17 Ways to Work Toward Justice for All

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If you’re feeling inspired by the Supreme Court’s historic same-sex marriage decision, then do your part to help build and sustain forward momentum toward justice for all. Legalizing same-sex marriage is a huge victory, but it is not the finish line of justice. Inequality take many forms, and people are still waiting on their ability to live freely, safely, or… just to live.

1. Organize. Support community and issue-based organizations. Be part of front-end planning processes and not just the end-game celebrations. Help develop short-term and long-term strategies. Talk with activists and advocates to broaden and share understandings of equality and justice.

2. Show solidarity. Justice for all can’t happen without building solidarity across issues, communities, and movements. For instance, justice for all means being in solidarity with undocumented trans women of color, the ongoing struggles of indigenous communities, and the actions and demands of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

3. Hone Your Allyship. We can all be stronger allies, more conscientious of the language we use, our privileges, how deeply we listen, the ways we offer our support, and our willingness to be vigilant and visible.

4. See the Connections. Movements don’t exist in a vaccum — examine how the struggles for racial, gender, economic, environmental, and social justice intersect. Who is excluded when we ignore these intersections?

5. Take Risks. For some the risk of speaking out or taking action presents serious safety concerns. However, if all that’s at stake is mild discomfort, then what do you have to lose? What stops you from speaking up, speaking back, or showing up?

6. Look Closer at Language. How are social issues conceptions of justice constructed through language? What can you do to reframe how you talk about equality and what it means to seek justice? Be specific in your languange. Are you critiquing systems that perpetuate anti-blackness? Then say anti-blackness. Are you applauding acts of resistance? Then be explicit in describing why the act was necessary.

7. Deepen Your Critiques. Take time to push beyond surface critiques. Look for unquestioned assumptions. Identify and resist dominant narratives. Take in some inspiration from bell hooks, Vandana Shiva, Arundhati Roy, Eduardo Galeano, the Combahee River Collective, Gloria Anzaldua, Paolo Freire, and more. Up your critical analysis game.

8. Get to Know Your Communities. We are often part of multiple communities simulaneously. Think about your neighborhood, your city, your campus, or identity-based communities. Do you know one more than the other? What inequalities do you see? Keep exploring, dig deeper.

9. Asset Mapping for Action. Work with community members to map out community assets — meeting spaces, people, support groups, printing shops, independent businesses, local organizations, media, churches, social services, etc. Is your community working together? Around what issues? Who drives decision-making and who is left out of these decisions? Document progress, celebrate success, and evaluate strategies.

10. Presence Matters I: Attend events, rallies, protests, vigils, workshops, book fairs, lectures, teach-ins, and seminars. Make it a priority to show up when folks have taken the time and effort to organize events.

11. Presence Matters II: Public space is no longer just in person — build your on-line action community, too. Use your social media platforms to pose questions or to critique the limited ways in which media frames equality and justice. Just because a follower doesn’t engage doesn’t mean they aren’t reading. Challenges yourself to completing a cycle of #100DaysofJustice — Day One: A Call to Action for Justice for All.

12. Run for Office. Movement doesn’t only happen on the ground. Election season is coming and we need more elected officials who are willing to take action on issues affecting equality such as gerrymandering, voter-identification laws, paid leave, employment discrimination, and fair housing. Thinking about running? Check out Emily’s ListReady to Run, and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

13. Pay Attention to Policy. Did you know the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013? The 2016 election will be the first presidential election in 50 years without full Voting Rights Act protections for voters. Visit the the Brennan Center for Justice to learn about voting rights and how many State legislators are making it more difficult to vote.

14. Share Your Story. Add your experiences, your voice to the public discourse. Is your story an example of everyday inequality that mainstream media ignores? Ready to provide a counter narrative? Start blogging or take a seminar with The OpEd Project.

15. Share Your Skills. Are you a copy editor? Are you a graphic designer? Are you bilingual? Are you familiar with web design? Share your skills with the community groups and organizations that help grow local and national movements.

16. Use Your Talents. Are you an artist, musician, writer, or photographer? How can you use your creativity and talents to inspire your community, build awareness, or help fuel movements? How can your work show new or critical versions of justice?

