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Building community, sharing hope, and standing for justice since 2004

The Difference between Social Justice and Charity

“ESTHER works for social justice,
but it is not a charitable organization.”

What does that mean? What is the difference between social justice work and charity work?

It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world. - Mary Wollstonecraft ShelleyThe famous Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” gives us a fine example of charity work. In the carol, King Wenceslas looks out of his window on a cold winter’s night and sees a poor man “gathering winter fuel.” The king and his page set out “through the rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather” to take food to the poor man. Along the way, the page becomes cold and tired, but he is revived by walking in the king’s footsteps in the snow, because “heat was in the very sod where the saint had printed.” That is to say that the king is a saint because he is so charitable. The song ends with the admonition, “Therefore, Christian men be sure, wealth or rank possessing, ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.”

Icon of King (Saint) WenceslasThis is a story of charity at its best, but the social justice worker says, “Wait a minute. This is all very well, but why should this man be so poor that he can eat only if the king happens to decide to help him? Why should some people starve while others live comfortably? A society in which some people starve while others live comfortably is oppressive. It is unjust, and we should work to make it more just.”

That is the difference between charity and social justice work. Charity helps people in need, but it does not question the justice of the social system we live in. Social justice work aims to change the system. There will always be a need for charity, but, to the social justice worker, it should not be a substitute for a just society, and we have a responsibility to make our society as just as possible.

ESTHER’s members work in a number of ways to make our society as just as possible. To learn more about how you can participate in ESTHER’s work, visit our web site at https://esther-foxvalley.org/issues

Equity and Racial Justice Committee Update - June 2020

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White Fragility CoverEquity and Racial Justice Committee leads ESTHER toward becoming antiracist

In an ongoing effort to make ESTHER an antiracist organization, board members are continuing our self-education by reading and discussing the book, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo.

Because this topic is so important and the idea of White Fragility is so challenging, board members have divided into “e-small groups,” each meeting for three 90-minute sessions (digitally) for self-reflection and discussion. These groups are being facilitated by Jennifer Considine, chair of Oshkosh ESTHER and chair of UW-Oshkosh Communications Department; ESTHER Organizer Bill Van Lopik; and two members trained by Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities: Connie Kanitz, chair of ESTHER’s Transit Task Force, and Penny Robinson, Co-Chair of the Equity and Racial Justice Committee.

Another step in this direction is an upcoming pilot program in which three board members will participate in the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), facilitated through Common Talks with Marijke van Roojen. This pilot is being supported financially by a special gift. The IDI is:

… a valid and reliable assessment of an individual or group’s ability to engage effectively with others across difference. The IDI is based on Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) and research conducted by Mitchell Hammer. The inventory has been used successfully since 1998 in corporate, academic and other settings to focus individual coaching and action-planning, to guide multicultural team development, and to conduct program evaluation and research.

It is expected that after the results of this pilot effort are evaluated, ESTHER will be looking for additional funding to widen the availability of the IDI to all board members who would like to participate in it.

Members of the ESTHER Equity and Racial Justice Committee are Jennifer Considine, Gwen Gibson, Kathleen Gribble, David Haas, Penny Robinson, and ESTHER Organizer Bill Van Lopik. Meetings are held the third Thursday of each month, at 10:00 a.m., by Zoom.

—Penny Robinson, co-chair

Call to Action: Gov. Evers and Wisconsin Prison Population

WISDOM

Recently, Gov. Tony Evers offered a powerful statement about how we should respond to the Black Lives Matter movement.  He said, “We must offer our compassion, we must offer our support, most of all we must offer our action.”  Now, we are asking you to contact Governor Evers to urge him to take his own advice. It is time for him to take action to reduce the prison population during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Communicate with Governor Evers to express your concern and to urge him to act!

Call his office, 608-266-1212
Email him at govinfo@wisconsin.gov

Are You Part of the Masquerade?

homemade face maskThe first time I went out into public places wearing a mask in the beginning stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, it was different. I realized that I could not recognize people, nor could they recognize me. What is more important than our individual identities is the identity of the common good. The good of my community and society requires me to filter out as much virus as I can by wearing a mask. It was Thomas Aquinas who wrote, “The common good of many is more godlike than the good of an individual.”

