A reflection written by Jack, Repair the World NYC Teen Service Corps Member.
What is social justice? On paper, it means to enact justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. In reality, social justice is significantly more complex than that. As we all know, the growing popularity of social media has affected our lives drastically, but in my opinion, it has affected our perception of social justice the most. Due to social media, the term “social justice” and the ideas it preaches have been politicized, and the true message behind social justice: to serve one’s community, has been clouded by infographics and Twitter rants. As such, my perception of social justice before entering this program was not the most positive, since 99% of my knowledge of the topic came from social media. I saw it more as a dividing force than a uniting one. I would see people post infographics about issues ranging from racial justice, to food justice, as well as links where you could donate to those causes. As much as posting these thing were good steps towards enacting social change, I began to wonder how much impact they really had. Most infographics are simplified at best, and outright false at worst. For a long time, social justice seemed political, frustrating, and disunifying to me.
Over the last few months in this program, this view has significantly changed. Participating in activities like volunteering at Bushwick City Farm and phone banking with Hunger Free America, I have realized that social justice is more than just posting and arguing on social media. Social Justice requires some sort of personal sacrifice. Clicking a few buttons on my phone to post an infographic was certainly not as eye opening as turning compost for two hours by myself at the farm, and although I would rather not spend my weekend turning compost, for one of the first times in my life I actually felt that I was truly helping a cause. Not just spreading information about it, but actually taking action. In my opinion, action is one of the core pillars of social justice. A phrase I’m sure many people here are familiar with is: It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either.” Finishing the work requires direct action, or else it will never get done. That is the lesson I’ve learned from this program.