Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere Martin Luther King Jr
It’s about inclusion
When institutions were created, there was no intent of injustice. In the minds of many it was “what was best” for the people. Many institutions were in rural locations, which led some to think it would be more sunshine. Many early institutions were small farm, self-sustaining mini communities where staff lived with the people. However, even then the sharing was not equal. While the staff could leave at any time, the clients were watched and kept apart from the world around them. Even visiting by families was restricted.
I think we have a hard time defining justice and injustice. We need to challenge ourselves almost every day to look for injustice. I once made a presentation to a board about the history of developmental disabilities services. I highlighted that at the beginning of our country, farmers went to the town leaders for help when a child with a disability made it difficult for the family to manage the farm, as well at the child’s needs. I told of the dark days of institutions where the idea of a rural restful place became a prison where abuse was tolerated, calculated and administered from the top. I explained that until the laws changed, people in institutions worked and were not paid. I explained how far we have come and how we now look to focus on each individual as a member of a community. One board member spoke up to say it’s all about overcoming discrimination. People we devalue are shunned, kept from opportunity, paid less if at all. In our country, injustice is still felt and continues to challenge us on many differences, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, and more. Discrimination is injustice.
We are being asked to take a hard look at all “segregated” settings. That has raised anxiety, provoked resistance and also delighted some of us. I ask that we consider this challenge as a challenge or pursing justice. How does a just society value its members? How does a just society include everyone ? I must tell you, while the costs of transitioning are worrisome to many, count me among the delighted.
One of our goals this year is to define a meaningful life. Let’s stop for a moment and not talk day and residential programs and service codes and definitions. Let’s just ask how does this person’s life having meaning, purpose, joy, vocation? Let’s see what we missed. What can we do better to enhance opportunity, pursue inclusion, justice?