Hard Truths: Bringing it home

Lindsey Parkinson / Columnist

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Photo credit: Sarah Manriquez

Recently feeling frustrated and stuck as to how I, as a student studying Arctic plants in Alaska, am supposed to meaningfully contribute to the huge social, political and economic discussions raging through the country right now, a few chance events came together to push my thoughts closer to home.

I recently listened to a series that the radio program “On the Media” put together this past fall, which confronted myths about poverty in the United States, from the idea of ‘rags to riches’ to the social safety net. A speech by Reverend Shirley Lee at the Fairbanks Women’s March opened my eyes as well, and I learned seven people froze to death in Fairbanks the winter of 2007 and 2008 because they didn’t have a safe place to sleep. I came to the conclusion that there’s a lot I, and probably you, don’t know about these issues.

As a white, upper-middle class college graduate (I’m a master’s student) I have a rather large cloud of privilege blindness obscuring my view of the world. But I want to understand the issues facing our country and community. How do food stamps and WIC vouchers actually work? What sort of support systems are in place for those in need in Fairbanks? Who are the individuals and organizations running them? And finally, what can we do? As a student body of nearly 10,000 in a city of 32,000 we can make some noise, but we have to know what we’re talking about.

To get us all on the same page for the weeks ahead, here’s a couple definitions from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Privilege: a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor : prerogative; especially: such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office

Social justice: a state or doctrine of egalitarianism <the causes of human freedom and of social justice — Sir Winston Churchill> <promote the common good and social justice.

I am bound to make mistakes through this learning process, but I hope you can come with me as we bring the national conversation home.

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