Mary Nangeroni Social Justice Award
As a triple major in Sociology, Spanish and Social Justice I have been exposed to a wide range of social justice issues that translate into wider global justice issues. The social justice issues that have become the most important to me are human rights and structural inequality that encompasses both racial and health inequality.
I first find human rights to be the most important social justice issue to me because it gets at the very definition of social justice. Social justice is often known as the fair or equal distribution of opportunities, wealth, rights and privileges within a society however I think this applies to every person, on a global level. Human rights involve rights that are inherent to all human beings, regardless of nationality, sex, ethnic origin, race, religion, language or any status and I believe that when people are not equally entitled to their human rights without discrimination then this not only becomes a social justice issue but a global justice issue. If any human being cannot have their basic human rights, then all human beings in the world need to recognize this and thus, it becomes a social justice issue on a global level.
Structural inequality is an important social justice issue to me because through my studies and life experiences I have come to learn that much of the inequality that is seen in the world today is systematically rooted in the normal operations of dominant social institutions, societies and cultures. Structural inequality occurs in every society, country and community all over the world and many people don’t even realize it. Structural inequality can be divided into many different categories and includes issues such as racism, health inequality and more. With increasing globalization of our world through trade and production I think it’s important to recognize the structurally rooted inequalities that are social justice issues and learn new ways to counter act them.
Inside of the classroom I believe I have learned a lot about these social justice issues that I was oblivious to before, I learned how to become active and spread awareness and break stereotypes. This is how I have and continue to work on the social justice issues that are important to me outside of the classroom. I work everyday to try to educate people by breaking the stereotypes and preconceived notions that seem to have become a sort of common knowledge. This could be politely correcting a friend when they generalize any Spanish speaking person as a Mexican or Latino or even simply trying to break the assumption that the City of Lawrence is a crime ridden, Hispanic filled dangerous place. I believe that making social change beginning in the everyday conversations and lives of those with whom we interact with is crucial in the fight for social justice. Helping to change the perspectives of those I connect with using the knowledge I have gained through my studies is how I work with social justice issues outside of the classroom on an everyday level.
I strive to continue engaging with these social justice issues on a deeper level beyond just interactions in my everyday life. Now that I am graduating I have the opportunity to make social justice a part of my career path. This past fall I interned at a non-profit in Lawrence called Arlington Community Trabajando (ACT) which is a community development organization that is dedicated to empowering Lawrence residents with a range of community development initiatives and activities such as affordable housing, foreclosure prevention, first time homebuyer education, family financial literacy, business and youth development. Working at ACT opened me up to the world of non profit work that directly connects to combating the social justice issues that are prominent in our society today. Ideally I would like to become involved with an organization that works to combat social justice issues related to racism, health inequality and human rights. Working with social justice as a part of my career path would make my education and future that much more meaningful. I would love to get involved with other organizations that can provide me ways to be involved with social justice in my personal life, much as Mary Nangeroni dedicated much of her life to social justice and civil right issues.
In the future I would like to get involved with more social justice issues that surround immigration, gender and LGBTQ rights. This are prominent issues that I see everyday in life and I know will become increasingly important in our world. I think there is a major lack of knowledge surrounding these issues and many stereotypes that need to be broken by education, awareness and activism.