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Compilation of Social Justice Journals

EDAD 5200 Social Justice

Janet Nava Cardenas

Learning Journal #1:

This week what stood out in the readings to me was the distinction between distributive
and retributive principles of justices. I found the emphasized differentiation of the two interesting
because prior to these readings they coexisted in my frame of learning. My Chican@ Studies
undergraduate program went into depth into both but always together. Reading about them as
separate concepts allows me to see how both can inform each other when aiming to institutional
change. This is important because it informs institutionalized social justice.
As I kept reading I also realized that one of the questions that I have not explored is how to
evaluate the success of institutionalized change (p.2). The only form of evaluation that I have
done has been through academic research which many times narrates issues but does not call for
a change in narration in existing systems. I am curious to what evaluating success of
institutionalized change looks like in a non-academic process. Through my years of community
work, door to door knocking, evaluating surveys it seems inaccurate to evaluate success this way
because it does not always reach a level or agenda that allows for a voice in natural law.
Ultimately, while I find truth in Nietzsches understanding that justice is not rooted in natural law
but instead self- exploration, self-mastery, and self-overcoming (28) I do however believe that
because societal influence allows for impact in natural law it is important to pursue such
influence. I guess my question is, how often do people that are not validated in scholarship or
title have the opportunity to evaluate their efforts at an institutional level.
One of the things that I found missing from the readings is the understanding of the
influence of feminist in social justice and the feminist ethics of care through the perspective and
history of women of color both in the US and in a global perspective. I was able to look up the
women from the two analysis offered in the reading and both are white. I look forward to see if
this perspective changes as we keep reading. Aside from feminist ethics of care another thing that
I would have liked to see presented differently is the contrast of social justice from an academic
understanding like the ones that we are reading today vs. a non-academic perspective. Although
both the Capeheart and Milovanovic and the McCormick readings offered a perspective that
influence and inform todays social justice understandings both are limited in a perspective of
privileged identity groups.
The quote that has stayed with me the most from this weeks reading is, On the other hand, we
also see how people, subject to discriminatory forms of institutionalized conceptions of justice,
may go to excesses for survival purposes(4) because it speaks to how I have been informed of
my communitys existence in the US context. I have always associated social justice to a fight
and have learned that, that is what it will be even when given an opportunity to move into space
of privilege. For me this type of harm (4) is so interconnected with my learning of being or not
being worthy of being served under the readings presented understanding of social justice.

Learning Journal #2:

It is too often that harm has been so powerful as to only seek the question of
redistribution and not solidarity. I see people fighting for recognition and receiving little to no
recognition. I see an inequality in distribution and it usually is to same group of people. My
ability to look beyond this harm has limited my ability to always seek for solidarity from those
outside my immediate communities.
What I found really interesting from this reading was that solidarity was proposed to be a
moral choice (30).I sees how it may be less productive but not how it is a question of morality.
Maybe it is a moral question that the privilege have to answer when separating themselves from
who they other. However, for those who have been harmed under the same power dynamic it is a
model that marginalized have strategically used to survive and fight back. I believe solidarity is
productive because it gives everyone impacted directly and indirectly a context on which they
exist on a grander scale of a social issue. This allows clarity in the creating a unified respond
towards the need of the greater good. Still, I struggle with understanding the concept of solidarity
in this text being a moral choice.
Although, I understand how contracts bind this unification or exchange on paper, I
believe that what is on paper limits the inclusion of status and specifically a status that is not
validated on paper in natural law for example, non-citizens. In such case, my view of solidarity is
based on understanding of social groups and human relationships as Miller models (41). A
solidarity that values citizenship in relation to ones collective responsibility.

After this weeks readings I stay intrigued by restorative justice (55). As scholar like
Angela Davis and Michelle Alexander advocate for a restoring of judgment I question if things
cannot be restored but only fixed if started from a blank slate. Can we ever lose our focus of the
male Black or Latino criminal in the US without starting over? Or has history printed our
perception and therefore reaction to sustain such a system that we cannot restore?

Learning Journal #3:

I appreciated learning about the difference between restorative and transformative justice
this week. Restoration to the previous condition is far from adequate for justice. (62), meaning
that to say restoration is enough is to imply that the rights of an individual are equal to their
needs. This distinction between needs and rights in the chapter are important in how we escape
responsibility to the problem. It is always easier to say that there are many communities with
needs rather than there are many communities that are being denied their rights. One makes
someone responsible and the other assumes a personal fault. What I liked about the
transformative model is that it pursues change at structural levels and discursive levels (67).
I watched the documentary Wastelands with a few other people from the course and as
we were watching it we were discussing if the overall impact of an artist coming into the
community for a chunk of their lives and then leaving was good or bad. I compared this to
research were scholars go into communities and take stories of other communities but the
community structure stays the same. I think what I was looking for when having this
conversation was that there was an intention to have a transformative impact for the communities
that became a part of the art project. I wanted to see that there was something that was more than
a one-time paycheck that came out of the project. I was glad to see that at the end of the
documentary they shared a lot of how that experience with the artist built something that seems
to be ongoing.
From the chapter on multiculturalism and globalism the sentence that stood out to me was
Watson (2002) described global capitalism as the immiseration of the working class on a global

