Nunez: Focus on bigger picture obscures important social justice causes


Julianna Nunez, Columnist

I read on Wednesday that one of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s top priorities is legalizing gay marriage. This would be good for the city and fair to its citizens. However, as I read the comments section of this article, I found that many people were not pleased with Emanuel’s priorities, many of them citing the city’s budget problems and crime rate to be of higher priority. I’ll admit that I cringed a little when I saw that opening a casino in Chicago was another one of his priorities, but I guess that’s one of Emanuel’s ways of approaching the budget problem. But that was not the priority the article or the comments were concerned about.

I know as well as anyone that Chicago has tons of problems. Nonetheless, that does not mean legalizing gay marriage cannot be one of the mayor’s priorities.

This is an argument I see it a lot when it comes to social justice issues or even personal complaints. There always seems to be someone who stands up and mentions that there is war in the Middle East and starving people around the world.

Really? There’s a war in the Middle East? Please tell me more.

People are complex and there are certain issues that they hold dearer to their heart than others. I know there is war and global hunger, but that does not mean we have to ignore social justice at home as a way to acknowledge those problems.

I guess I can understand where this argument comes from, especially since there are social justice issues some people just do not understand or care for, but that does not make the issue at hand any less important to its activists. If people care about an issue, there is a reason for it beyond pettiness.

The point is that there are many issues going on and the importance of these is subjective to everyone. Unless you are Miss America, I doubt ending war and feeding the hungry are the only problems that are plaguing your mind.

That always seems to be the counter-argument when someone talks about a social justice argument. It’s a red herring and it’s rude to those who are facing any kind of social injustice. There is a difference between someone having a “first world problem moment” (like if the comic book store doesn’t have the “Game of Thrones” poster you want) and legitimate social concerns (like gay marriage).

The media’s job is to reflect a variety of interests. If newspapers were to go by what the cartoon was trying to state, then all we would read about is the worst of the world’s problems. Why? Because those are the big problems and so are the most deserving of our attention.

That is an incredibly flawed way to approach the problems that go on in the world. There will always be something worse going on, that’s just how the world works. Are social justice issues always the most pressing and serious ones going on in the moment? No, but that does not make them any less important. We cannot ignore social justice issues like gay marriage and institutionalized racism because there is violence in Chicago or because there are bigger problems out there. The moment we forget to care about social justice is the moment we forget our humanity. We cannot improve the bigger problems in the world if we cannot even function as a society.

We need to fix all kinds of problems and learn from them. When there is social justice, people can work together more easily. When people can work together in peace we can work together on the bigger issues. There are people focusing on global problems right now and that’s great. We can focus on a variety of problems without presenting one as being more deserving of our attention than others.

Julianna Nunez is a Medill junior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].