Activism as Reconciliation
This week’s blog is an abbreviated reprint of an article entitled, “Public service and activism as
vocations of reconciliation” published in the latest issue of Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education. The contributors to this piece are McCarthy Center staff, Angeline Vuong, assistant director of public service programs, Jacqueline Ramos, community-engaged learning program manager, Community Empowerment Activist and San Francisco McCarthy Fellow, Isabel Tayag, and former McCarthy Fellow, Zoe Baker.
Reconciliation is a valuable framework for examining how we embed ourselves in public service and activism. It is a commitment to repairing harm and recovering what is lost. In this conversation, students and staff at the McCarthy Center discuss this framework of reconciliation in our work, lives, and the future as an ethic to build a more socially just and equitable world.
What does reconciliation look like on a systemic and institutional level?
Isabel Tayag: The first thing that comes to mind in activist spaces is the role of reconciliation and building solidarity among marginalized groups. Often systems of oppression––white supremacy, racial capitalism, heteronormative patriarchy—pit groups against each other. It’s designed that way. How can we move past our ignorance and our hate in the past, and then also hold each other accountable so that we can move forward together?
Angeline Vuong: Local governments have a unique opportunity at this point in time to have a standard, recognized, prioritized and deeply felt definition of racial equity. Through this vision, reconciliation can be achieved tangibly, but it requires transforming our systems to support the collective liberation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color. It’s ensuring that institutions respect and trust community wisdom and agency.
What does reconciliation look like on a personal level?
Baker: I felt called to public service. Growing up in San Francisco and just seeing the disparate realities of all the people that live here and the impacts of economic suffering and how some people weren’t really being treated as they belonged. I needed to speak up for those people and not just speak up for, but fight alongside and really work toward making sure to build the world I thought was right and that I thought we all deserve to live in.
Jacqueline Ramos: We have to name the things that are happening, but also understand the root causes as to why there’s pain and why there’s oppression, which is rooted in capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism. Listen to folks who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color with a deep understanding, folks who are closest to the pain. They are the real experts in the field, those on the front lines––holding ourselves accountable and knowing that we are going to make mistakes because we are human. To learn from those opportunities and experiences.
Read the full piece here.