I have learned that the world of social justice work is full of people who wholly aim to help, but are faced with systems and bureaucracy that stall progress for marginalized groups. Within these social justice organizations, and particularly ones affiliated with the government, there comes a whole array of bureaucratic issues that limit the scope and depth of how help is distributed to those who need it. Issues ranging from current restrictive laws, to budgeting problems, to a misunderstanding or ignorance of the plight of minorities all severely hurt the social justice world. Each and every day, there are more people who face discrimination, marginalization and require aid to deal with their life’s issues, but frequently there is a backlog of people who are still receiving help. The social justice world therefore is full of constant issues that need solving and that require new and progressive ways to solve them.
I have learned the importance of a work-life balance and the significance of training yourself everyday to be as open and helpful to the widest array of people. Social justice work inherently asks for those who aid to not discriminate in who receives their help. The more professional and bureaucratic those who help become as they rise in status, the more classist and unintentionally hierarchical they also become. This inability to understand and fully be compassionate to those who need the help seeps into the inner mechanics of social justice organizations, consequently hurting the process of social justice as it transforms into a function that works with the systems of oppression. Therefore, it is so incredibly important to go through constant training and ensure that there is personal growth in the ways in which social justice organizations are helping marginalized people. They must be able to evolve, expand, and invest in progression, which may mean changing their old practices of seeking or providing aid for marginalized people.
The advice I would give to someone else pursuing an internship in the social justice field or family court system is one that I try to implement myself: to not become desensitized to the slowness of current social justice organizations and to consistently seek ways and organizations that contribute to new forms of social justice work. Additionally, to expand my own knowledge of languages, barriers to access to justice, and subtle systematic micro-aggressions so as to be the best representative for litigants and those marginalized.
I can see how easy it is to find a position with a social justice organization and simply just trust the organization’s intentions. But through this internship, I have become much more aware of the success that comes from doing the work to find gaps in justice and providing comprehensive and compassionate aid as an inherent personal aspect of my career, regardless of where I am. I have seen through my supervisors just how important it is to understand the litigant, to not judge people, and to constantly stay educated on what else a litigant may need.
Through this internship, I see how it is the direct aid—the help that asks the individual what exactly they need—that is so important to social justice work and what I personally look for when joining the social justice world.