Monday, March 30, 2009

Reflections on social justice

I have always had strong thoughts and feelings about violence against women, women’s rights, racism and oppression, among others, but I didn’t really label myself as an activist or a feminist until my sophomore year in college.

The lack of my social justice awareness during those crucial times of when I was a teenager is definitely something that I regret. I wish that I was able to use those four years of high school to be more productive and join a G.S.A., a multicultural group, or create a space where I could talk about homophobia and racism with my peers, but instead I tried to tip-toe around these uncomfortable subjects – well, no more.

Now, I talk about privilege and social justice all the time. I thrive in bringing up these uncomfortable conversations and learning more about what my peers think and refining my thoughts by bouncing them off others in debates or discussions.
After four years of learning and evolving, and with 3pm on May 17th, creeping up on me the question is asked: “So now what? What are you going to do?” I don’t have an answer, and I’m not really looking for one. Right now I’m just trying to figure out what I need to get out of the last few moments of my undergraduate experience and what I want to do, what I am passionate about, what my hopes and dreams are.

I do see myself of a 21st century movement for social justice. I just have to figure out what exactly I see myself doing and figure out the agency by which I go about doing whatever that is. I would love to take the opportunity to use my photography for social justice and my journalism skills to encourage folks to talk about race and not pretend that they are colorblind.

Most of my peers in the journalism field are white and most of the notable photographers are white and male, so where does that leave me? I am going to have to fight to have a place at the table, and then if and when I get accepted, I’ll have to continually justify what I do and how I do it so that my peers can respect me-- that way I can get paid, get credit, attain security and stability in life and live happily ever after. Sometimes I wish I was 30 and had everything figured out, I feel like I have no idea where I am going in life right now, and it’s really hard for me to write an activist essay, much less an autobiography.

I am still trying to make sense of the pieces of events and experiences that make up my life. Maybe this uncomfortable unknowingness is all part of growing up and maybe will be a foreign concept when I’m 30, but what if, in seven or so years, when I remember how old I am (actually, at this moment, I do not remember how old I am. I stopped counting when I turned 21), whatever shall I do if I haven’t figured life out? Whatever I am doing, I hope that I have a deeper, richer passion for social justice, and I hope that I am not burned out or disillusioned, disenchanted or disenfranchised by the social justice activism movement.

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