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                     Three White Men Debating Social Justice An Insult


By Terri Chu

If you want to understand someone, walk a mile in his or her shoes, or so the saying goes. 

No matter how hard someone might try to empathize, unless you are black, one will not understand what it feels like to be stopped on the street for the crime of being black. No amount of empathy will help someone understand the harassment that women in the workplace face day in and day out if they are not a woman.  No amount of empathy will help someone who is not aboriginal understand what it’s like trying to function as an adult when you were ripped away from your family and repeatedly raped by the very people who were supposed to be educating you. 

For those of us who would like to get a flavor of what social injustice means, hearing from someone who has faced it would be a great start. 

In its attempt to educate the next generation on the pressing issues of our time, Victoria College at the University of Toronto is hosting a debate this week on the existence of social justice. Their students, rather than hearing from someone from any of the above groups who have suffered social injustice, have decided their students are best served hearing with three affluent men from privileged backgrounds.  To add insult to injury, these three white males will “debate” on the existence of social injustice because clearly their diversity will be eye opening for young impressionable minds. 

Black people are three times more likely to be carded by police than white people. How does this simple act amount to a social injustice? How often are black men late for appointments or interviews because they were stopped for no reason? How does this factor into their ability to get good jobs, or climb the corporate ladder? Will any of the three panelists share how being unjustly arrested has impacted their career opportunities?

Depending on how the math is done, women still make between 67 and 87 cents on the dollar that men make.  Some of this is attributed to women going into lower paying fields, though even some of those fields, which require a huge amount of education, are still lower paying than "male professions."  Within the same field (same workplace even), women are often paid less than men for the same job.  From personal experience, I was paid less as an engineering consultant than a less qualified male coworker despite the fact my billable rates were higher.  I wish I could say I am an anomaly.  My negotiating tactic? Asking my boss flat out how they justified paying me less when they got more for my work. 

The gender wage gap exists, no matter how you calculate or justify it.  What will three men, have to say about being valued less than their colleagues and how it shaped their career choices?  

Aboriginal people are over represented in our prison system, under represented in tertiary education, and practically nonexistent in our political system.  Will any of the three panelists at U of T share with us what it is like to live with without clean drinking water? Will they tell us their stories about their struggles both during, and after being abused by their educators in residential schools? 

If U of T is going to have a meaningful debate about whether or not social injustice exists, they need to start with bringing in panelists who have suffered what they might call injustice.  As it stands, the message they are sending their students is that no woman or minority is either rich or influential enough to have a valid opinion on social injustice. The foxes often don’t feel that chickens are victimized at all.  Perhaps the debate is over before it even starts.


Terri Chu is an expert in energy systems, with a Masters in Engineering specializing in urban energy systems. Terri founded the grassroots organization "Why Should I Care", a not for profit dedicated to engaging people on issues of public policy.




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