In 2020, the conversation on social justice was pushed to the forefront of minds thanks to the tragic murder of George Floyd. Since then, it’s died down entirely too much. It’s still important.
We still need to think about how people can be allies and how we can be more sensitive to people who experience a different reality in this society.
I’ve seen so many ideas thrown around, including education through reading books, attending events, and everyone’s go to: Google! I think all of those provide amazing background information, and it’s a great place to start if you’re brand new to all of this. There are some great resources that can educate you on history, define various terminology, as well as provide background to some of what’s going on today.
But what’s next? Once you do the research, how can you keep applying it to day to day life?
The work is ongoing. This isn’t like when you were in high school and you take a test on Calculus (or whatever subject we were taught but most of us never actually had to care about again) and then forget everything the minute you walk out the door. There’s no end to any of this interpersonal work. It’s a lifelong journey.
A lot of the “what’s next?” is about nuance and individual situations. How do you apply the knowledge of systemic injustice to day to day situations? As a person of the “majority” group, it can be incredibly difficult for you to be aware of EVERYTHING someone else experiences – if not impossible.
The best way for you to get as close as possible? Talk to people.
Now, let me put a VERY IMPORTANT disclaimer on this. I don’t mean go solicit strangers who are Black, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, etc. to educate you on their experience or tell you their thoughts about what happened throughout their day and how it might relate to injustice. I also don’t mean go out and find a Black friend just for the sake of “having a Black friend”. That’s called tokenism! Look it up. (Jk, just click the link I did it for you).
Instead, take a look at your relationships.
Who do you spend your time with? Think of your five closest friends or family members. How are they different from you or from each other? How are they the same? If your similarities list is much longer than the differences, why is that?
One of the best ways I’ve continued the work on social justice issues is to listen to the experiences of people around me who come from different backgrounds and have different experiences when they walk out of their front doors.
Does my immigrant husband speak for every single man of color? Of course not. Our conversations around these issues, however, can help me understand where my perspectives are biased or aspects of situations that I just didn’t see. I’m then more aware of how I can be mindful of looking at the bigger picture in the future, or how my actions are contributing to injustice.
Again, don’t practice tokenism!
I just felt like that needed to be said again. But if the people who are YOUR people aren’t very diverse, it’s time to look at why that might be. Do you need to expand the spaces you spend time in? Is it that you tend to gravitate towards people who look like you, and if so, how can you be mindful to expand your circle? Are you spending time in communities and organizations that aren’t accessible to people of color? If so, are you okay with that?
If you’re already starting to think about how you can help and be more aware as an ally, that’s great. Just make sure you’re also looking inward at your own relationships as well. Are you getting perspectives on a regular basis from people who don’t have the same experience as you? If the answer is no, that’s a great place to start.