I intend to incorporate my social justice awareness into my life using my personal mission statement of leadership interchangeably, that is:
"To be a transformational, SERVANT leader, one must have the courage to "fall, and get back up". With faith, authenticity, and growth, one can accomplish anything you set out to do, even when roadblocks sometimes crop up during the journey"
To meet my goals, I must set servant leadership practices and measure myself against those servant leadership practices to ensure I am accomplishing these goals.
I plan on using the "nine challenges for social justice leaders" discussed in the book "Learning as a way of Leading, Lessons from the struggle for Social Justice". These challenges will ensure I am moving towards my growth as a Social Justice Leader.
1. Learning to be open to the contribution of others (foundational skill). We begin to view small groups as an ecology of we, not me (interdependence); We begin to perceive diversity as a value; and we understand that today’s challenges are best solved by including multiple stakeholders’ perspectives and insights (those with influence and those whose voices are marginalized).
2. Learning how to reflect critically on one’s practice. Only as we become open to the contributions of others can we gather the perspectives needed to practice critical reflection (shifting from the balcony and the dance floor).
3. Learning how to support the growth of others. Instead of asking, how did I do, one learns to ask how did we do? What did we learn? What could we do better?
4. Learning to develop collective leadership skills. Group members become aware of how individual learning is premised on and contributes to the learning of others.
5. Learning to analyze experience. This is a leadership practice that leads us to challenge our old assumptions and then to reconfigure accepted practices. Changing our mind is not seen as a weakness but strength.
6. Learning to question oneself and others. What we learn on one day serves as a bridge to consider a whole new set of understandings and challenges. The group becomes a living field of experience and new knowledge. We never cease growing and learning how to work together most effectively.
7. Learning democracy. Learning democracy requires that we learn democratic principles. We learn to honor diversity, living with the partial function of the democratic ideal, avoid the trap of false antithesis (where we are always forced to choose between either-or, learn to avoid the temptation to bypass the democratic process in the interest of speedily reaching a decision, develop collective forms of social and economic planning, etc.
8. Learning to sustain hope in the face of struggle. The longer one learns about collective leadership practices, the more one becomes aware of just how deep and strong are the structural forces that oppose attempts to change the status quo. Radical pessimism.
9. Learning to create community. We seek to build community and teach the value of community-based decision making and leadership where people’s experience and knowledge are honored and where opportunities for members to develop their talents and capacities are supported.
Finally, we, as social justice leaders, we have to get involved, and involve others in the fight against social injustice. Each one of us is needed to be the solution.
I recall the television show “What Would You Do?” in which the staff would produce situations that caused unknown participants to be put into social situations of different dilemmas. The participants reacted to the dilemmas differently. Some were upset about the situation but did nothing. Others became so upset, they intervened and addressed the dilemma with the participants. This reminds me of something Dr. Bradley stated last semester. He stated, as social justice leaders we all must have to make a choice, even if that choice is to do nothing.
Simply, in my eyes that is service towards social justice. Seeing an unjust, social environment and making a choice to help correct the social injustice.
My goal is to be the activist in social justice, making the choices to fight against social injustices. Whether that is to join a group to fight against a social justice, donate money to a just cause, or do that act that thwarts social injustice.
What does social justice mean to me? This is a very difficult and thought-provoking question I ponder daily. Not because I don’t have the answer, I do, but because I have expectations to be a participant to impact social injustice in the world and I am not there yet. During our Cardinal Stritch December Service lecture, Professor Lansing spoke about social justice and provided a definition in my opinion expresses what social justice means to me:
“Our shared and growing concern that as the world becomes more complex, society more diverse, and former certainties more ambiguous, even those who are well educated and trained may become overwhelmed, discouraged, sometimes frightened.”
What I have learned from some of the most prestigious leaders in the world like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King (MLK), Margaret Wheatley, and the list goes on, is that the capacity for the human race’s welfare is boundless, but that on the path to social justice, sometimes we grow weary and burdened with pressures pushing against social justice.
The experience that impacted me profoundly on the topic of social justice was during an exercise the Cohort was conducting in my Leadership year. Our professor asked the class to read the “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, written by MLK, and afterwards discuss in small groups. I was immediately drawn to MLK’s courage to address the social injustices impacting civil rights at that time, and especially his devotion to suffering for the cause of righteousness. But what really impacted me the most was MLK’s assertion to the White Moderate “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice”. Why, Because I would have fit that role as a white moderate. I questioned myself, what would I do in those circumstances, would I sit on the fence and ask the movement to let the issues work themselves out, or would I take the risk and join the movement for social justice. I difficult answer for a difficult time.
I have spoken about my background and written about my background numerous times during my transformation process. What I like about the Cardinal Stritch program is how we are allowed to talk fearlessly and honestly about my background and theirs and learn the positives and negatives from our backgrounds to forge into transformational, servant leaders. My childhood upbringing was on a dairy farm in Iowa. My parents are together, I have two brothers and a sister that are close, and my paternal grandparents lived separately, but on the farm. Not only did my mother and father work on the farm, but my dad was a principle in the school district we lived in, and my mom worked as an accountant for a firm in the local area (i.e. and still does). Our grandparents were integral with our upbringing and I worked many days with my grandfather on the farm. We didn’t have a whole bunch of money, but we weren’t starving either, I would say my childhood was enjoyable and uneventful. What I find courageous are the stories from my Cohort classmates that didn’t have the best childhood environment, but yet not only survived, but are making differences in their professions and their communities. To me, that is the epitome of social justice, for leaders like us to understand what is needed to improve the playing ground for the folks less fortunate, prejudiced against, and not receiving the same opportunities. Not because we want to make ourselves feel better (i.e. that is an added benefit), not for monetary benefits, but to enrich the lives of others humbly and with heartfelt appreciation for social justice.
To step over the ledge, and take risks for humanity.