We answered several of the questions we got during the survey in Answering Your Questions, Part 1 back in February. That set of questions dealt with us personally and the blog itself. This week, we’re tackling the content questions!
What are some of the answers to these justice problems in your opinion?
Michelle: I’m not sure how answerable this question is, but I love it! This is what we answer in each post. From the beginning of Tuesday Justice, our model for most posts is “here’s the problem, here’s what’s being done about it, here’s how you can get involved.” Whether or not what’s being done is going to solve the problem is another story, but hopefully, it’s at least helpful on some level, and we do our best to vet those solutions before we publish our posts.
For a lot of what we talk about, the ultimate solutions would require equal treatment before the law, poverty alleviation, equality in education & opportunity, and other such development goals. But there’s an element of symptom treatment in some of this. While we want to fix the root causes of injustice, we also want to alleviate some of the immediate suffering people are facing. We have to use a both/and approach.
What situation have you been made aware of which had a “perfect storm” of factors such as poverty, slavery & immigration as the root cause?
Michelle: I came across this report from Verite, Forced Labor in the Production of Electronic Goods in Malaysia, which included a case study that illustrates these three factors coming together. (You can find more info in the Research Findings section of the report, beginning on page 83.)
“The problems started when the factory asked their broker to raise the workers’ wages to meet the new legal minimum wage standard. The broker initially agreed to the wage increase, but was disingenuous with them about how many deductions would be taken from their base salary, having them sign a contract written in English and Malay, languages that none of the three understood. When the workers got their first payslips, they realized that their wages were much lower than they had agreed, and complained about it to the factory management. The factory apparently confronted their broker about the issue, because only days later, they were informed by the broker that they were being pulled from their jobs, that the factory was ‘throwing them away.’ Days later, they were made to pack their bags and move to a new housing area in Balakong, about 50 km away from their previous residence. […] After some time, the workers were informed that they must start working at a new, much less desirable factory. The workers knew this factory to have a poor reputation and objected to the new assignment, repeatedly asking the broker to return their passports to them, but the agent refused to give their passports back. At the time of the interview, the workers had not received pay for their final two weeks of work at the original factory, nor had they been paid at all since moving to Balakong. Instead of paying them their back pay, their broker offered to loan them money to cover their living costs. Since nothing had been resolved regarding the new factory job yet, while winding down the interview, the researcher asked them what they wanted to happen. They said that they were not asking for more than they deserved, and that they wished to remain in Malaysia to continue working since they had not been able to save money yet, due to spending their first two years in the country paying off their debts. They said that they do not want to run away because they wanted to get their passports back. They just wanted to be respected and protected by the agent, and if that was not possible, they wanted to be able to transfer to another agent.”
How do you build friendships with people of another race?
Channon: I think the most important thing to remember is that people are just people! We are all human beings and are all on this journey called life. We all experience love, joy, sadness, pain, heartache, healing, etc., and if we can always remember that in the back of our minds, then it will be easier to relate to people, even if they aren’t the same race as you! Take for example me and Michelle: We met in the UK, doing the same Masters degree, learning more about a subject that we both are passionate about. And we instantly clicked and became good friends (and are still to this day)! We also connected through our shared faith and ultimately because Michelle is just a great person and someone who I wanted to have a lasting friendship with. Even though we are black and white, we don’t dwell on that, instead we choose to focus on our shared interests, passions and genuine like of each other! So focus on the shared and similar interests with someone from another race and not your differences or the fact that you’re from different races.
Michelle: Yes, yes, yes to what Channon said! There are times when I, as a white person, need to understand how Channon’s experiences, as a black woman, are different than mine. And while it’s important to recognize that, when it comes to beginning a friendship, we often connect with others based on our shared experiences.
What do you think the most important way to prevent social justice problems is?