scale through profit seeking sped up by new technologies (82). This false assumption that in
order to create a just society we need to create more than what exists rather than change the
structures by which we distribute what is already there has been accepted. I wonder how long
will it be until one is able to see that this belief that globalism leads to progress is still not a true
statement for all people. The same folks at the top are the ones that receive the benefits from the
system. The question that I stay with this week is how globalism will continue to affect those at
the bottom as technology continues to grow and how the role of the US will continue to grow in
the affairs of other countries? Globalism is something that I would like to have a deeper
understanding about when thinking about issues of justice.

Learning Journal #4:

The thing that stuck with me about the 5 faces of oppression was the comment the writer
made on many people in the US choosing not to use the word oppression. While the writers first
thoughts were to uncover the historical meaning of the word my thoughts were very different.
When thinking about the denial of being an individual who in relation to others are oppressive, I
have mostly found that avoiding a word like oppression is simply attached to a guilt. On this note

I believe many people avoid the term to avoid the responsibility that comes with being an agent
of power and oppression whether conscious or not. On the other hand this hand has really been a
fascinating journey in understanding the impact that a historical context has on my
interpretations. I usually look at the history of the oppressed in relation to the oppression but not
of the agent of power or even groups that we perceive marginalized in the US as privileged in
countries outside of the US. It reminds me how easy it is to be ethnocentric when you learn only
what you know to be true and that is what informs you.
In addition to that reading, another that stood out to me in the Social Justice book was,
Brosius (1991) warns of neutrality to such practices. Neutrality in the face of ongoing injustice
is complicity. However, much care and consideration must be given when interpreting (117).
This part of the reading just reminds me of how much we dont understand about those that we
interact with on a daily basis but we have our predetermined assumptions going into our
interactions. I think about myself and the way that I would even act towards my parents when I
was younger. To me they were unaware and for lack of better words, underdeveloped. I would
visit their hometown and I only understood misfortune when in reality the misfortune was that
they were losing a great part of themselves in the US.

Learning Journal #5:

Expendable this word stuck out to me in Opotows chapter. Expendable means

something with little significance and little importance. Something to be left unwanted and

deemed unnecessary. I have seen this word many times connected to a people. Groups of
indigenous, dark-skinned, immigrant people. This is what we use build and sustain a system that
produces downward oppression. We allow people to be dehumanized and rejoice in success that
is dependent of their failure to rise. We justify that we do it by taking away the value of that
people and it is then that they become expendable.
A great example of this is the video that we watched in class about birds. The video was
not about the people but truly about the birds. The people in the video did not matter. How
disgusting that one can see another as expendable but spend a life time of work on valuing birds.
The thing that saddens me the most is that the moral exclusion of another many times becomes
an internalized worth of oneself. This lack of worth that plays out in forms of internalized racism
sometimes even PTSD from physical and nonphysical violence acted upon an individual that is
seen with no worth.
The Gospel of Freedom, introduction reminded me of the dissatisfaction that I sit with
today. It introduces a letter that carried the weight of a nations suffering and it is a weight that
can still be felt today with all of the killings and displacement of black and brown lives. It makes
me wonder how many lives we have to lose before we are able to truly dismantle the systems
that continue to cross and walk over the bridges made on the backs of people of color. I am afraid
to know the answer.

Learning Journal #6:

A colleague approached me last year and asked how do we approach a situation about
race without fitting into the rage that is associated with our perceived identity in spaces where

these people have already made up their mind about me? They followed by adding something
along the lines of, how do I get someone to understand that what I am saying about race is true
and important? I looked at them and I said, you look at them and you say Ah, I see where you
are coming from. I told them that they validate the others ignorance and then feeds them room
to say the ignorant things that they are going to say because they will say them anyway.
However, instead of fighting back you gracefully offer your thoughts as a proposition and not as
an answer. I hated telling my colleague this but as a student this is how I learned to get through
college. This is how I was seen as sensible women and not an angry brown women in the spaces
that I needed to navigate. This does not make me a trader to my people only strategic in getting
to my end goal. You see you change their mind not because they agree with you but because you
agree with them. You are a diplomat that speaks their language, and a language they found you
incapable of speaking.
In this weeks reading I was reminded of how we constantly think of MLK and Malcolm
X as non-violent and violent approaches. In this criterion Malcolm X is not viewed as a diplomat
but instead as a man with black rage (Cornel West). Instead of thinking of the two as one or the
other I explored the difference between what it meant for Malcolm X to have black rage (West)
and for MLK to have the traits of double-consciousness as expressed by Dubois. One a man
who spoke to his people to lift them and free them and another that spoke to the system to lift
them and free them. Can not both exist as a diplomat in the same regard?
On page 81, MLK says that the followers of Islam are a people who have lost faith in
America, this struck out to me because I cant imagine living under the same condition and
having any faith in the US. I am afraid that when some people have faith in the US it is not

because they have gotten anything better from it but instead have gotten used to and given into
its ways.

