Thank you Daphne for your wonderfully moving poem and Karen for your post. I really like that phrase: “getting out of the bog”. I think that really sums up how I feel right now having just finished my exams. I really want to get out there and be more motivated to get involved in social justice. I think it’s really important that we be careful of when our intent is to ‘help’ because I think we have to be cautious of how we become implicated in the politics and the network of power relations. Just because our intent is ‘good’ does not necessarily mean that we will always be able to do ‘good’. We have to be careful that we don’t cause more harm like how we heard stories of organizations building houses that were not up to standards and were unsafe to live in so they had to rebuild all those houses again. Jessica Yee (a native youth sexual rights activist) told me, “ask not how you can be helpful but how you can be less oppressive”. I think that says it all. When you mention the word ‘help’ you automatically put a hierarchical connotation to that relationship. I’ve really been struggling with this recently (especially in terms of international development) and even though the US is not a developing country, it doesn’t mean that the Global South doesn’t live there as well. When you ask yourself, why are you doing this? It always goes back to “I”: I want to help. I want to experience something different. I want to make a difference. Not that “I” isn’t important, but I think it’s really important to question why we are doing this and what kind of effects this will have, and owning it. Of course I think it’s great that we will be able to provide homes for people that have gone almost 6 years without one, but this just takes the responsibility off the state and lets them off the hook. And yet if we don’t do something, then these people in New Orleans will have to go that much longer without a home. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t. How do we hold the government accountable? How do we live in a so-called democratic society when it suppresses dissent and marginalizes people of colour and other minority groups to further the gains of those that already have so much? Of course we cannot make a huge difference but maybe a small one for a few families that hopefully will go a long way to gaining justice for the people in NOLA.
These are some things I felt that I really needed to get off my chest and I think that we need to check our privilege at the airport before we leave and though we cannot change our privilege, by just acknowledging it, I think it can change how we inhabit the world and our worldview so we don’t perpetuate those power relations (unknowingly). I look forward to getting to know everyone and working together as a team and with the community in NOLA to work through these issues. Despite my habit to be a buzzkill, I am truly excited and thankful for having this opportunity to meet you all amazing people and hopefully do something meaningful. I can’t wait til we touch down in New Orleans! See you all there!!!
P.S. for the first group, don’t forget to vote early this weekend at the advance voting polls!