Awareness as an End to Injustice

Monday, January 11th, 2016

The following submission is in response to the following article: http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/i-cant-breathe-until-everyone-can-breathe and writing prompt: Like Gerald Mitchell, dig deep to identify and explain how you personally can treat people more justly. Describe what treating people fairly and humanely looks like to you. How might your actions make a difference where you live (school and community)? In greater society?

BY PAIGE GUILLORY

Albert Einstein said that “only a life lived in the service to others is worth living”2, and I prefer to say, only a life lived in complete awareness of the injustices that face others is worth living. Throughout my life, I have always made service an important part of my life because it allows me to experience people and parts of the world I would never be able to understand otherwise. I have always felt the call to service because I want to use my talents and the privileges I have as tools to help others who do not live as comfortably as I live. Through my service experiences, I have been made aware of many injustices that have continued to be problems from the past into today’s modern world, and I have been motivated to be passionate about social justice as well as service through my time at Spring Hill College. Because of the fundamental similarity in our humanness, I try to treat others with fairness by understanding as best I can each person’s unique background and life story because with awareness comes understanding. Awareness of injustices and bringing about social change takes courage, a deep understanding of humanity, and the willingness to be challenged, and I try to treat others fairly by becoming more aware daily of my surroundings and challenging others to become aware as well.

Once injustice has been revealed and understood, it takes courage to want to try to change things in society to counteract the injustice. One of the most compelling lines of Gerald Mitchell’s article, “I Can’t Breathe until Everyone Can Breathe” addressing the recent events in Ferguson states that he knows that he too could be a victim of the same fate as Eric Garner because he has the courage to risk his life “to have pride and stand up for [his] humanity…and somehow those two—survival and humanity—aren’t always compatible1.” Knowing that standing up against injustice can cost one’s own life is scary, but it takes that kind of courageous mindset for others to see dedication and passion towards an injustice that needs to change.

 

Understanding humanity is something that is not an easy concept to answer when asked because everyone has their own understanding of what our purpose for life is on Earth. For me, I understand that my humanness is exactly the same as any other human being I encounter because I know that my understanding of the purpose of my life gives purpose to every other human being’s life as well. Mitchell exhibits an understanding of our humanity when he says “You might not like what I’m about to say, because it’s challenging. It’s challenging for all of us. But we’re on the same side1.” Mitchell implies that through our humanness, we are all the same, and we should all be fighting on the same side to protect our humanity and our rights.

 

We have to be challenged by the injustices surrounding us in order to bring about change. Mitchell speaks of this challenge when he says that “[he has] come to realize that [he is] both part of the problem, and as a result, part of the solution1.” Part of this realization for anyone realizing their direct impact on injustices is a very uncomfortable feeling. In order to make social change, we have to be comfortable saying that we know we have to change a part of who we are to motivate others to do the same. In almost every situation, there is some form of injustice going on that we are a cause of, and it is common for us to feel like there is too much to change. However, Mitchell makes it clear that “working toward “better”—reducing harm and maximizing positivity—is possible1.” I think this challenge of understanding injustices and seeing where we are exploiting our fellow human race in every day life is a difficult one for all humans to swallow, but that is what makes it the most important part of our lives—seeking greater awareness of other’s lives so to create a place that’s a little closer to equality by each conscious action we choose to make.