And what about racism? If it is like the air we breathe, then yes, we need filters, masks of humility, masks of justice, masks of respect that will protect us from repeating our long systemic history of oppression towards people of color. Just as there are those who don't wear masks to protect themselves and others from the virus because, in their minds, they feel they are somehow above it all, so too there are those who feel that they are not part of our systemic racism and are somehow above it all. What masquerade are you part of?

Help Casa Esther Support Immigrants and Their Families

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The Federal government’s distribution of funds under the C.A.R.E.S. Act—in the form of stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, and other assistance—provides a financial lifeline for many, but not all, who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One group of people who need this assistance desperately are not eligible for Federal COVID-19 help. These immigrants live in our communities, contribute to the economy, and pay taxes. These men and women work on dairy farms, in meat-packing plants and cheese factories, in restaurants and cleaning services, in non-profits and small businesses through the Fox Valley.

Casa Esther, a Catholic Worker House in Omro, and an ESTHER member, was established in 2010. It works with a large network of Spanish-speaking people, providing support, education, and financial assistance in the Oshkosh-Omro area. In the last few weeks, using funds contributed to it by concerned Fox Valley residents, it has been able to distribute over $4,500 to people in need and to provide needed information and referrals to other agencies in the Fox Valley.

Contributions in support of this project may be sent directly to Casa Esther at 320 N Webster Ave, Omro 54963. Or make your donation by visiting Casa Esther’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CasaEstherOmro.

How Highway Expansions Undermine Public Transit, Walking and Biking

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Date: 
Thursday, May 28, 2020 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Location: 
Zoom Webinar

Bus seats seen from floor levelSponsored by Coalition for More Responsible Transportation in Wisconsin.

Speakers include Beth Osborne from Transportation for America and Dennis Grzezinski on highway expansion and transit issues in LaCrosse.

Policymakers often present costly highway expansions as a critical solution to gridlocked traffic and unsafe roadways. But decades of evidence show that building bigger roads makes congestion worse. We also know that highway expansions negatively impact public health and safety, disproportionately harm low-income and minority communities, and undermine alternative forms of transportation in a variety of ways. Learn from expert presenters why bigger, wider roads won’t solve Wisconsin’s transportation problems.

RSVP here for Zoom link: https://forms.gle/MXo9uLByjrr3fUQX8

Read more about the event on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/173240474022207/

Sacred/Scared

The ESTHER board gathered on March 12 for what will probably be its last in-person meeting for several months. These meetings always start with an opening reflection intended to help members keep their focus on ESTHER’s larger purpose and not get lost in “administrivia.” We are pleased to share with you now what ESTHER President Gary Crevier shared with the board at that time. We hope it may be of help to you in these times as chaos spreads and the temptation to worry climbs.

When our approach to life comes from an attitude of being scared, without hope, we fail to see the sacredness of creation and everything in the cosmos. That includes you and me.

Notice that the only difference between the words sacred and scared is the interchanged positions of the letters c and a, sacred/scared.

I would suggest that a in the word sacred stands for awesomeness, awareness, acceptance and art-filled presence in all of us, creation, the cosmos; and the c in the word scared stands for cowardliness, contempt and a cynical outlook on life.

So what if now, given the presence of the COVID-19 illness, we “flip the script,” so to speak, and live our lives more as sacred and filled with hope, instead of being scared? Let’s do what we can to confront this crisis, like self-distancing, touching of elbows rather than shaking of hands, sneezing into our elbows or simply avoiding crowds. Regardless of the outcome, it's the right thing to do.

May you be richly blessed in patience and hope during these uncertain times.

“Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops” Free Virtual Showing

Date: 
Thursday, November 19, 2020 - 1:00pm
Location: 
Virtual Event

NAMI Wisconsin Presents

Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops Virtual Showing

November 19th, 2020
Matinee Showing @ 1 – 3 PM 
Evening Showing @ 6:30 – 8:30 PM