Working with Social Inequality-Bringing the Classroom to the Streets

Building allies and support. As I said above, one of my fears is leaving school and not being able to bring what I have learned into the real world. I am far more likely to be successful in maintaining my inequity focus if I have allies and supporters I can turn to. If I can learn to talk about inequities in an effective way, I will increase the number of people in my life who will support my work and perhaps even challenge it themselves.

Getting your message across. What is the point of learning everything I have, if no one will listen? I have had several encounters with people online and in real life, where heated debates about subjects such as innate gender roles come up. I used to get very frustrated and end up walking away from such discussion feeling disgusted, useless, and angry. Lately, I have found that if I can talk about inequity effectively that people will listen and not write you off as a communist who wants us all to live under a bridge.

What are some strategies for communicating social inequity?

The strategies I use to create more effective means of communicating inequity are based on my own experiences and don't come from any formal source. I wish I had more to put here. I feel this is the one area of my education that needs more work and I plan on building some kind of workshop or framework for communicating inequities for my final capstone project.

-Talk to your family and friends the same way you would someone you consider an ally. I was talking to my husband once about something to do with gender inequity and he was getting a bit upset with me. He felt that he was the problem and I was angry with him. I told him that I was speaking to him the same way I would one of my close girlfriends and that I consider him an ally, that my passion and anger were not directed at him. By having that conversation I realized that he didn't see that I did not blame him personally for the way women are treated in our society and it was a turning point for how we talk about the subject.

-Don't assume you are right and your ideas will never change. The most dangerous people out there are those who think they have it all figured out and will never change their minds. I change my mind everyday. Everyday I wake up a different person, with a different perspective.

-Challenge ideas, not people. Realize that when you challenge inequities, the people around you might feel like you are challenging them and they way they live their lives. To a certain degree this is true, but not directly. No one person is responsible for the ills we see in the world.

-Don't challenge everything. I have a hard time with this one. Partly because I feel that I need to walk the talk, if I don't challenge inequity when I see it then I feel like I am a hypocrite and just part of the problem. The other reason I have a hard time with this point is that I want to be a good example to my daughters and not actively participate in creating social inequities. This point will change as I develop more effective ways to talk about my work. I should be able to challenge everything and point out inequity when I see it, but it can be exhausting, alienating, and unsustainable.

-Say what you want to say (Be brave). You shouldn't feel like you have to water down your ideas when discussing social inequities. Some research says that this is exactly what you should do, but I think creating "more palatable" messages about social inequities simply creates spaces for inequity to continue and decreases the urgency of the matter. Be brave, if you can, say what you want to say...

-Remember, most people are good people. Everyone lives within a context. Those who don't see the importance of acknowledging social inequities are not bad people, they just buy into the status quo, where people who are subject to the processes of marginalization just need to work harder, get a job, or stop looking for a handout. This is the common narrative of our society. Most mainstream media frame social inequity this way and most programs to "help" are individually based, where nothing is done to actually address the root causes of the problems at hand.

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