Learning Journal #7:

I found the concept of unintended consequences (62) a very interesting concept.

It is difficult for me to think about structural inequality and say that these are not intended by
any of the participating agents.(63) because to me this means there is no source to hold
accountable to make change. Still, I am aware that this type of counter-finality (63) exists and
that every individual has responsibility. What I wonder is if I was a car in that traffic, as
explained in the chapter, which car created the trickle-down effect that led to me being stuck? Is
this not the most effective course of whom I approach to fix my problem and become unstuck?
How do I hold this car accountable to stop that trickle-down effect even when I hold the car next
to me just as responsible?

As I go towards Student Affairs work people keep asking me if I am looking into being
a college president or chancellor. When I say no I have had reactions that suggest that there is no
point in me doing a masters degree if I am not planning to end up in a position of structural
change. I continue looking into the positions that I want to work in like Trio, EOP, and SSS
programs and I have a hard time defining not how these positions are structurally significant but
how I in this role can continue pushing against structural injustice without getting into the
politics that become more apparent as you go higher in education. It is not that I am not willing
to put up with politics for students of color but my joy lies in the ability to have constant
interaction with these students. Does the fact that I am in a position of educated privilege and
can move up to a position like president make me an agent of intended consequence because I
prefer to work from this position? Am I choosing to stay stuck?
When you think about your position as an educator in whatever field you are in, what do
you see as things that are in your control vs circumstances that are beyond your control and at a
structural level within your field? What impact can you have in your role as an educator without
getting stuck?

Learning Journal #8
There is a vast difference between people who might have done bad things, or who passively
allow them, and the doers of the deeds. (77)
This quote in relation to the rest of the text in chapter three of Responsibility for Justice
stood out to me because it directs its attention to a perpetual agent of harm versus an exterior
agent that has existed passively in their context. I will have to admit that many times I have
gotten caught up and thinking about a group of people as responsible for the guilt that they carry

and it distracts me from the bigger offenders. It is not to say that those who play a role in acting
upon or ignorantly carrying and enjoying privileges at the cost of another person are not
responsible or should not be guilty. However, I agree that getting caught up on something like the
idea of white guilt as white people become aware of their privileges is not effective if I am not
thinking about the collective aspects of oppression which included the people that I have less
direct interaction with but are intentional in harming others. In such case I must approach all
agents of the problem and not those that are easiest to blame.
Through your work/ career what is the agent group that you most work on educating
others about or that you most work on dismantling?
Responsibility under the Social Connection model is essentially shared. It can therefore be
discharged only through collective action. 105
Chapter four of Responsibility for Justice makes me feel stuck and unable to move
forward because the truth is that a collective effort is not something that is very promising. I
am aware that moving forward needs the change from all sides but also aware that not everyone
is willing to bring in their part to the collectivity of the efforts.
As I write this journal I am trying to understand how in my work I can best move forward
without isolating incidents and continuously looking-backward (108). What are suggestions
that you all may have in moving away from a reflection oriented journal to a collective actionbased approach?
We justify what we do, not by belief in efficacy but by an acceptance in its necessity.(48)
The Small Wins read was interesting to read because the thought of small wins to me is
hard to come embrace knowing that there are bigger picture issues that need bigger wins. As

outlined in the readings it is true however, that we need simplification or we get distracted in
getting any win at all.
If you work with any kind of learner (Kids, students, patients) what are ways that you
encourage small wins?

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HigherEducation, 28-37.
Capehart, L., & Milovanovic, D. (2007). Social justice: Theories, issues and movements. New
Brunswick,NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Deutsch, M. (2006). A framework for thinking about oppression and its change. Social Justice
Research, 19(1), 7-41
Opotow, S. (1990). Moral exclusion and injustice: An introduction. Journal of Social Issues,

26(1), 1-20.
Rieder, J. (2013). Gospel of freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.s letter from Birmingham jail and
the struggle that changed a nation. New York: Bloomsbury Press.
Weick, K.E. (1984). Small wins: Redefining the scale of social problems. American
Psychologist, 39(1),40-49.
Young, I. M. (2000). Five faces of oppression. In M. Adams, W, J. Blumenfeld, R. Castafieda,
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Hackman, M. L. Peters, & X. Zungiga (Eds.), Readings for diversity and social justice (pp. 3549).New York; Routledge.
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