An Open Letter to Those Fighting the Good Fight for Social Justice
Dear amazing people,
First, let me express how fortunate I feel to be part of a global social justice movement for positive change at such a challenging time. I am truly honored to be among a group of leaders who care about social justice and equity in the world. Some of you I have met, some I have heard or read of, some I will stumble upon in the future, and some I may never cross paths with. Whoever you are — we are in this together, and I thank you for being here with me.
It is actually quite clear and easy for me to trace back my steps to ‘how’ I got here, but most often struggle to answer ‘why’ I am here.
Sometimes I find myself reflecting back on the trajectory of my life and how I got to where I am right now. It is actually quite clear and easy for me to trace my steps and figure out ‘how’ I got here, but I most often struggle to answer ‘why’ I am here. By ‘why’ I mean the true and genuine ‘why’ — something that expresses the purest and most innate reality deep.
This ‘why’ was exactly what I delved deeply into the first day at the Global Health Corps’ Training Institute, when we — the new cohort of young aspiring global health leaders from around the world — were asked “Why are you here, and what do you seek to achieve?” At that very moment, like an epiphany, the answer which I had always struggled to find hit me, as easily and organically as ever: I am here to fight for social justice and equity though love, compassion, and respect.
This might not seem like an impressive answer — it’s somewhat vague and very subjective. But for me it means everything. Love, compassion and respect are what I have been taught all my life. These three tenets are central to my very existence, a driving force behind each and every action I take in life. I had my ‘why’ realization moment only because I was surrounded by young hearts filled with much love, compassion, and respect for human life and dignity.
I feel that most of us start this journey with very similar ‘whys’ based on noble and kind intentions. However the journey is long, and sometimes it’s easy to lose track of the principles that guide us. I am writing this letter to you all — including myself — to remind us why we do what we do and to reflect on where we are, how far we have come, and what lies ahead of us.
Lately, I have felt and seen growing frustrations and grievances among my fellow social justice compadre. To be fair, it’s one of the most challenging times the world has ever faced. However, it is important to not give up and to keep fighting our good fight with more force and conviction, without forgetting why we are doing so in the first place. It’s imperative that we do not lose sight of why we are here. We have to maintain compassion and respect for all — both the ones who we are fighting with and against.
Sometimes we live in social justice bubbles, surrounded by like-minded people with homogeneous thoughts and views. While this can be a truly catalyzing and empowering experience, it also often cuts us off from the realities of the world. I wish everybody in this world would care about one another and support equality and justice for all, but it’s sadly not the case. There are people who have completely different views, for many different reasons which are far more complex than pure evil. Trying to understand the views and thoughts of people different from us is the key to solving many of the problems we are currently facing right now. Surrounding ourselves with enablers and validators who only echo our views can prevent a fuller understanding of the world from developing.
If we do not understand and work together with others in the social justice community (broadly defined), then how are we going to understand and work with those who fall outside of it?
Perhaps even more fundamentally troubling is that a lack of understanding and sensitivity can sometimes exist within our own social justice communities. As much as we hate to admit it, the social justice scene today is greatly siloed in many ways. Divisions within social justice communities create bubbles within the already existing social justice bubble. We cannot afford to practice ‘selective’ social justice. We cannot be oblivious to or indifferent about what other social justice leaders are talking about. If we do not understand and work together with others in the social justice community (broadly defined), then how are we going to understand and work with those who fall outside of it?
If watching Star Wars has taught me anything, it is that it’s very easy to slip over to the dark side, and that we have to work hard to avoid it at all times. Being loud, aggressive and disrespectful is alienating and rings of social justice cannibalism, a term used to describe how “social justice leaders turn on one another and fight amongst themselves to declare dominance of their views or the cause they support over others.” This time requires us to come together and galvanize support, and this is where love, compassion, and respect go a long way.
We need to appeal to the humanity in people, to beseech them through our example to open their hearts to love and compassion for others. I know at this moment this might all sound like a big mumbo jumbo, but if the past is any indication, this is what works the best for achieving lasting peace and justice. I am not asking you to be a pacifist in this adverse time, but to be a peacemaker who can turn adversaries into allies. Like Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” We need to know that we cannot win this fight by defeating those who oppose us — we can only win this fight by winning them over.
It is important to break free from the bubbles that we live in, and try to understand others while seeking to be understood.
We are at a point now where the world is greatly divided, and there is no greater need than to bridge the divides that separate humanity. To do so, it is important to break free from the bubbles that we live in, and try to understand others while seeking to be understood. My request to all is to not lose sight of why you are here and what drives you as you navigate the treacherous path that lies ahead. Always be true to who you are — always be the amazing you!
With much love,