I have always been a little bit off-center. I hang out with people in the fringes. My general love for all things weird, different and unique has made appreciating diverse literature a natural flow. Most issues in the world baffle me. I do not understand why skin color, faith, sexuality and gender require a debate. Doesn’t science teach us that diversity is what keeps a species alive? Isn’t it clear that no two people are the same and there is an infinite number of combinations that create this complex-beautiful creature called a human being?
In my bubble I had no problems.
I was comfortable and sure of my own perspective of the world. I also felt as if all those issues belong to a different continent, far removed from the Philippines. In recent years however the arguments for and against all forms of human rights issues have been ringing in my ears. At some point I stepped completely away from any form of discussion on social justice. It was too in-your-face and angry that it turned me off. I became more and more indifferent about the issues. I stopped following blogs that had some form of activism. It was too noisy and it felt as if there were too many people screaming human rights and social justice who didn’t understand exactly what that meant. The discussions, however, found me: the complex ideologies that made little sense to me. I believed I was coming from a perspective that appreciated diversity and respected the common humanity in people. Recently however the voices that have been speaking out made me think: Why aren’t we moving forward in this area? Why does race, gender, sexuality, religion, and socio-economic status continue to divide us? Why, despite the various movements and revolutions in global history, do we continue to discriminate?
I needed an education.
Where else do I get an education, but in books. There was no real rhyme or reason on how I went about looking for my education. I began with the pocket size books of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, namely: We Should All be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele or a Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions. She was an author I was familiar with, and the books were not too intimidating. Then, I kept seeing Rebecca Solnit in bookstagram, so I picked up a copy of Men Explain Things to Me.
Through Myra’s recommendation I recently finished and reviewed Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo. This was eventually followed by my current read– Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Renni Eddo-Lodge. After this, I would probably be reading my recent purchase, The Girl who Smiled Beads by Clementine Wamariya.
None of these books are easy to read. While some of them are inspirational, all of them put forth the facts of the world. As painful as some (if not all) of these are to read, it is necessary to look at them as they are. I’ve always believed that we can choose not to be ignorant about the world. Sometimes, the change we need in society happens if we got up from our comfortable seats, reached out for a book and allowed it to open our minds. I am not an activist and less likely to go to the streets and shout for human rights, but I am a teacher. My goal in getting this education is to be informed as a teacher: to expose my students to these issues whether it is in literature class or in their random questions about “What is Feminism?” or when they show me a meme about social justice.
So far, I’ve come to realize that social justice is more than the superficial things we are exposed to. Feminism is beyond not wearing your bra and taking off your make up. Racial equality isn’t just about eating with a person of another race. Standing for social justice is seeing the structures and systems that create these problems. Inequality isn’t just in blatant discrimination. Most often, it is covert, hidden somewhere between a job interview and a pay raise. Acknowledging the presence of these inequalities, and speaking up against these practices is a start.
I still have a long way to go, but I’m starting this journey.
If you are an activist or someone deeply passionate about social justice, please recommend titles. I’m going to try to read as much as I can, the more varied the context of these books, the better. Please leave your recommendations below.