MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 12:  A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Five Reasons Why Parenting is the Best Strategy for Justice

July 22, 2018

MCALLEN, TX – JUNE 12 (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

We all want justice—more of it. We want fairness and equality and flourishing for all, because we can only rise when we all rise.

The what and why of justice is fairly undebatable, it’s the how that stumps so many of us. There are a million ways to serve, advocate, and organize, and sometimes it feels like we spend more time arguing with one another about how to do justice than we do serving justice. We have to have sustainable passion, the rousing speeches and inspirational leaders who compel us, but we also need the pragmatists, the ones who help us sit down with spread sheets and work smart as well as work hard.

The famous 80/20 rule states that often 80% of the impact comes from 20% of the work. So for justice conversations, I’m interested to know where that 20% is where we can invest our time and energy to get 80% of the results.

I want to suggest that we have not poured nearly enough resources into parenting for justice. I think parenting is ground zero for justice work, and regardless of whether one is a parent, if you are concerned about shifting the moral arc of the universe, you should begin networking with mommy bloggers and parenting influencers.

Here are five reasons why:

1. “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” This Frederick Douglass quote rings true. Justice is about creating systemic conditions so that all people are created equal, which means we have to resist status quo by changing deep seated prejudices and fixing the damage done by centuries of oppression. This is, of course, vital work, but what if we’re so busy repairing water damage from a leak, when we could be patching up the pipe? Take the #MeToo movement, we have to heal the incredible damage done by sexism in the workplace, but we must also equip parents and their village to learn how to raise baby boys into healthy masculinity.

2. The power of multi-generational work. The best justice work invites a diversity of perspectives, and this includes input from multiple generations. When we engage in justice in parenting spaces, we are interacting with people who are intimately familiar with not only childcare, but the wide-ranging needs of every generation. There’s synergy that comes from incorporating multi-generational perspectives, with older generations offering their wisdom and nuance in contemporary culture wars and the kids infusing vitality. The web television talk show, Red Table Talk, hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith showcases the powerful dynamic of cross generational authentic conversation, contributing to its success during these contentious times.

3. Parents are highly motivated. Parents turn into mama/papa bears—ferocious and unstoppable in their desire to protect their children. Parents are invested in the betterment of society after we are gone because we’ve birthed human beings who will live and raise their families in it. Consider the great work done by Moms Demand Action and parenting influencers like Glennon Doyle with Together Rising. Recently, Charlotte and Dave Willner mobilized a Facebook fundraiser for more than 20 million dollars to help children separated from parents, simply because they couldn’t imagine what life would be like to be separated from their own two year old. Parents’ hearts are soft, driving them into action that has impact.

4. Parenting spaces are spaces with children. There are so many reasons we need to include children in justice work—because they deserve to have a voice, because they have good ideas, because they have the most to lose in our battle for justice—but one of the most important and overlooked elements children bring us in doing justice is simply their joy. Children are delightful and whimsical and dreamers. What’s the point of achieving justice if we lose our joy? Children help us remember what matters.

5. Children wake us up. So many of the iconic photos that have sparked justice movements have included children, the most recent example is the crying Honduran girl in the family separation crisis at the border. Images of children evoke the child inside each of us and call us into the humanity within us that has been slowly chipped away by unjust societies the longer we’ve lived on earth.

I’m not suggesting in order to do justice, we must all become parents. Not only is that not possible for some, justice is to afford everyone the choice whether to become parents. But all of us were parent-ed. We were all once children. Even if you aren’t a parent, we have a social and moral obligation towards the children of our world. For those committed to justice—we must invest in parenting spaces to equip parents and child educators and family support systems—not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s a smart strategy to produce the most amount of impact.

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