Martin Luther King once said that, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” His point, to the best of my understanding, is that true service is not fleeting gestures of empathy, but rather the difficult exploration of complex systems of institutional oppression that submerges “the others” of society in perpetual “otherness.” Such exploration allows us to understand why people are flung to the fringes of our communities, creating opportunities to effectively ameliorate suffering.
Social justice leaders here at Gonzaga University appreciate the crucial role critical analysis plays in attacking systematic oppression. To that end, Gonzaga Law School and the Washington Task Force on Race and the Criminal Justice System have collaborated to bring the Pursuit of Justice conference here to Spokane, Washington April 18-20. According to the conference website:
This pairing provides opportunities to align interests in understanding and addressing fear and ignorance of the “other” with interests in how these conditions manifest in hatred, intolerance, and inequality. The conversation will be centered around how these problems affect the pursuit of justice.
Of special interest is the matter of racial inequality in the criminal justice system, among broader concerns within the conference theme, as approached through the lenses of research, education, practice, and advocacy…
This conference will bring together and engage members of academia and other education circles, the legal community, government, and non-governmental organizations, as well as policy experts, journalists, human rights leaders, community organizers, and engaged global citizens. We anticipate richly interdisciplinary, cross-sector participation from international, national, and regional audiences.
All those in the Spokane area who share Dr. King’s vision of a service culture that appreciates the deep roots of injustice and the critical analysis required to end them would do well attend such an important conference.