“The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
While it’s easy to become very discouraged when considering all of the difficult realities in our world, I truly believe that by only focusing on the darkness, we are missing out on the bigger picture. Kind of like, cropping out a photo of a small pebble from a portrait of the Grand Canyon….You’d be missing something.
If you’re like me, hope can seem like such a fleeting emotion when you’re faced with people who just don’t seem to ‘care’ as deeply about an issue as you do. It’s easy to get discouraged and despair in the thought that nothing will ever change, and that what you do doesn’t matter. But in my opinion, that’s taking the short view and selecting only to see the tiny pebble in the midst of the Grand Canyon.
Admittedly I’m a huge history nerd, and if history has taught me anything, it’s that our decisions do matter, a great deal actually, and that change is absolutely possible. I always think to myself, what if Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, or Mother Theresa had simply sat back and taken no action, arguably the world would be a much different place. While it’s easy to look at that list of human rights giants and think that you won’t be able to accomplish what they did, it’s important to remember that none of these people acted alone. We have a tendency to hold up extraordinary individuals, who were and are, every bit deserving of praise. However I would contend, that if the nameless masses had not decided to stand together, and struggle together for collective change, we would have probably never known the names of these great leaders.
An Organizer from Youngstown, OH, always shares this wisdom from his grandmother during trainings; “If you call yourself a leader, but nobody is following you…then you’re just out taking a walk”. This says to me that leaders need followers, just as much, as followers need a leader. We have to be willing to humble ourselves, roll up our sleeves, and find common ground to stand on together.
Over the past six years I’ve learned a lot about advocacy working with International Justice Mission (IJM) Justice Campaigns. ‘IJM Justice Campaigns mobilizes people around the country in support of U.S. policies that combat modern-day slavery and promote the development of public justice systems abroad to protect the poor from violent oppression.’ In that short six years I’ve seen a dramatic shift in the landscape of attitudes in the U.S. toward this issue. Five years ago I caught myself thinking that no one would ever take this as seriously as I do, feeling almost hopeless in the wake of such a dark and large problem. Volunteering year after year to lobby on capital hill only to see good legislation fall into the fray of our polarized government. However, in 2012 and early 2013, a few important pieces of legislation were passed in congress. The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act protects individuals from labor trafficking by subcontractors working with the U.S. government oversees in Iraq and Afghanistan. The state of Ohio has passed important statewide legislation, which strengthens our anti-trafficking laws and provides stronger support to women and men survivors of this vicious crime, and Kentucky is working on similar legislation as we speak. Finally, one of our most important defenses against modern day slavery in the U.S. and abroad is the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which was introduced in 2011 and passed this year! A few years ago a bright-eyed junior in college started telling people on her campus about the issue of modern day slavery and people looked at me like I had four heads. Now almost everyone has at least some understanding, and even the President has spoken out against trafficking (see video here).
It may seem like these things just happen as they should, but as weary advocates would tell you, it could not happen with out an army of people working together for months and years across states, organizations, faith groups, etc…to bring these things to pass. The greatest lesson this experience has taught me; is that even if the problem seems insurmountable, to never fear taking a step toward justice if it’s the right step. Because, though I am only one person of little power alone, I am just one part of a much bigger picture.
Do you want to be apart of the bigger picture?
Then join the CFJ for the Social Action Fair | Today, Wednesday, March 27th | 4pm – 6pm | GSC
Dominique Brown is the Service & Justice Coordinator in the Center for Faith and Justice here at Xavier and actively working with IJM Justice Campaigns to push forward policies aimed to combat modern day slavery. She is utilizing this blog post as a shameless plug and would love for you to contact her about getting involved. She’s also currently in awe of the new low calorie Buskins doughnuts…yum!