Further, oppressed people want and need more than being patronized with small tokens of charity at the back-end. They also want more than being someone’s “feel good moment” where they are offered charity so a privileged person can feel that they did a good thing at Christmas time. Yes, this actually continues to happen.
It is often said that social justice awareness, understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and actions must emerge from the location of intersectionally oppressed people. This is mostly true as they embody, live, and have much of the knowledge of oppression. But it is also said there is the need to embrace genuine critical thinkers to guide processes of social justice efforts to a real and more meaningful place. Unfortunately critical thinking is also not well understood where as a result sometimes a “token critical thinker” is relied on when addressing social justice issues.
Critically thinking (with some criticizing too) about critical thinking?
- Criticizing is not critical thinking
- Not all people are critical thinkers
- Not all people of colour or people with disabilities are critical thinkers
- Critical thinking exists on a continuum where sometimes the most oppressed holds more of the skill
- Being involved with social justice for a long time in itself does not make a person a critical thinker
- Being an older person does not mean that said person holds the wisdom of critical thinking
- Critical thinking can be taught and honed through critical thinking disciplines and training such as sociology, anthropology, African Studies, and Indigenous Studies ... .
- Saying someone is not a critical thinker is not arrogant, not at all
- Everyone has gifts, critical thinking is just one that we need to value rather than assuming we all have this skill
- Thinking all people are critical thinkers is an act of anti-intellectualism
When it comes to addressing social justice issues, critical thinking is a process of thinking deeply about the limitations of society's oppressive structures such as employment standards and requirements, standard operating procedures, policies, and legislation that are causing certain people from living a good life. Critical thinking is also a way of being and acting that challenges, at the front end, oppressive structures for the purpose of serving people. Critical thinking and acting on it is much more than relying on the Charity Model at the back-end. Here is a short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLyUHbexz04
What has caused me to think about this issue of the limitations of the Charity Model and the need for genuine critical thinking in social justice? Recently a video was posted in a facebook group titled “Carol's Place” that was clearly rooted in the Charity Model of social justice. In this video a privileged person was walking around a city offering small tokens to homeless people thinking he was doing a good thing when in fact what he was really doing was exploiting the homeless for the purpose of his own “feel good moment”. Sadly a few members of the Peterborough community clicked like on this posting thus endorsing the Charity Model. This small example of a misplaced facebook posting is a sure indication that some people in Peterborough remain stuck in a Charity Model and further, lack the gift of critical thinking. (I have chosen not to post this link here as I do not want to give it anymore currency than it is already gaining.)
It is my thought that the Charity Model of social justice emerges from: the inability to really value where structures of oppression come from; the inability to really value that oppressed people are indeed consciously oppressed through standard operating practices, policies, and laws; and the inability to perceive that Indigenous people do indeed have a valid knowledge system and paradigm that is being actively thwarted and denied by the government of Canada. As a result, sometimes the Charity Model marches forward only addressing back-end solutions and failing to address the root causes of structural oppression.
Here are two insightful videos that address the deeper issues with the Charity Model. In the second video the speaker uses the anger that exists between “the haves” and “the have nots” to perform what he knows. As a man he is more easily afforded the right to be mad.
The City of Peterborough can do better.