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Sometimes, our best teachers are our children and grandchildren. As we look out at the world today we see many incidents of injustice whose front-line advocates for change are not the mature persons in positions of power, but the young people whose values prompt them to speak out to correct injustices that happen when those with power look the other way. It takes courage to become a public advocate of a cause whose opponents resort to stonewalling at best and bullying, violent threats, and violent acts at worst. It takes courage, and it takes trust in the collective group-process that brings about change.
From time to time it helps members of the older generations to be reminded of the importance of risking everything to advance positive change. Indeed, many of us participated in the massive social change movements of our youth: civil rights, environmental rights, women’s rights, and peace rights. However, the goals of these four powerful movements – and the more recent fifth movement – economic rights – have not been reached and it is, currently, our younger generations who are stepping up in massive numbers in all of these areas. I highlight two of these courageous groups of young people whose activism is leading to vitally important shifts in both public awareness and institutional policy with the hope that readers will discover ways to serve these calls for justice within their own communities
What the University of Missouri Students Teach Us
The young people’s political actions on the University of Missouri campus, from Jonathan Butler’s courageous hunger strike, to the university’s graduate students’ collective protests in support of him, to the football team using its considerable clout to underscore Black student grievances, illustrate how effective working together can be when advocating for social and judicial change. Working together, students were able to topple an ineffective administrator, a move that will hopefully lead to critical policy changes that will protect Black student safety and Black student rights on campus. To learn more about the cooperative and synergistic methods these students used to bring about the first stages of change at the University of Missouri, see the documentary footage of campus activists at http://www.democracynow.org/2015/11/10/black_student_uprising_over_racial_bias?utm_source=Democracy+Now!&utm_campaign=06a16c66fe-Daily_Digest&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fa2346a853-06a16c66fe-191611921
What the Rape Victims on College Campuses Teach Us
It Happened Here, a new documentary profiling the egregious treatment of victims of rape on university and college campuses in the US, also illustrates the strength of cooperative action when challenging indifferent and criminally neglectful college administrations. Just as Black students at the University of Missouri found their power in collective action, so too do the women victims of campus sexual assault whose school administrators fail to protect them from predatory, repeat rapists. Viewers learn from each young woman’s story how her college administration shifted blame to her in spite of other rape charges against the perpetrator involved, trivialized the crime against her, and did nothing to prevent the offenders from raping again. As with the Black students fighting racism, the women students protesting administration denial of sexual assault effectively came to together to make their voices heard. Learn more about this powerful documentary at http://www.ithappenedhere.org/
The Courage to Speak Truth to Power
It is not easy to speak out publicly against injustice. It is especially difficult to do so when powerful officials deny or trivialize campus racism and sexual predation, or, when acknowledging such activity, shift the responsibility for the crimes to the victims by advising them to develop resilience to recover from these criminal events. Resilience is an indispensable strength, but it is no substitute for social and criminal justice.
We have all been in situations where those holding power deny wrong doing. Finding allies, working together, and involving the larger world through social media, film, and print further the momentum of every worthy cause. Our great truth speakers always urge us to collective action because it is the one strategy that has proven effective in attaining our social justice goals. As I write this, I remember not only Sojourner Truth, Gandhi, Mary Wollenstonecraft, Martin Luther King, Jane Addams, Nelson Mandala, Gloria Steinem, and so many others whose wisdom teachings regarding collective action continue to change the world in countless ways, but also Alvin Straight, an ordinary person with extraordinary heart whose real life adventures have been immortalized in David Lynch’s luminous Straight Story (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0zb_baTzkkin) . Whether true or apocryphal, Alvin, when counseling a young runaway he meets on his epic journey to heal his relationship with his brother, vividly demonstrates the power of family and friends by asking her to break a twig, which she does readily, and then a bundle of twigs, which resist all her efforts. Point made: we all need support to not only grow into healthy adulthood, but to serve social justice by changing what needs changing.
How Energy Psychology Helps Us Speak Truth to Power
Using energy psychology techniques such as EFT/Tapping – to calm butterflies before speaking out against injustice, to tame the flashbacks of violence that fuel despair, and to neutralize the fear of possible reprisals – supports the systemic changes we need if we are to overcome the blatant racist and misogynistic behaviours that make college life for many young people a living hell rather than an adventure in learning. Each one of us, no matter our age, has an opportunity to participate in this social justice flowering. After all, supporting students of colour and women in their demands for safe college campuses is in everyone’s best interests. Marching, withholding alumni funding support, writing letters, and inviting discussion in our classrooms and work places helps to weave together a just world, the world we all want.
We need our young people to mature knowing many older citizens remember their own struggles for equality and peace. We need them to know that not everyone has sold out to the corporate model currently co-opting our higher education system. Reaching out to students as they struggle for justice not only makes us feel good, it sends the message that economic gain is not the point of our higher learning institutions. Personal empowerment, individual and group agency, and enlarging perspectives through meaningful and accurate contextualization are, or at least should be, at the heart of every college student’s experience. The young people at the forefront of social justice movements on university campuses today are reminding us of these values as they speak truth to power at great personal risk. Let us support them in every way we can.
Until next week
Jane Buchan, MA, AAMET Advanced Practitioner, email@example.com, 802-533-9277
Jane is a Learning Coach specializing in neutralizing cultural age, gender, and race constructs to support learners of every age. To engage her coaching services, please contact Jane by phone (802) 533-9277 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to put Coaching Query in the subject line.