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

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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