Un-Fair Campaign promises painful but necessary growthJIM SODERBERG: It is perhaps premature to characterize the dramatic response to Duluth’s Un-Fair Campaign as growing pains. But there is little doubt that the campaign has tapped the strong and often ambivalent feelings that we associate with transforming change.
By: Jim Soderberg, for the Budgeteer
In my early teens, I grew to more than 6 feet in just a few short months. The experience was disorienting and uncomfortable. Doorways were lower, rooms smaller. My feet were never where they were supposed to be. And my bones ached. “Growing pains,” the doctor called them.
It’s an apt expression for this experience of discomfort that accompanies growth. We use it when talking about all kinds of life experiences that stretch and transform us, both as individuals and as groups. With these two words we acknowledge that this process isn’t easy but also that it is part of what it means to be alive.
It is perhaps premature to characterize the dramatic response to Duluth’s Un-Fair Campaign as growing pains. But there is little doubt that the campaign has tapped the strong and often ambivalent feelings that we associate with transforming change. The Un-Fair Campaign has the ambitious goal of prodding us, as individuals and as a community, to grow. It challenges us to look at the attitudes, systems and behaviors that exile some of our neighbors to feel like aliens among us and that shut us off from the richness of their experience and wisdom.
More critically, the Un-Fair Campaign demands that we accept the moral imperative posed by racism. Racism diminishes all of us. But for many, as our newspapers report daily, it is literally a matter of life and death. Racism kills, sometimes quickly, more often by degrees. Essential resources of employment, food, housing, and health care are disproportionately not accessible to people of color. The judicial, medical and educational systems routinely fail their needs. We cannot overcome racism without confronting these, the harsh realities of its consequences.
In looking back at the dramatic growth of my teens, I haven’t forgotten the pain and discomfort. But mostly I remember the excitement of those years. Many of these experiences were difficult. Some were painful. But I never doubted that I was alive nor that my world was expanding and growing richer.
For me, the Un-Fair Campaign carries a similar promise. It is an acknowledgement that things are not as they should be and that they must change. The process will not be easy. It will call us to confront aspects of our selves and our community that we would rather ignore. And it will challenge us to look at, and live in, our community in a new way.
But the process also promises to be exciting and enriching for those who commit to it. And it is an investment we must make. While the rewards are great, the consequences of not doing so — to ourselves, our neighbors, and our children — are too immense to ignore.
Jim Soderberg is the executive director of CHUM, an agency with provides emergency food, shelter, advocacy, and outreach to over 7,000 hungry, homeless and low-income people each year.