What Do We Want?: Deciding what Justice Means in Chicago

Some of my friends don’t like going to protests. They say, “I believe in this one thing, but when I get there, all of these other causes are there and I don’t want anyone to think I’m marching as a communist or an anarchist or saying we should get rid of the police.” Protests have a tendency to swell–to begin with one issue and then cascade into a pounding waterfall of grievances. What do we want? Justice? That’s such a big, abstract word.

Every protest is a little bit different. Some of the people are the same–Lamon Reccord, staring down police and running up and down the protest line; or the guy with the communist newspaper–but every protest is different. The first protest I went to this fall, the hearing where activist Malcolm London’s charges were dropped, was a celebration. A crowd of young black protesters gathered in a circle, singing a song of their own rhythm, dancing and shouting, “I love being black! I said, I love being black!” That protest felt like a party. What did we want? Justice. A very narrow, specific justice–for the judicial system to admit the felony charges against Malcolm London were trumped up and targeted. Continue reading

Vocation is What You do when You’re You

Halfway into my three year graduate degree, I had a problem: I  hated what I was doing. But I was getting paid to do it. I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t walk away from a free education. Several of the other Woodruff Fellowship students in my class were in the same quandary. We didn’t like coming to campus each day, but we couldn’t justify quitting.

I didn’t stop caring on purpose. It just… happened. But even on autopilot, my grades never dipped below A-. I appeared to be a put-together, invested student. Because I was very good at doing what I hated. But I had didn’t care what happened in the campus, in the classroom, in my thesis. I opted to do a thesis my third year purely because it was six credits I didn’t have to do in a classroom. I chose my class not by “courses I want to take” but by “professors that won’t make me want to drop out eight times a day, even though I’m only four months from graduation.”

Somewhere in that final year, working with professors who were entirely reasonable (if, for some unfathomable reason, committed to a bureaucratic school in a hell-hole of a Southern city), I realized: I hated seminary–I didn’t hate life. Continue reading