Justice Is Not Comfortable
Many times as each camp session nears its end, we hear campers and staff lament having to return to the real world. So in the last couple of years at our closing campfires, we have gently admonished them by suggesting that camp is the real world and each of them needs to take camp with them when they leave and spread the spirit of camp in their home communities. We remind them that camp is where we all can be our authentic selves and where we can easily accept others as their authentic… their real selves! We go on to encourage them to embrace the values of WeHaKee – Community, Compassion, Justice, Truth, and Peace – and do their very best to live by them as they return home to their family, friends, and communities.
Why Is Justice Uncomfortable?
As events developed and the outrage was express in many forms these past 10 days since the death… the murder… the lynching of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, the value of Justice has dominated my thoughts. How can we help to instill justice, justice for all from our insulated perch at Camp WeHaKee? Impacting change appears to be insurmountable, perhaps unattainable. How can I…how can we make a real difference in seeking justice for all?
For those of us who are white, I believe it needs to start from within. We need to continue to examine our lives to determine and acknowledge all the ways white privilege has impacted our lives. Recognizing and understanding the impact of privilege on our lives can help us see how the lack of white privilege permeates the lives of people and communities of color. White privilege has the tendency to blind us of the inequities of privilege but acknowledging it helps us begin to see through the blindness. But this is only a start and will only affect us if we end our efforts here.
The next step is to begin to realize the complexities of racism. Racism is often expressed through actions, but it is indiscernibly interwoven throughout our society in sophisticated and deceptive ways. Consider this quote from American author, Scott Woods as he describes the pervasiveness of racism:
“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into.” 5 Things No One Is Actually Saying About Ani DeFranco or Plantations, Scott Woods, Jan. 3, 2014
As white people, many of us are aware that we are products of white privilege. This awareness often provides comfort in assuming that we are above the nastiness of racism. But this past week has illuminated just how false that comfort zone really is. Many of us have experienced a sense of hopelessness – how can we help people of color emerge from the oppression of white privilege? Many in the Black community are encouraging us, white people, to reframe our desire to help those of color and instead reach out to our white friends and family to work to bring down the complex structure of racism.
But it might be uncomfortable… really uncomfortable! As each of us reaches a higher understanding of racism and how it permeates nearly all aspects of our society, we will begin to see it in action in our own circles, our own communities, our own families, and even in our own selves. That is exactly where we need to illuminate it, to identify it, and to take steps to eliminate it. Easily said, but difficult to do. Confronting others and even ourselves about the injustices of racism is hard work! Relationships will likely be strained, perhaps even broken when confronting others about their role in racist activities or systems. But that is what it is going to take to begin dismantling the “complex system of social and political levers and pulleys” that is racism in this country.
To be honest, I am not comfortable with the prospect of confronting myself and those around me regarding our role in racism. But I am going to try. I can only imagine that the discomfort of addressing the need for justice, cannot begin to compare to the painful, dehumanizing and far to frequent fatal discomfort of injustice experienced by people and communities of color on a daily basis throughout this country.
The driveway mural painted at the center of WeHaKee states ‘Worlds Apart, Coming Together’. This truly happens each and every session at WeHaKee Camp for Girls. But since we are unable to come together at camp this summer due to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to expand this concept beyond camp. We need to work for justice for in our communities, to make sure justice prevails and is not assigned based on the color of one’s skin. It’s time to become uncomfortable and make a lasting difference in our world.