In early January of 2013 I saw someone post the following picture on Instagram.
I do not know who created the image or how it began circulating around the Internet. Regardless of its origins, the image resonated with me. I spent a great amount of time attempting to dissect the message behind the image. The more I thought about the image, the more frustrated I became.
My frustration came from the way we use the term “society” when it comes to social justice conversations. When we engage in these conversations we use of the term “society” as a way to deflect responsibility. We do this because, well, it’s the easy thing to do. To accept one’s membership within to society is to accept responsibility for the same injustices we try to combat as social justice educators.
The truth of the matter is this; we do not have the option, nor the privilege, of opting out of our membership to society whenever we feel that it’s convenient to us. We should not embrace our membership to society whenever we make strides in the area of social justice, only to distance ourselves from, and blame, society whenever we feel it is convenient to us. Collectively, we all participate in and comprise this thing we call “society”.
When it comes to social justice conversations we are very in tune with society and its subsequent impact on the individual. As social justice educators, we need to shift our focus away from this and focus on its inverse. That is, rather than focusing so much on how society impacts the individual; we need to place an equal (or greater) amount of emphasis on how the individual can impact society. It is only then that we can begin to engage in a discourse than can continue to foster real change.
What are your thoughts on how we use the term “society”? How have you challenged students to recognize that their role within it? How do you help others realize the potential impact they can have on society?
Wimer Alberto is a Resident Director at Binghamton University. He is an active member of the ACPA Latino Network (@ACPALN) and NEACUHO (@NEACUHO) Connect with him by visiting http://www.about.me/wimeralberto or http://wimeralberto.wordpress.com/