The topic sounded complicated, I envisioned all kinds of “legalese” and I immediately felt that maybe going back to university at age 43 was unrealistic and I was in over my head. If I couldn’t conjure up in my head a general definition of what social justice encompasses, not even a rudimentary premise at its most primitive, did I even deserve to be here?
I put this assignment off because in all honesty, I couldn’t answer. Finally today, in frustration, I ran to Google and grabbed a basic definition. I breathed a sigh of relief when I read it. In essence, it’s social equality for all, whether it be healthcare, legal counsel, socio-economic status equality, education; all opportunities of any kind. We are all responsible for one another and all should have equal chance for success, representation and stability.
As my relief for having found the definition of social justice subsided, realization hit me.
“I’m taking a course on something that doesn’t exist. I may as well be studying the origins of the unicorn.” I thought.
But as I dug a little deeper I discovered that I believe the practice of advancing social justice does exist. Every day people fight for justice and equality. As a single mother of 3, living in government funded housing, relying on social welfare programs on numerous occasions to survive, I, of all people should have a concept of social justice, or the lack there-of. I believe it exists as an action. It is something to aspire to, but unattainable in its purest form. There are social justice movements and strides and gains made which advances the cause of social justice, but obviously no permanent state of social justice exists or there would be no need for social justice initiatives.
Actions that advance social justice are actions born from unfairness, loss or tragedy. Typically, suffering, loss of life and glaring inequality are identified and public outrage and indignation spurs a counter response from those with the power to affect change as they hope to avoid unpopular public opinion which will have a negative financial impact. Demonstrations commonly occur as groups representing a “Cause” rally and inflict discomfort and apply pressure on the source of oppression. So the actions that advance social justice are the occurrences of tragedy and injustice, demonstration, public awareness and media attention, resulting in a forced response and usually moderate changes from political and bureaucratic authorities.
I look forward to learning more about social justice because I clearly have a jaded perspective, having commonly been on the side needing advocating. I have learned from my experiences that true effective change benefiting many rarely occurs. The real issues are rarely addressed or even identified. For example, a series of shootings occurs in a neighborhood deemed “high priority”. Grassroots organizations blame the establishment, the establishment agrees to increase its funding to the district for 5 years to establish more after school programs to occupy youth, install video cameras to act as deterrents and install a new basketball court. These options do nothing to deal with the systemic issues plaguing the residents of neighborhood. Often band aid solutions are used when major surgery is needed. People forget about the problem or don’t examine the roots causes and rush off to jump on the next bandwagon with the first aid kit in hand.
I look forward to learning of the methodology behind concrete successes and triumphs made in the name of social justice and perhaps of the advancements that have been made that I am not aware. I will draw on these to give me hope that true positive change can and does occur. I want to learn that it is possible for positive change to occur today and that people’s lives change with long-term benefit because of that change and that “little” people do have a