Day 1: Justice

Day 1: Justice

Read. Reflect. Take Action.

Reflection (2 minutes)

Before beginning today's reading, reflect on this question:

  • What does justice mean to me?

What is justice? In simple terms, it is actions and behaviors done through a lens of fairness. But, as we have come to see from decades of unfair treatment and the withholding of access and power, justice is rarely distributed through a single lens. The lenses through which we see justice and fairness have conditions placed around them. These conditions come from generations of our belief systems, wrapped in responses generated from positive and negative experiences.

As I reflect on justice, I think about my personal experience and how, as an active practitioner of these principles, I still must zoom out of the lenses I am wearing and the lenses that have created my particular vision of the world. From the moment I was born, I was marked male. Throughout the years, my family and society's beliefs taught me how men are expected to dress and interact. The lenses of religion and what it meant to be Latino also defined who I was expected to be.

I saw many injustices happen through my lenses. I saw my parents be subjected to unfair wages and jobs that compromised their health. I saw my church community go through similar struggles: unstable housing, wage theft from their employers, threats of constant deportation, and so much more. As I grew older, those lenses — or, I could say, those perspectives — have hardened and molded to fit my worldview.

When I think about what justice and fairness are and are not, I have come to realize my worldview has conditioned me to understand a very specific perspective of what those terms mean to me, and what they look like in daily action.

So as you go through today’s topic of justice, I ask you to take a moment to center yourself. Create a space for yourself where you are able to identify those lenses you wear — the ones that appear so tightly adjusted and made to fit you perfectly — and ask yourself the following questions.

Reflection (5 minutes)

  • Do the lenses I wear still fit me?
  • Do these lenses allow me to see the full picture, or just a zoomed-in perspective?
  • If I could remove these lenses and start anew, which would I put on to create my ideal self?

I asked myself these very questions during a hard time in my life. I had been a champion of this work from a young age. I have acted as an interpreter for my family and church members at doctors’ offices, law offices... Any office, you could name it, I was probably there with them.

Growing up, this is what justice looked like to me — being able to provide fair access to everyone, regardless of language or other barriers. I saw my parents become the first of many in our community to get their legal permits, then their driver’s licenses, and eventually their citizenship.

And through this viewpoint, I saw my parents carve out a path for others to follow. They shared information on lawyers who could help, individuals who would lend money with little to no interest, who to call for jobs, and how to identify the help wanted signs in the newspaper. This knowledge sharing and network building was my firsthand experience of justice. This was what providing fair access to people was to me.

As I later grew up, I began to realize some of the lenses that were placed on me did not fully fit me anymore. I was growing out of their framework. This happened when the same church and community I served for so long ostracized me when I came to terms with my sexuality. I recall asking myself, “What did I do to deserve this unfairness? Where is the justice for all the work I have done and all my years of service?”

It was not until I began running and training for a marathon — when I had nothing else but lots of time, space, and no one to talk to — that I began to do a self-scan of the word “justice." I asked myself, "What is true justice if someone else views fairness through their lived experiences? What is justice if it's dependent on what someone else is willing to give?"

I ran and ran for miles and miles, and days and days, training for this marathon. Through this process, I slowly began to unscrew the frames that had been affixed to me from childhood. I began to zoom out of my shortsighted perspectives and felt the hinges begin to release.

At times, my sight was blurry. But I realized the more willing I was to look ahead, the clearer my sight became. This opened me to a new realization: Yes, what I had lived through was hard. And what my community went through was hard as well. But moving forward, I get to share fairness, access, and justice by releasing my own frame of view on what these words meant to me, and to begin healing myself.

As I trained for the marathon, I began with running for thirty minutes a day, to then running for hours that turned into 20-plus miles. Each mile I ran allowed me to see a new perspective of what justice is and can be — and this is what I concluded:

Justice is not about me. It's not about what life was for me. It’s not about my family or my community’s needs. Justice happens when you’re willing to release the idea that fairness must be earned through proven action. Instead, it's an abundant and infinite source that grows each time we share it, free from any conditions.

I later put this into practice by sharing everything that was made available to me with everyone who came into my life. Because I had realized that if it’s not in my possession anymore, it will grow in the next hands to which it’s passed along. I do this today with board seats and roles, community information and resources, knowledge sharing, pay information, and in so many other ways. Just as it was given to me, it's not mine to own, but rather to share unconditionally.

Now, I ask you to reflect back on the questions I posed earlier, as well as two new questions.

Reflection (10 minutes)

  • Do the lenses I wear still fit me?
  • Do these lenses allow me to see the full picture, or just a zoomed-in perspective?
  • If I could remove these lenses and start anew, which would I put on to create my ideal self?
  • Am I willing to sustain the slight blurriness of my new worldview as my sight readjusts?
  • What does doing better look like for me, and what does it mean for who I need to become?

I realize these are not simple questions, and you may not be running a marathon to give you enough time to process. But, these next few days are intended to give you the space and opportunities to shift perspectives, try on a new set of lenses, and find a community who is asking the same questions.

Calls to Action

  • Read this content with an open mind.
  • Engage in Equity Challenge 2024 with a cleared schedule. Focus on it as you would anything else you hold as valuable.
  • Be honest with yourself. If today’s reading does not resonate, come back to it after day 7. See how it feels then.
  • Think about steps you can take to practice justice through a lens of fairness. List two or three, and share them with a co-worker or friend for accountability.

Have questions? Email Kevin Matta at kevin.matta@unitedwayri.org.