This is Only the Beginning

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If you can, I’d like you to picture an apple orchard. Nice even rows and columns of trees evenly spaced to make it accessible to whomever is picking the apples off the trees. Behind the orchard is a vast forest. The trees are haphazard and chaotic. There’s branches that are down on the ground and roots sticking up from the ground. It’s nature at its finest.

When you approach the front of the orchard, you see the order. You see the patterns and rules and you know exactly what to expect. But then, as you cross through the orchard, it gets harder to tell where the orchard ends and the forest begins. Suddenly, you’re surrounded by the trees of the forest and the patterns disappear.

And so is the realm of social justice. When you start learning social justice, it starts with order. These are the rules you follow, as with any other social structure. You don’t say these things because [reason] and you say these others because [reason]. The reasons are good, and the reasons are valid, but then….

You start applying the rules too broadly and miss “the forest.”

When you start out to become more aware of injustice around you, it’s important to recognize why the rules are there. Not all opinions are valid. People who are oppressed can be the oppressors too. And oppression olympics hurt us all. It’s possible to have opposing access needs. And just because someone has an opposing access need does not mean they’re oppressing yours.

But more importantly, just because you can follow the rules doesn’t mean you really understand them. Much like any other social structure, it’s possible to learn the rules without fully grasping them. It’s important to see the rules, the order, and recognize that there’s human nature behind it. So you need to keep challenging why the rules are there, not to other people, but within your own head. Only when you continue to challenge the rules can you understand why they exist, who is hurt when you don’t follow them, and ultimately recognize that the rule and order is only the beginning.

Photo by Muffet

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