Cody Austin, a World Vision Youth Communicator from the United States, wrote this reflection on inequality in the United States for the Reveal Realities Photo Contest, which runs until April 30.
It’s easy to see injustice in history, and any one willing to take a honest look at the news will find plenty of modern day oppression. However, it often takes considerable effort to see the injustice in our own backyards.
Subtly is partly responsible: injustice and oppression look different in the United States than they do in Syria, South Sudan, or Ukraine. Even so, I think the real reason it takes effort to see injustice in our own communities is because it’s harder to ignore once you find it. What is even more difficult and terrifying is that in your investigation, you may even find that you are part of the oppressing.
In Washington state, where I live, the Supreme Court recently ruled that the state government has been violating the constitution for decades by failing to provide public education to students. Rather than paying for schools across the state through the normal legislative process of appropriating funds, the government had allowed schools to be primarily funded by local taxes and levies.
In practice, this has meant that schools in rich areas receive ample funding, giving their children the very best in teaching and technology. Poorer areas, on the other hand, were left lacking and relied on struggling teachers and parents to pay for basic supplies out of their own pockets. The state abandoned its legal and moral responsibility to provide the necessary funds to educate our state’s children.
The failure to provide an excellent education will have long-term effects on children’s’ future careers and families, which in turn impacts the financial and social health of the entire state. While it is easy to assume that the school system operates efficiently and equitably, it is in fact a place of oppression and injustice. An unequal school system is unacceptable in its own right as well as fuel on the fire for the rampant socioeconomic inequality that is coming to define the United States.
Are we willing to consider the injustice and oppression in our communities? Are we willing to investigate whether we are the oppressors? If not through direct action, than through our votes for legislators and government officials that refuse to love justice? Injustice, especially subtle socioeconomic injustice, is complicated. But the first step is to look for it, to investigate it, to consider your role in it, and to reveal reality.