(To one who doubts the worth of doing anything if you can’t do everything)
You say the little efforts that I make
will do no good; they will never prevail
to tip the hovering scale
where Justice hangs in the balance.
I don’t think I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
in favor of my right to choose which side
shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.
Allan G. Johnson (1946-2017) was a nonfiction author, novelist, sociologist, public speaker, and workshop presenter who devoted most of his working life to understanding the human condition, especially in relation to issues of social justice rooted in gender, race, and social class. He spoke at more than 200 universities, colleges, corporations, and other organizations in 39 states. His nonfiction books include The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy, The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise (both in new editions in September, 2014), and Privilege, Power, and Difference. His work has been translated into several languages and excerpted in numerous anthologies.
His first novel, The First Thing and the Last, a story of healing and redemption in the aftermath of domestic violence, was recognized by Publisher’s Weekly as a notable debut work of fiction and praised for its “lyrical prose, sympathetic characters and an unwavering sense of hope and compassion that make for a moving, engaging read.” His second novel, Nothing Left to Lose, the story of an American family in crisis during the Vietnam War, was published in 2011.
Allan’s memoir, Not from Here, a personal exploration of the meaning of being white in North America, was published by Temple University Press in 2015.
Allan’s approach to social justice was based on the idea that unraveling the knot of privilege begins with getting clear about what privilege really is, about what it’s got to do with each of us, and about how everyone can see themselves as part of the process of change toward something better. Based on more than thirty years of work, he charted a course organized around three questions:
- What are we participating in and how are we choosing to participate in it?
- How do typical ways of thinking about privilege blind us to what’s going on?
- What can we do to make a difference?
His social justice work was based on a deeply held belief that systems of privilege and the injustice and unnecessary suffering that result are not inevitable features of human life, and that the choices each of us make matter more than we can ever know. He offered a practical, compassionate, and accessible guide to understanding where we are and how we got here and how we can join together in the search for a way out.
To learn more about Allan’s work, click on the book covers on the sidebar or use the menu bar above.
The tree image in the banner is a useful metaphor for understanding systems of privilege. To learn more about it, click here.
“Stubborn Ounces” by Bonaro W. Overstreet, in Hands Laid Upon the Wind (New York: Norton, 1955), p.15.