Standing Up for Justice

picket lineDr. King called for a radical transformation of values, a movement from “a thing-oriented society to a people-oriented society.” We are still not there. Yet every moment each of us are presented with choices to shift from love over visceral hatred, truth instead of mendacity.

I stood up with a handful of folks on Black Friday to protest the world’s largest retailer’s poor treatment of its workers – some drivers honked their horns, others ignored us, while many looked puzzled. Who were these people with signs, and why didn’t they shop like everyone else?

According to Making Change at Walmart, an advocacy organization, “An employee who works Walmart’s definition of full-time (34 hours per week) makes just $15,500 per year. That means hundreds of thousands of people who work full-time at Walmart still live below the poverty line.”

Americans like to think of ourselves as non-conformists, but most of us are deeply afraid to question “normalcy.” Some who buck against convention increasingly do so from the comfort of smart phones or social media (not that this is not activism), but it does not replace the physicality of being on the ground, having a presence.

I have attended other rallies, but something shifted in me that day as I raised my voice, moved my body to the drum beat, and held up my handmade sign. Another kind of courage, a raw determination to stand up for justice beyond my laptop keyboard, a willingness to ask myself increasingly tough questions like what my choices mean for others who live in the developing world. How do the bargains we receive bamboozle us, tie us to a myopic way of seeing that worships materialism?

Standing up for justice is never convenient or comfortable, but it is necessary. The world we tolerate is the one our children will inherit. Justice and truth cannot wait, so keep moving and pushing, another way is possible.

Emelda De Coteau
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