Channon: I don’t think there is one single, important way to prevent social justice problems. I think a couple of things need to be implemented in order to find success in preventing these issues globally. First, we must acknowledge deep-rooted hurts from the past. Brokenness within certain communities needs to be dealt with and forgiveness and healing needs to happen. Safe spaces have to be created for underrepresented groups’ voices to be heard and their opinions and ideas acknowledged. Also, I believe policies and laws have to be more strict when it comes to dealing with issues such as trafficking, modern day slavery in all of its forms. Also, plans have to be put in place so that poverty can be eliminated, so that people can live their lives comfortably without having to worry about where their next meal is coming from or whether they can afford to send their children to school. Looking at all of these things that have to be done is a HUGE task and slightly overwhelming, but Michelle and I have hope that one day we will get there!
Do you feel people should do more due diligence on what is being reported on the news before forming opinions on the issue? Also, we sometimes have dirty grids from past hurts that skew our opinions. How can we separate opinions from facts to not make an immediate emotional judgment?
Michelle: To answer the first two questions, YES. Yes, we should all do our due diligence before forming opinions. And yes, we all have dirty grids. (I’ve never heard the term “dirty grid” before; I’m just guessing it’s meaning from context.) Depending on where you grew up, who you’re around, which news gets to your feed, it’s tough to separate fact from opinion and take varying viewpoints into consideration. No one is completely neutral, and we all need to start from the understanding that our viewpoints on social justice issues HAVE BEEN affected by a number of variables. That’s key in beginning to understand why things are the way they are and how others could be viewing the same situation differently than we are.
The media we consume plays a huge role in this (see here: Political Polarization & Media Habits from Pew Research Center). So, the next step, and answer to the third question, is to make sure that you’re getting input from “the other side” (if you have a particular bent left or right) or both sides (if you feel like you don’t belong on the spectrum at all or if you feel stuck in the middle). It’s important that wherever you’re spending time getting news and information, you don’t create an echo chamber. As a liberal person in a deeply conservative region, I don’t need to curate my timelines too strictly; it happens naturally for me, both online and IRL. If the people around you mostly agree with you, it’s easy to only see the facts that confirm your opinions. (That being said, I’m not above blocking someone who regularly posts vitriol or fake news.) If you’re getting your news from TV, switch channels once in a while. If you get your news online, go to multiple sites. If you get your news via social media, follow multiple (reputable) sources. (Also, check out these tips: Five Ways to Break Out of Your Online Echo Chamber.) It does take some effort, but it’s incredibly important to see from multiple perspectives in order to have a well-rounded, compassionate view of the issues.
I looked up some charts to find the best news sources on either side. Obviously, this is somewhat subjective, but I didn’t see huge discrepancies. (Google “media bias chart” to see what I mean.) News sources like The Economist, The Atlantic, and Wall Street Journal both scored very well in terms of fact-reporting and minimal bias across most of the charts I saw (see photos).
I am always interested in what we can do to help and ways we can use the information you have given us to get involved. Now that my social justice flame has been lit by a post, tell me what to do with that flame. You do this already, but I am definitely for it! // How can I get involved in social justice in my local area?
Channon: What a great question!! There are many ways in which you can get involved in social justice in your local area.
- You can volunteer your time at a local organization that is working towards a specific cause.
- You can donate your financial resources to organizations who are doing great work locally, nationally or globally.
- You can choose a book that discusses social justice issues and create a book club and invite friends, family, your community, and those who may be interested in learning more about social justice and how they can help. (Our resource list has some great options for this!.)
Michelle also wrote a great blog post titled, “2017: But What Can We Do?” which lists some more ways in which you can get involved in fighting for social justice in your community. If you’re looking for something specific, but can’t seem to find it, get in touch with us and we will do our best to point you in the right direction.
Michelle: What Channon said, plus protest and most importantly, vote!
If you didn’t get to ask us that burning question back in August during the survey, don’t hesitate to ask us now! Comment below or shoot us a message on Facebook.