On January 16, 2012, IWU held its 8th annual King Day Teach-In. Below are the opening
remarks by Professor James Simeone:
This event is sponsored by the Action Research Center (ARC) and Pi Sigma Alpha, the
political science honor society. ARC works with many organizations in the community,
which Martin Luther King Jr. would have called organizations of creative maladjustment.
King thought that we should not be well-adjusted to society—at least until society
stopped promoting injustices.
King was a great advocate of social justice and each year at his teach-in we honor
him by choosing a theme and inviting representatives from community organizations
to inform us and challenge us at this teach-in.
We get habituated to an unjust status quo and Dr. King would exhort us creatively
to challenge the status quo and to refuse to become adjusted to it. This year's theme
is Food and Social Justice, and we have invited representatives from groups that are
fighting to make the food status quo more just.
How should we define social justice? What is social justice? This is one of those
questions that you come to a liberal arts college to learn to answer for yourself.
It will take some time because what constitutes social justice is one of the great
philosophical questions of our time, indeed of all times. How did King define social
justice? Well, when he was shot in Memphis, he was working to organize the garbage
workers of that city to fight to be paid a living wage. You can get a start of an
answer to that question with that fact.
So you will spend your whole career answering questions like this. The approach ARC
takes is to get you involved in community projects with the hope that you will be
better prepared to answer the questions of social justice.
Dr. King famously said more than once: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but
it bends toward justice." It is a hopeful statement—but of course it doesn't always
come true unless we work at it. So the point of this day and these panels is to take
the opportunity to learn about an issue on which we might want to get involved and
stay working at making society a little bit less unjust.