Prof Charles Quist- Adade
Social Justice 2311 (S10)
Dec 13, 2011
Final Reflection Essay
In looking back at this social justice course I have learned and of course unlearned some key concepts complied from lecture notes, texts and films shown in class. Some specific concepts that relate to social justice are the debunking and the social imagination. With these two concepts I’m now able to deconstruct and analyse the social aspects that surrounds everyone.
Debunking is very important in analysing our social world. The definition from Charles Quist- Adade (2011) explains that it is “looking at both the obvious and the surface level and the less obvious and the deeper explanation of social behaviour” (14). This concept can be virtually applied to any social phenomena. For example in class, there were several films presented that show the aspect of debunking. Jessica Jackely from the TED presentation “Poverty, money — and love” explained that she was looking at the obvious problems of poverty in which people are always going to be disenfranchised and those certain people will always ask for assistance. She found that she was willing to help those in need but she became numb to the action and she did not genuinely acquire compassion to help these people. With looking deeper in the issues of poverty such as everyone has skills and special capabilities that they can utilise to be functioning thriving people of society, she was able to change her attitude and help prosper hope, love and development. The way she inspired an initiated this process was to provide small loans to entrepreneurs in need. By offering this, they can develop their skills and choose to take action to escape the cycle of poverty rather than have people give certain funds for a temporary time. She saw poverty as a very dark social reality but by looking deeper to the problem she was able to adjust her social behaviour and therefore improve the lives of the disenfranchised and others around her.
Another important aspect that ties every social justice concept together is the social imagination. Debunking can very well be associated with the social imagination because with exploring the obvious and the deeper constructs of social realities one can certainly use this technique to examine the social imagination both locally or globally. The social imagination defined by Quist- Adade (2011) “is a capacity, ability, a quality of mind that allows an individual to understand and connect her or his life with the forces and dynamics that impact it” (23). Quist-Adade (2011) noted that there are two key ways to utilise the social imagination and those are: to comprehend the connection of “biography and history and distinguishing ‘personal problems’ from ‘public issues’” (23) In class, we all used our social imagination by relating our own person biography and history and how these two aspects intertwine to explain our perspectives of the social realities. By analysing the simple things that we drink such as coffee one can certainly direct the origins back to the local and global community. For example the coffee beans can derived from Brazil and the ceramic cup is most likely made from a child labourer in China. These products are shipped all over the world including Canada and this shows that all our global communities inevitably transfer to one another. So this example demonstrates the social imagination and how a simple drink like coffee can be associated with many global communities.
In this course, I learned and unlearned many key concept but the two concepts that struck me the most was the technique of debunking and the perspective of the social imagination. With these two eye-opening concepts I’m able to now recognise the suffering and the injustices in my local and international community so I can take action and help heal our communities.
Quist- Adade, C. (2011) Social in Local and Global Contexts, Vancouver: DaySpring.
Race – the Power of an Illusion
Affective Reading Method
From the video clip “Race, the power of an illusion, it basically emphasized that race is socially constructed and not a biological aspect. Race is used to maintain inequity between “inferior” types of people and these perspectives that certain races behave in a certain way are also ingrained in the fabric of society’s laws and socialization. The film also provides concrete evidence as to why race isn’t biologically linked such as the DNA testing. In this test, those who did not appear to be associated with each other were actually more closely biologically related. In fact those who live closer to the equator are usually darker pigmented. There are no genetic markers that define race. The film expressed that there is more diversity within the same racial groups than in different groups. Also it was eye-opening to realise that the average Caucasian family acquires eight times the income than an African-American family.
I have always associated race as a biologically linked and society continues to express that race is associated to biologically. To a certain extent, race and other certain other aspects combined may associate to biology but this video most definitely provides proof that race is not biologically associated. This association is most likely presented in mainstream society because it creates a level inferiority between different races. It is apparent that the Caucasians have the level of superiority over the African descents and this occurs through the immense media and social norms. Also, certain laws and regulation maintains this inferiority such as the employment process. Some employers would rather a hire person with a white sounding name rather than a foreign name, so this a very real example that demonstrates that the white are considered superior and that race in not biologically related instead race is socially integrated into the fabric of society.
Poverty, money — and love Film
Jessica Jackley is the co-founder of Kiva.org, an online community that provides microloans to entrepreneurs all over the world. This method is empowering because it helps those in need use their best abilities and talents to make a difference in their lives rather than receive outright charity that sometimes does not necessarily help those in long terms.
Jackley speaks about her experiences regarding poverty. She explains that she started to feel bad, guilty and eventually the charity that she provided was not from a genuine source. She even came to the conclusion that this perspective of the poor may never change. So she discovered Kiba an organization that helps others achieve their goals rather than having someone else do things for them. The best way to help someone else was to have them change their lives themselves and continually on their capabilities. She discussed that these small loans would boost business and to further supports the entrepreneurs. She also explained that the loans were different from outright money and that it was a source of attention and building a relationship. The microloans are a way to build resources because those people who need the loans know bests as to where the money could go towards. Essentially she changed her attitude towards poor from lack of genuine care to involvement.
” And I felt overwhelmed. And for the first time I began to fear this group of people and to feel negative emotions towards a whole group people. I imagined in my head, a kind long line of individuals that were never going away, that will always be with us. They were always going to ask me to help him and give them things which I was excited to do, but I didn’t know how it was going to work. And I didnt know what would happen If I ran out of things to give, especially if the problem was never going away”
I chose this phrase from Jessica Jackley because it shows how people are willing to give to the poor, but there are always negative connotations or negative perspectives of the poor so it is difficult to actually genuinely give. Also it also demonstrates that people have good intentions but do not exactly know where and how to start the initiative. These sentences expresses the fact the only solution of the poor is to give and that the problem of the poor is always going to perpetuate. This way of thinking and this attitude expresses no hope to find solutions and I feel that this attitude is present in several people. Once this attitude changes and people begin to see the capabilities of the disenfranchised and give them resources to develop these abilities than hope, and love will prosper and minimization of the poor will occur as well.
