Wyoming Social Justice in Action

 ". . . what love looks like in public."  — Cornel West

About this blog

Cornel West said, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” This blog is a celebration of justice as Professor West defines it.

Here’s what I know to be true: What we give attention to reflects what we care deeply about. Being new to Wyoming I want to understand life here and what people are passionate about.

  •  In what ways do Wyomingites bring social justice issues to life, whether their endeavors impact Wyoming exclusively or have a wider reach?
  • How do human needs such as empathy, compassion, contribution and belonging show up with justice concerns that crisscross the state?

Big intentions as well as small acts of kindness will be explored. Likewise, well publicized state programs and surreptitious ones all have a place in this forum.  And when helpful, resistance to justice — or conflicting tenets about justice — will respectfully be considered with an eye to understanding versus judging.

What connects us and motivates action will always be the focus. Along the way I’ll interview people, and I’ll ask them to explain in their own words what the concept of justice means. The wisdom I hear and what I learn will be shared in this blog.

Why I care about justice

​Third grade was dull though welcome. Compared, that is, to the previous year when the teacher took a ruler to Alvin’s* knuckles.

Mostly, though, stressful interruptions were infrequent and easy to push aside.

Week-ends were spent at big family pot lucks and traveling the neighborhood with a gaggle of friends. Belonging and community in this northern Maine town shaped me.

Life wasn’t so easy for Alvin, already well into his short unhappy life, nor for Liza Thomas,* then a class or two ahead of me in school.

She lived somewhere poor. Maybe in a cabin without running water and sufficient heat, and surely without someone keeping her safe.

Things only got worse for Liza the day she brought beer
in her lunch box.

And similar to Alvin, misery at home followed her to school.

What I remember of Liza is pain and rage — her face twisted in defiance and her fists raised like shields against the cruelty she faced daily.

She was taunted then isolated for being poor, for standing up for herself and for not fitting in. Collective kindness was withheld.

Overt cruelty came from the boys, but girls had their ways, too.

Liza’s screaming was a raspy, hoarse voice cussing those who hurt her. These outbursts led to shame and punishment while the guilty and complicit walked free.

Things only got worse for Liza the day she brought beer in her lunch box.

She was chided by adults then mocked by her peers, and for the first time her temper receded into tears.

I have no memory of Liza Thomas after that day, yet decades later I still wonder what social justice might have looked like through my 3rd grade eyes.

*names changed