Awareness of Disparities Leads to Social Justice Work
May 22, 2017 | Alysia Chang, Business Analyst, NCCD
I moved to Madison from the bustling city of Hong Kong to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison a few years ago. At first, being enclosed in the campus “bubble” was all too easy, as most of student life revolves around campus and nearby sections of downtown. But the more experiences I had off campus, the more I realized that the real Madison was beyond those boundaries. Those experiences in the city itself led me to understand a wide definition of “diversity” and how it encompasses and entangles many social systems and oppressive institutions.
Stepping off campus, one of the most eye-opening experiences was learning that Dane County, Wisconsin, has among the highest racial disparities in the country. The Race to Equity report—widely studied at UW-Madison—uses data and analysis to provide insight into how racial disparity correlates with income, crime, poverty, education, and other factors in Dane County.
After becoming aware of these disparities and working through some of my own experiences, I got involved in social justice work. I volunteered at the community center in one of Madison’s lowest-income neighborhoods—only a few blocks from the UW campus—and at a minimum-security correctional facility just outside the city. Through this work I clearly saw how a variety of social aspects, not only race and income, come together to affect those around us. Recognizing that social injustice can be impacted by factors such as access to quality education, immigration status, and even geographical location is an important step for us to take in finding a comprehensive solution to tackling social injustice.
My commitment to social justice strengthened when I began working at NCCD, which is why I joined the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. NCCD strives to achieve social justice in our work across the globe, as a collective mission within our organization, but we also want to continually strive toward our own form of social justice internally. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee was created to promote a positive and inclusive work environment for everyone. NCCD recognizes that each employee’s unique background and experiences can add value to the work we do for our clients; therefore, now is the time to put this belief into action.
While it may be challenging to identify a cohesive definition of diversity, we should recognize that striving for diversity goes hand in hand with social justice.