Rarely is the path to learning a straight one.

15 Things I’ve learned While Working For Social Justice

Rarely is the path to learning a straight one.

As my journey to learn ways to treat others more humanely continues, I share 15 links to 15 things I’ve learned while working for social justice.

You can learn from different perspectives–Sure, while we may value social justice, it’s important to recognize that each of us may have very different ways of how it looks in practice.

Degrees are not the final say–Obtaining degrees, and/or other forms of training and credentials, doesn’t mean that we have all the answers. In Social Justice Work, a deeper connection and commitment is required. Think of the acquiring of credentials as more of a beginning of something new, rather than the end-all, be all.

You can’t change what’s going on around you, until you start changing what’s happening within you–Learning should be continuous. What we hold to be true in our hearts and minds can dictate our actions in our personal lives and in the field, so it is important that we take great care and invest consistent time and effort into critically examining ourselves to ensure that we will not be doing more of the hurting in our “helping” positions.

Our oppression in some areas does not excuse or erase our privilege in other areas–nor does it absolve us from owning the responsibility for our complicity with oppressive systems.

There is no hierarchy of oppression–there is no hierarchy of oppression. There is no hierarchy of oppression.

There’s room for all of us in this work–No matter what your area of interest is, you can make a contribution. Everyone has something to bring.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy–It’s important to recognize when we might be getting in our own way, so that we can change directions.

Oppression is ORGANIZED–In order to become effective agents of social change, we need to be able to recognize the manifestations of social problems on an individual level, as well as the ways those problems connect to patterns that are representative of larger, more complex systems of oppression.

Our values have a real influence on what we decide to do with our lives–As we learn about what makes us come alive, it’s also important to know what others value so we can work together to foster mutually beneficial relationships.

Far too often then not, we get into trouble because of the single stories we have of people who are not like us–We can’t talk about “single stories” and stereotypes without talking about power; the power to create, spread, and reinforce those single stories again and again.

How we respond after we’ve been called out can either be restorative, or further damaging.–Don’t get defensive, do something different. Make real changes.

Self-Care is important–In the process helping others, if we don’t take the proper time out to take care of ourselves, we too may find ourselves needing some extra assistance, due to lack of maintenance.

We all need allies, and we all need to be an ally–we’ll all need support at different times in our lives.

Treat others how they want to be treated–Sometimes, looking solely through the lens of our own lived experiences to find what are, and are not acceptable ways to communicate what respect is can create conflict in relationships. What works for us individually, may not work for someone else.

To the highest degree that you can, work to repair relationships that may have been damaged–Life is short, and the work starts at home. If you are fortunate to have people in your life who you love, and who love you in return, take great care to cultivate those relationships in ways that demonstrate that. Take great care to make sure that your actions and words are consistent.

Those were a few thoughts from me, but what lessons have you learned?


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones, MSW, LLMSW



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Written by

I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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1 Response

  1. November 4, 2015

    […] Day 2 Prompt-Make a list: 15 Things I’ve Learned While Working For Social Justice […]

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