  2. Use your privilege for good. Bystander intervention is a part of the higher education discourse. We have invested much into programs that teach students to “say something if they see something.” Clearly, standing up to prevent sexual assault or alcohol abuse is important. It is as important to stand up when you see microagressions committed in front of you. In 2016, I implore you to resolve that, the next time you are in a situation to see or hear something that marginalizes another, you will say or do something. Stepping up can be corrective for the people that are a part of the target identity. Interrupting your privilege can shift the environment.
  3. Learn about your community members. Read a book or watch a film or documentary about a cultural group that is a different gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation than your own. Attend an open community event. Our history curriculum is faulty at best in teaching about the various cultures that compose our world. There are huge gaps as it relates large parts of the world’s population. Taking responsibility for your own learning will extend your knowledge about a different social identity group. It could be of fun and will help your progress with the first two suggestions.

Making the world a better place will take the work of us all. The task is huge, but not too big if we all join together. We can work to change systems, but we have the immediate power to change ourselves. Commit to make a change today. And Happy 2016! May all your goals be actualized.

Credit // Author: Dr. Stacey Pearson-Wharton