Justice, Peace and Waking Up
It is safe to say that most of us—if not all—watched the last two weeks with horror and anger at the murder of another unarmed Black man. Coupled with the recent worldwide events, this cataclysmic turning point laid bare the deep roots of racism and discrimination embedded in our social architecture. It’s not a new reality, but rather it is the reality that many of us have been blind to. It is a reality of inequity, of injustice and of violence.
Systemic racism must end
The roar from this reality is incontrovertible: There must be an end to systemic racism.
This does not mean that we, as individuals, are racists. Rather, it means that the system we live in—our laws, our social rules, our policies—is built upon privilege. The very foundation of our society is built upon the commodification of human value, resulting in a small minority benefitting and enjoying their full rights to the detriment of others. Despite its complacent veneer, this foundation spawns injustice, intolerance and peacelessness.
Justice and peace
Let us be clear: without justice, there can never be peace. Peace—to quote Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr—is not the absence of tensions, but is the presence of justice. Peace without justice is not only antithetical, it is impossible. When we have an absence of tension without justice, we do not have peace; we have order through violence.
Violence is the byproduct of injustice and hatred. When there is systemic racism, there is violence. When there is fear for our survival, there is violence. When rights are unequal, there is violence. When there is destruction of our environment for the sake of profits, there is violence. When we allow racist, homophobic, antisemitic, islamophobic, or sexist tropes, jokes, and hoaxes to circulate unchallenged, there is violence.
Doing nothing = violence
When we stand silently and do nothing in the presence of racism, injustice and inequity, there is violence.
It is a difficult truth to face, this reality that has pierced our illusion. And yet, this reality is a call. It is a call for collaboration, for social unity, for support. It is a call to proactively cultivate education, to actively listen and to engage with the sustainable values of justice and peace. It is a call for collective action.
We can all do something
We can all do something: for some, it is marching. For some, it is changing the structural systems that allow discrimination to exist. For some, it is introducing to our students resources and thinkers and knowledge-keepers who are from underrepresented communities. For some, it is creating platforms where diverse voices are highlighted, elevated, and heard. For many, it is voting, even when voting might feel inadequate.
We are given an unprecedented clear chance to change: to change the racism, misogyny, and xenophobia that breeds the hatred that drives our social structures. We have the chance to rebuild our foundation based on the values of justice, sustainability and peace.
However, like all chances presented in history, this one is fleeting. We have to seize it, build a momentum, work collectively by listening and learning and rebuilding. Otherwise, the impetus is lost and we are condemning ourselves to repeat the mistakes of the past.
So, the choice is here. Will we take it or let it slip us by?
Interim Programming Coordinator, Peace Centre