To Do Justice

Dr. West photographed by  Daylan Stubblefield  at this year's Justice Conference

Dr. West photographed by Daylan Stubblefield at this year's Justice Conference

Last weekend I had the opportunity to help out with a conference on Social Justice. (I was on the photo team) At this conference I was able to meet and talk with many of my heroes. Among them, Dr. Cornell West. Duh, he is AMAZING. This conference was the epicenter of a huge discussion on race and justice particularly in the United States (with nods to the entire world). 

To say that it was transformative would be a vast understatement. In reality it finally gave me the words with which to discuss my own privilege and race in regards to the greater issues affecting our society. 

This has been the culmination of a season of intense discussion and research. Anyone who has talked with me over the past year knows that I have been trying to decipher the bests in which to discuss these sorts of issues in a healthy way. It is easy of course to feel a bit weary or even threatened, but I knew that somehow there was a way to talk about painful things that transcended "being right"

Here is the idea transformed me:

"Acknowledge your privilege. Name it and sit with what it means for you and the person sitting next to you. Realize the ways that your privilege means someone else’s disprivilege.” -Neichelle Guidry

What I heard from every humanitarian / author / preacher / scholar at the conference was first and foremost a confession and surrender of their own privilege. By doing so they both leveled the playing field (uplifting the oppressed) and softened the blow (taking the vengeance and humiliation out of their words). This sort of public confession was a part of each speaker's address... regardless of race or gender or national origin... each of us is born with, or acquires privilege that comes at the expense of someone else. By acknowledging our own place and participation within a system of oppression we free others to do the same. This discussion that is ordinarily about finger pointing and blame, grew to be a positive conversation about love and support. Sure, there is lots of blame to go around... but our discussions of systematic oppression will go no where until we have freed each other and ourselves. I also learned that confession does not make us weak... it frees us. Of course you won't feel free this way if you are eager to be right... but if your goal is systematic change and a World at Peace, it is perhaps the only way forward. 

This is just an idea, but one that has struck me quite profoundly. I hope that you will join with me in talking about these issues, and even in confessing to one another your own culpability in our society's wrongs. Plus, if even Dr. Cornell West can do it... 

Jonathan Randall Grant  //  Culture Keeper