17. Stay Loud. Every single day. Stay loud for the generations who came before you, and those who will come after. Stay loud and drown out the silence of indifference. Stay loud until we have justice for all, and then get louder.

This list has also appeared on Medium and The Huffington Post.

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50 Ways to Up Your Critical Analysis Game

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Update 06/2015: Thanks for the fantastic feedback. Many people have emailed with requests to share this list with fellow researchers, writers, critics, and K-12 or college students. Please do! I’ve shared a new updated version below.

Download a copy here: 50 Ways to Up Your Critical Analysis Game.

Students often come to me with trouble transitioning from descriptive writing to deeper critical analysis. Others want advice on making the leap from simply noting strengths and weaknesses to interrogating texts and developing their own critical perspective.

The list stems from several years of assembling writing advice and narrowing down the most effective ways to get started or to push your ideas further. This list is by no means all-encompassing, but I hope it will spark new ideas wherever you are in your writing process, in academia or beyond!

  1. Consider writer positionality, including your own
  2. Identify frames and how people write about the topic or issue
  3. Work to uncover hidden biases and locate unquestioned assumptions
  4. Can you use other texts to see this material in a new way?
  5. Can you use other texts to identify gaps in this material?
  6. Which experiences are included? Excluded? Is this intentional?
  7. Illustrate how dominant ideologies become invisible, embedded in accepted knowledge
  8. Critique your own viewpoint — how are you approaching the piece? What are your biases?
  9. Take a step back, write from the bigger picture
  10. Take a step in, tease out a specific element to analyze
  11. Write about an old issue in a new context — change the time, place, location
  12. Break down dichotomies
  13. Relate to your own knowledge on the issue
  14. Find ways to add your narrative
  15. Consider discourses of individuality versus community
  16. Consider discourses of empowerment versus disempowerment
  17. What are the implications for social justice?
  18. Any policy implications? Who benefits?
  19. What are the implications for future research?
  20. Identify your research agenda, your action agenda, your vision
  21. Push existing ideas further
  22. Unpack ideas — what is being argued? What are you trying to add to the conversation?
  23. Unpack power dynamics — how is power manifested throughout the text?
  24. Challenge the structures within which a text is written
  25. Challenge language choices
  26. Apply a new theoretical framework
  27. Expand conceptual definitions
  28. Challenge universality
  29. Help readers unlearn
  30. Give credit to past ideas — know when your ideas are not new
  31. Apply critical lenses: consider political, social, economic, and cultural implications
  32. Apply critical lenses: consider implications related to urban, suburban, or rural contexts
  33. Apply critical lenses: consider implications related to sex, sexual orientation, sexuality, and heteronormativity
  34. Apply critical lenses: consider implications related to gender, gender identity, gender expression, and whether someone is cis-gendered
  35. Apply critical lenses: consider implications related to race, ethnicity, creed, and color
  36. Apply critical lenses: consider implications related to immigration, migration, citizenship, national origin, and being undocumented
  37. Apply critical lenses: consider implications stemming from age, ageism, cultural perspectives on age, and assigning value or devaluing people based on age
  38. Apply critical lenses: consider implications related to mental health and physical abilities
  39. Apply critical lenses: consider implications related to class, caste, and economic inequalities
  40. Apply critical lenses: consider implications related to the global political economy, capitalism, and neoliberalism
  41. Examine the impact of imperialism, neo-colonialism, and global hegemony
  42. Examine the impact of devaluing indigenous knowledge
  43. Take a global perspective on the issue
  44. Explore intersectional identities of all of the above
  45. Set boundaries: Identify your limitations. Explain your definitions, your approach, your arguments, your methods
  46. Add deeper understanding by answering the hows and whys with qualitative evidence
  47. Look to past writing and research to anticipate a trajectory for the future
  48. Look to the future to imagine a new way of understanding
  49. Offer specific alternatives and/or a range of next steps to unfold over time
  50. And most importantly, write with the confidence that your words, your perspectives, and your analysis deserves to be read, respected, and thoughtfully considered.

Many thanks to students of both the Social & Cultural Analysis of Education program at California State University Long Beach, and the Masters in Urban and Regional Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for coming to office hours — this list developed as we worked through your questions and ideas.