The Danger of a Single Story
Affective Reading Method
Adichie explained that the stories that we read as children are often impressionable and vulnerable to us as children. British writers rarely wrote about colored people and therefore made it seemed like colored skin people did not exist. Her perspective of poverty was a sense of pity. Often when people think of African people it attaches a negative connotation. In fact it appears that stereotypes associating Africans were incomplete and keeps perpetuating the negative stigmas of being from Africa. There is a huge emphasise on how Africans are different from similar to Caucasians and this further maintaining negative stereotypes .Adichie feels that by using literature and stories that it can empower others rather than oppressing and perpetuating stereotypes of the disenfranchised.
I feel that stories are very vital and everyone can learn lessons from each story. The stories that are presented in the mass media about the disenfranchised certainly maintains the inferior and negative stigmas associated colored people. Being exposed to these stereotypical stories of certain colored people creates an internalization of these stereotypical attributes and therefore other people will assume that, that is how those people behave. Colored people will than internalize these stereotypes as well and this act of the self-prophecy theory. Adichie also explored that the western culture has a deep prejudice that African people do not have proper education and are not at the ability of their intellectual status. This stereotype is indeed false and yet it is being perpetuated throughout society. One can break this cycle of prejudice and stereotypical behavior by recognizing that we are using these false stereotypes to identify certain people and this way one can try to create social change to change the injustices between individuals.
In Class Assignment:
Rebecca Mellett of CIDA
Rebecca Mellett was our speaker from the Canadian International Development Agency. She shared many intriguing facts about this government organization. The approach of this organization is to offer bi-lateral aid in which both governments must agree with the guidelines and specifically with the guidelines that CIDA sets out. Only about 20 countries actually agree to abide with the strict CIDA guidelines. Since this is a government based organization it is funded by Canadian tax dollars, funding from the UN and The Red Cross. Their aim is to reduce poverty around the world.
Rebecca Mellett also spoke about the Millennium goals aimed to be completed by 2015. These were eight specific goals that are aimed to help other countries to reduce poverty. But Mellett also mentioned that it is very difficult with certain individuals to access aid because they do not acquire a social insurance number which makes it difficult for their government to help them because they lack recorded identity.
Prior this presentation, I only knew very little about the CIDA foundation and I did not realise that there are strict guidelines in order for CIDA to help other countries. There are positive sides to this approach such as receiving aid but a negative side to this approach is that certain government may not want to abide to the guidelines and therefore their people living in poverty may not get any support or funding. CIDA is a great organization that tries to use a specific approach so that countries can receive funding to help their specific needs to reduce poverty.
Under the Same Sun Presentation
Affective Reading Method
During the “Under the Same Sun” presentation in class, I discovered many interesting yet disturbing information regarding albinism in Africa specifically in Tanzania and Kenya. This foundation is a non-profit organization that helps improve the lives of Albinos peoples in Tanzania. Approaches to aiding these individuals are to advocate, educate and assisting people with albinism to have access to bursaries, education and healthcare.
I learned that Albinism is a rare yet non contagious disease that is both inherited by both parents. The conditions include lack of skin, eye and hair color and as well as sensitivity to sunlight or bright lights. Most people with albinism are visually impaired because of the sensitivity to bright lights.
The two presenters also noted that there are ongoing dangers in Africa towards the people with albinism such as disturbing things like cutting off an arm to sell in the black market. This happens because some people especially in the Tanzania area believe in Black magic and witchcraft and those who are known as witches must have certain parts of a person with Albinism to create a potion or spell to improve other people’s wealth or well-being.
It is very encouraging and inspiring to hear that this fund is raising awareness and proving resources to people with albinism because I feel that very few people know the dangers and discrimination that people with Albinism face every day. With this organization, more and more people with Albinism can live safely and hopefully one day without discrimination or stigmatization.
George A Piprah, Ghana Consul-General – F.A.C.E
Paraphrasic Reading Method
The Ghana Consul-General, George A. Piprah spoke about his organization, F.A.C.E or Foundation for African Children’s Education. The purpose of his organization is to aid children in rural Africa to attend school. The founders of this organization believe that to break the cycle of poverty children should have the opportunity of education.
There are several different ways in which this special organization works. The major way is through donations and volunteering abroad to directly helping those children in need of education. Volunteers could directly give the school kits to children in Africa or help deliver the kits. Also, one does not have to travel abroad to help, one can also sponsor a child for only $150 and this will be suffice for a child to go to school for one year. About $40 goes to the parents of the child to help with everyday expenses. The rest of the $150 goes towards school supplies, a backpack and uniforms. This organization also tries to give all the donated money directly to the child in need of education.
“When we came to the first village I was humbled by their poor living conditions and amazed by their love and fascination for us. Many of the kids had on dirty old school uniforms and a lot of them had no shoes. These kids need our support. The kids who are chosen are the ones who are most needy in the area. It amazes me to think that George Piprah, the founder of FACE was also subject to these conditions. It was only through his education that he was enabled to get out of the village and make a decent living and it is a joy to see what is happening through FACE. FACE is giving back to the villages and giving hope for a future to these warm-hearted kids.”
I chose this paragraph from the FACE website and it is from a volunteer who actually went to Africa and volunteered. I chose this paragraph because it shows the realization of the conditions around these children and therefore may trigger others to help donate and volunteer as well.