We didn't invent social awareness

I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed, but there was a lot of stellar religion journalism last week.

For example, over at The Atlantic, Emma Green hit it out of the park with a piece looking at the Mennonite church’s inner struggle over same-sex marriage; freelancer Ashlie Stevens explored reality TV’s glamorization of polygamy for STIR and then, of course, Nuri Vallbona wrote an amazing story for Global Sisters Report about Las Hermanas – a group of Latina women religious in the 1970s who helped uplift other Latina Catholics.

I’m kind of obsessed with the Las Hermanas story. I mean, it hits on almost all my favorite themes: women helping women, people of color refusing to be treated as less than, and people of faith working within a system to effect change. Love, love, love it all.

Stories like this are important because for many people around the world, self-love and self-respect are not givens. Instead, they’re ideas that have to be taught and cultivated – often in direct opposition to what society promulgates. Last week, there was a Las Hermanas symposium in San Antonio, and I so wish I could have been there. (Despite the fact that I was sick all weekend and am currently blogging sick from my bed.)

I think Millennials like to pretend that we invented social awareness. Yeah, there was the civil rights movement and all the subsequent movements for women, Latinos, senior citizens, etc., but we drink fair-trade coffee and eat only grass-fed, free-range meat – if we eat meat at all. And when we buy that grass-fed, free-range meat, we get it from our local farmers’ market, pack into a bag made of recycled water bottles and bike it back to our über-efficient tiny house that we deliberately built in the inner city “because equality.”

But we didn’t invent social awareness. And when you read about people like Las Hermanas, you cannot help but see how anything we do today is only building upon the justice work done in previous generations. We have it relatively easy today, when the world at least pretends to value equality. As Vallbona writes in her piece, in the Las Hermanas heyday, Hispanic Catholics weren’t even allowed to speak Spanish in the convent or seminary, let alone embrace their Hispanic culture and speak out against anti-Hispanic discrimination in the church. 

So, if you haven’t read Vallbona’s story, drop what you’re doing and read it now. And, fingers crossed, this week will be another great one for religion journalism. We’ll at least be doing our best here at GSR.

[Dawn Cherie Araujo is staff reporter for Global Sisters Report based in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow her on Twitter @Dawn_Cherie.]