Investing in Justice
When I was in my 20s, I was able to participate in the (then) School of the Americas (SOA) protest and Ignatian Family Teach-in held in Fort Benning, GA. I first went as a graduate student and then continued going and bringing students from Canisius Campus Ministry. I remembered being struck again and again about the population make-up of the demonstration. There were thousands of college and high school students, a good number of advocacy folks of retirement age, representatives from various religious and volunteer communities, and even a handful of peace-loving pets. What was largely missing were the folks in my current demographic: single and partnered parents in their 30s and 40s—especially those who came WITH their kids. The pre-diaperbag/toddler-snacking/it-takes-30-minutes-to-dress-my-daughter version of myself definitely thought, “Well, when I have kids, we are definitely coming down to Fort Benning.” I want to continue being an advocate for justice and so will my children!
All judgments aside, I can safely say that I get why it’s hard to bring one’s children anywhere, let alone an 18+-hour car ride to an outdoor protest. I am lucky enough to be able to have a job that allows me to explore a variety of justice issues and continue attending protests/teach-ins/speakers as part of my employment. As a parent, I struggle with how, when and to what types of demonstrations and events I should expose my children. Potential justice-y things would have to be flexible and creative enough to fit into my two working-parents, (soon-to-be) two daughters and two cats household. How can we, as a Catholic family, invest in justice?
While I hope to take my daughters to relevant and appropriate protests and speakers, the idea of where my family invests our money has become increasingly important to me. Where we choose to make our long-term investments, where our alma maters hold investments and how we use our everyday spending power is a way for us and, I hope, the rest of the parenting crowd can invest in just practices.
My retirement portfolio is with TIAA-Cref. They offer an annuity account that gives special consideration to certain social criteria (such as not investing in oil or guns). While I’d prefer to have the option of having even more of a say for what I consider “just” companies, I appreciate that this is an option for me and my family.
A second suggestion for investing in justice is to use your power as employees, consumers and alums to find out where your institutions are investing or divesting!
- The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) does this on a larger level. Check out their site and what they do:
“ICCR’s financial services group has been in dialogue with the nation’s largest banks, regulatory agencies and financial policy experts for four decades calling for greater access to affordable credit for low-income communities and proper risk oversight systems to help stabilize global financial markets and mitigate against future financial crises.”
- Clyde Haberman wrote a great NY Times article in 2010, highlighting the desire for corporate responsibility and just practices. The ICCR came out of this desire. Read his article here
Finally, and most practically, is considering where we spend our everyday money. I’ve found thinking about buying local, fair trade, organic items to be an overwhelming experience. For me, it’s been helpful to concentrate my efforts into a family purchase of a community-supported farm summer share (where we can bring our kids to pick up local fruit and veggies), a bread share (where we pick up a loaf of bread or pastries made locally out of local ingredients), and visit our local farmers’ market. These are regular practices that contain some initial investment but have worked for our family. Other, less regular, things that have worked: being part of several swap-and-sell clothing/toys groups on Facebook, making most of our “present” purchases from local vendors, spending more money on quality goods that will last longer (see Carl Richards’ NY Times 2012 blog on this idea and trying to stay up to date on what is happening in our local school district and how we can involve ourselves in shaping the future of education locally.
My fellow parents: let us all consider how we are creatively investing in justice in the scope of parenthood! While our protesting days may be temporarily on hold (if they ever existed in the first place), our purchasing and investing power is fully present.
I would encourage and welcome a common sharing of these ideas! Please comment or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with how your family is justice-y!
Sarah is the Director of Mission & Identity at Canisius College. Sarah has been a member of the Ignatian Family for 18 years and loves all of the connections, friends and justice-y things that have developed during that time! She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two cats in the City of Good Neighbors, Buffalo, NY. Sarah loves reading, donuts, women’s spirituality and going on adventures with her daughters.
Thank you, Sarah, for a great start to reflecting on this issue! As part of our justice-y ways, we try to talk about the needs of our city (Detroit) such as better housing or services whenever we are with our almost 4 year old. Like “Look at that old building? Wouldn’t it be great if someone fixed it up for someone to live there?!” He can understand that and for us, it’s about building an awareness for our children of their surroundings and thinking positively about how to make it better.