Social Justice, then and now

Photo by Lan Nguyen on Unsplash

“Many say that conditioning aid is not a phrase I should utter here, but let me be clear: No matter the context, American government dollars always come with conditions. The question at hand is should our taxpayer dollars create conditions for justice, healing, and repair, or should these dollars create conditions of oppression and apartheid.”

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressly (D) of Massachusetts, questioning America’s continual, unconditional financial support of Israel; on the House floor, May 13, 2021. As cited in “The Intercept.”

We call ourselves by different names.

Black Lives Matter, the Extinction Rebellion, and pro-Palestine.

But, at its core, our cause is no different than the Civil Rights Movement, those who marched for the dignity of women, gay, Native and disabled persons; who fought to end the invasion of Vietnam, the development of nuclear weapons, apartheid in South Africa, or the exploitation and destruction of our environment.

The question Representative Pressly asks has been on the lips of every single social justice warrior for over fifty years.

Can America truly be a force for good in the world, when we continue to support the oppression of our non-White brethren with her citizen’s money?

Though age and cause may separate us, we share a commitment to securing true equality and justice for all life.

A cry I have heard from my earliest memories.

I heard it behind the words LeVar Burton spoke, when he shared with me, the ugly inhumanity of Black slavery in America, for the first time.

I heard it behind the voice of Bill Nye, the science guy, as he drove home for me, the reality of how our throw-away, hyper-capitalist culture, was destroying the only home we humans have in the known universe.

I read it in the stories of the autocracies committed against those who looked different, who believed and loved differently, who worshiped a god outside the mainstream Protestant, White, straight world I was taught to revere above all else.

I learned of the suffering of my Black and Brown brothers and sisters, of people like me, disabled, victims of disease and death, for no other purpose than their dependence on live-saving medication. When I saw Ryan White dying of AIDS, I was watching myself.

I learned all this, despite my mom’s best efforts to keep this truth from me; despite her attempts to minimize and justify autocracy, because it had been carried out by White, Western Protestants; and by the world they created. In her mind, such ugliness was impossible from this demographic.

Fortunately, despite these efforts, these voices wouldn’t be silenced; they continue to speak to me.

I still hear this cry in the writings of Tony Judt, Jemar Tisby, Bob Massie, Timothy Snyder, Jason Stanley, Victor Serge, Joseph Czapski and Kristin Kobes du Mez. Voices I have studied and pondered in my year-and-a-half of quarantine pause. Voices that have brought to my mind, once again, the cries of these earlier influences.

Men and women, linked to both me and each other through a common goal of truth and justice. A link that bridges social status, fame, ethnicity, nationality, faith, age, sex and upbringing. A justice, depended on the dignity of life — not determined by one’s Whiteness, wealth, or connections to power and influence.

Linked by the crazy, progressive idea, that all life — be it human, animal or our planet — has far more value, beyond exploitation. The idea that our citizens should utilize their blessings to support this goal, instead of the status quo of settlement colonialism, White Supremacy, nationalism, or misogynistic patriarchy.

There truly is no difference between our generations; between the social justice activists of the 1960s and 70s, to the voices of the 2020s. We are all fighting the same battle.



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Tiffany Elliott

Writer with 15 + years experience; journalist, editor, freelancer, and play write. Advocate for the arts and rights of expendables.