Mr. Kim on Social Justice

Mr. Kim DSC_1474 During gathering this week, I took out my Latin-issued iPad to take attendance of my advisory and catch up on Derrick Rose’s #TheRealReturn. Watching a highlight of his first dunk after a 526-day layoff, I let out a deep sigh of relief knowing that all was right again in the city of Chicago; but something on the theater screen caught my attention—a map of our city. A city not united in its love for DRose, but a city distinctly divided into enclaves of colored dots identified as Black, White, and “Other” (which also bugged me to no end, but that’s for another Op-Ed altogether). It highlighted the invisible boundaries that segregated our city and the deep social issues that plagued their neighborhoods. I was shocked by this statistical injustice, and felt a deep resentment welling up inside of me. We were told stories of tragic violence where the blood and tears of innocent bystanders run off underground in a labyrinth of sewers where we cannot see and where their cries cannot be heard. A system of oppression that favors the privileged, stacking the deck against those that are dealt less fortunate cards so that they can never win a hand. Again, Latin did an outstanding job of making me keenly aware of the great need that existed just outside our hallowed hallways, but after a couple minutes of righteous indignation, gathering was over and my attention turned back to my screen where I crept back into my comfortable world of hero worship. Therein lies my hypocrisy and embarrassment—I speak of social activism, but where in my daily life do I practice social justice? I can easily point out where and when society has gone wrong, but how quickly do I offer my hand to heal and restore broken communities? Even in writing this simple op-ed, I went through countless drafts pouring out my concern for the marginalized, but all I felt was disingenuous on my little soapbox. Probably at some level, we all feel this sense of paralysis and disconnect. There is desperate need all around us, but we don’t have the slightest clue how to make a difference… so we don’t. It’s not that we have bad intentions, but our daily grind makes social activism become another box that needs to be checked off in our never-ending to-do lists. How do we stop leading lives of good intentions and start living intentionally? I want to make a difference, but I honestly don’t see how I can make a genuine impact, so instead I don’t make a move as the vicious cycles of poverty and oppression continue to plague our city. As the week unfolded, I was introduced to a quote by Dr. King that I had never heard before: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal… Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.” Where and how I will make a difference is still uncertain, but I am tired of letting my silence speak volumes. Maybe I will watch the screening of The Interrupters or I attend a diversity luncheon. I can jump on the bus down to Springfield to stand with hundreds of others fighting for equal rights or simply wear purple to show my support. In the end each of us must figure out how we will get involved, so I beg you to please hold me accountable, because my silence cannot be an option.  ]]>