What is Social Justice?
Social justice is the concept of fairness for all. Furthermore, it is the belief that everyone should have equal rights and equal access to economic growth. The term social justice dates back to as early as the 19th century. There were large gaps in wealth and social class. Since then, nonprofits, political groups, religious institutions, and agencies have adopted the concept of justice. They aim to enhance people’s well-being through equal access and economic opportunity.
Defining Social Justice Issues
Social injustice is an act that violates one’s rights based on factors out of their control. It’s important that a term for this is oppression. As a result, these violations are labeled isms of the world (i.e. racism, sexism, ageism, classism, ableism, and heterosexism). Change-makers have done their best to fight this oppression by
- promoting diversity
- educating the public on oppression
- having an inclusive mindset
but the long-lasting change falls on agencies who are responsible for public policies.
4 Social Justice Principles
These four principles help define social justice:
- Human rights
Human rights are the building blocks to the rights that hold everyone accountable for their actions. Consequently, human rights may be the most famous principle of social justice. It was the foundation of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and the current environmental movement. Human rights and social justice are a co-dependent pair. Thus, one simply cannot exist without the other.
Equal access to human needs has always been restricted for marginalized groups. These restrictions were based on race, age, class, and gender. This type of oppression leads to the suffering of people in these communities. It also hinders the progression of society as a whole.
People often confuse equality and equity. Just because something is equal does not mean it’s equitable. Though they play in the same pool, these terms are more like cousins rather than siblings. Think of it this way; equality is when everyone starts at square one regardless of race, age, class, or gender. Unfortunately, equality doesn’t consider the resources needed for different people to achieve the same goal. In contrast, equity accounts for societal barriers. These barriers prevent some groups from achieving the same goals as others. For example, in theory, tickets to a music concert are available to the public so that everyone can see their favorite artist. However, not everyone can afford to buy a ticket because not everyone earns a fair wage. This is a societal barrier to achieving equity.
Participation in social justice means everyone can voice an opinion about decisions that immediately affect them. Often, underprivileged groups present society with a problem and are left out of the conversation when it comes to finding solutions. When the suffering community isn’t involved in problem solving, the problem will get worse before it gets better. To prevent this, participation needs to be encouraged so that everyone can contribute.
Current Social Justice Issues
Social Justice is possible if we keep these 4 principles in mind. Now, depending on where we are in the world some of these principles may need to take president over others. However, most societies share the same types of social justice issues. Undoubtedly common themes are:
- Racial Equality
- Gender Equality
- LGBTQ+ Rights
Racial equality is one of the universal social issues of the world. Markedly, everywhere in the world people with darker skin suffer the most. Not only does this issue violate human rights, but it also hinders access to education, healthcare, employment, housing, and food.
Reproductive rights, the wage gap, and higher education opportunities are a few of the many injustices that occur against women all over the world. It may take centuries for gender equality to become a reality. Therefore, it’s one of the most pressing social injustices the world has ever seen.
All over the world, people in the LGBTQ+ community are prone to high levels of violence. These hate crimes make it very challenging to feel safe in their own communities. It’s also more difficult to find a means to provide for themselves. Discrimination against the LGTBQ+ community interferes with their ability to find employment and obtain healthcare. Though members of this community have seemingly become more accepted in pop culture and media, social justice is a far cry from being reached.
What Social Justice Means
Institutions that are in the business of social justice have defined what it means for themselves and the work they do. Specifically, some definitions of social justice are:
- “…the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth.” – United Nations
- “…the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities. Social workers aim to open the doors of access and opportunity for everyone, particularly those in greatest need- National Association of Social Workers
- “… the virtue which guides us in creating those organized human interactions we call institutions..” – Center for Economic and Social Justice
Simply put, social justice is the belief that everyone should be protected and treated fairly. This isn’t the solution to all of the world’s problems. It also does not eliminate hate, and will not be achieved swiftly. Not all people will welcome it. Obstacles have been put in place to prevent people from living a comfortable life. Social justice is not a law. Rather, it is an idea. A concept. A dream we hope to achieve. It is a step in the right direction towards progress. There is no one way to get there. But it is there. You can see it, and if you need help along the way the 4 principles are there to point you home.