The Fight for Social Justice Matters More Than Ever

Chris Stedman hands his Religion News Service column over to Sincere Kirabo, a board member of Black Nonbelievers, and he offered an important essay arguing that the fight for social justice is more important than ever in the wake of the disturbing situation in Ferguson, Missouri.

Take a look at the world, riddled with so many diverse disparities, and attune your social justice meter to it. Where do you invest your time and energy?

In such reflections, you may find the need to revise your positions in some way. It may also be possible that you see something that troubles you.

Many topics conflict with my sensibilities to the point that I’m motivated to say or do something. For example, I live in the U.S.—a country steeped in Christian privilege. This causes the nonbelieving sector to draw an especially short stick. I’m actually okay with people believing whatever they wish—but I am concerned when those beliefs support an attitude that’s sectarian in nature, causing the believer to unfairly discriminate or enforce prejudicial principles.

Similarly, I’m concerned with the plight of women and LGBTQ people. The hate is real, as are the gender and sexuality privileges of the majority. While I profit from being both male and heterosexual, I acknowledge my privilege and refuse to stand by while others are discriminated against.

This is why I campaign for inclusionary changes. I am what you would call an ally, or someone from one social identity group who stands up in support of members of another group—typically a member of a dominant group standing alongside members of a group being treated unjustly.

But what about the continued proliferation of racial disparity in a country whose national myth of equal opportunity is still believed by those who refuse to take a closer look? Just as Christian, heterosexual, and male privilege are real, so too is white privilege.

To avoid a never-ending list of examples, what has and is currently transpiring in Ferguson is a perfect microcosm of this nation’s prevalent problems resulting from implicit biases that hinge upon negative stereotypes and racial stratification…

Many likely cringe at the presence of such discrimination. However, on matters so significant, it isn’t enough to inwardly be opposed. We need more outward action.

We certainly do. It isn’t enough to just talk about this stuff, we have to get out there and protest. We have to rally for real change in public policy and support those who pledge such changes. We have to support organizations on the front lines. Talking about it isn’t enough. Social justice matters, more than almost anything else matters.

Oh, and for those of you out there bashing “social justice warriors,” let me take this opportunity to say: Fuck you.

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  • Al Dente

    Oh, and for those of you out there bashing “social justice warriors,” let me take this opportunity to say: Fuck you.

    Hear! Hear!

  • Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    Oh, and for those of you out there bashing “social justice warriors,” let me take this opportunity to say: Fuck you.

    Where does these critiques take place and who does this?

    I do see people ignoring ‘social justice’ issues in exit polls in determining which politicians they support. But I don’t see a set of the population going out of their way to ‘bash’ those voters who support candidates who prioritize social justice as a primary plank in their campaign.

    Given that we have compelling empirical evidence that societies that enjoy maximum equal projection and other social justice policies enjoy all sorts of other benefits, e.g., higher economic growth rates, higher median discretionary income, healthier, better educated, etc., whoever does bash social justice advocates for that reason alone are at best – arrogant, shallow, ignorant fools.

  • Al Dente

    Having just read Michael Heath’s post @2, it’s good to know that naivety exists. Or is it blind ignorance?

    The Urban Dictionary has the following definition for Social Justice Warrior:

    A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation. A social justice warrior, or SJW, does not necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of. They typically repeat points from whoever is the most popular blogger or commenter of the moment, hoping that they will “get SJ points” and become popular in return. They are very sure to adopt stances that are “correct” in their social circle.

    There you go, Michael, an example of social justice warrior bashing given for your amusement and amazement.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Michael Heath @ # 2: … I don’t see a set of the population going out of their way to ‘bash’ those voters who support candidates who prioritize social justice …

    Then you haven’t looked very far. Type “SJW” in the search box here to start getting up to speed (yes, I note that the qualifier of “candidates who prioritize social justice” elides nearly all of this controversy, because so very candidates for public office bring this constellation of issues up in so many words – that in itself tells us something, no?).

  • Pierce R. Butler

    (ahem!) … so very few candidates for public office … (/ahem)

  • Michael Heath

    Al Dente,

    I’m unable to reconcile your criticism of what I wrote in response to what Ed wrote.

    I perceive Ed to be defending people who he refers to as ‘social justice warriors’. Your post has you bashing those ‘social justice warriors’ that Ed defends, where you attribute a meaning for the phrase different then the context Ed uses.

    I’m asking who and where are these sub-populations that ‘bash’ the social justice warriors that Ed is referring to and defends; not the population you demonstrably despise – whoever that population is, it goes unsaid.

    In my post I also defend the very people Ed defends. That should be no surprise, I consider myself a fierce advocate for social justice, that same group I perceive Ed to be defending; where I also vote accordingly.

    You go off on a tangent I’m unable to follow. I also observe some wrath on your part that has you assigning behavior to me where I find no evidence in what I wrote that justifies your assertions. Why not attack Ed, the guy says “fuck you” to those oppose ‘social justice warriors’? Nor do you even answer my question. For me that points to you acting in an irrational emotionally- fueled manner; which has almost nothing to do with what I actually wrote.

    If Ed’s abusing the definition, where I don’t recall ever hearing this phrase till Ed’s post here, then I suggest first criticizing Ed’s post by pointing to some of the populations who are ‘social justice warriors’ and those who ‘bash’ them and why those who ‘bash’ them are justified.

  • Rick Pikul

    Um, Al was pointing to _someone else_ engaging in SJW bashing.

  • Artor

    Michael, the Urban Dictionary definition is the one used by MRA groups and the like, who also casually use words like “mangina” and “feminazi.” I don’t think Al Dente was criticizing you, only expressing surprise that you aren’t up on the latest hot-button terminology. MRA’s have been using SJW as a perjorative at least since Elevatorgate, and I’m a bit surprised myself that this is the first you’ve heard of it. When saying “Fuck you,” to those who oppose social justice warriors, you’re saying “Fuck you” to guys like Thunderf00t, Vox Day, Paul Elam, etc.

  • Al Dente

    I’m sorry, Michael. I should have been more plain. As Artor @8 says, there are a group of people who consider “social justice warrior” or SJW to be a double-plus ungood thing to be. I gave an example of someone disparaging SJWs.

  • http://dontlinkmebro F [i’m not here, i’m gone]

    Michael Heath

    Just someone notable, off the top of my head, and rather current: Richard Dawkins. But it is culturally pervasive for people not lacking overmuch in privilege to say shut up and sit down.

    Not sure how you can’t even imagine a critique. Social justice advocates, aside from promoting and defending various groups, must necessarily oppose others who attempt to maintain the status quo, deny, or further remove rights and privileges of other groups. If this weren’t the case, social justice wouldn’t be a thing.

  • rabbitscribe

    Everyone calm down. Michael Heath is a brilliant and valued poster who is definitely on our side, and if that’s not my place to say, Ed has expressed the same thoughts. In this context, “social justice warrior” is a term of art that not everyone will be familiar with. He wasn’t aware it is a pejorative employed by misogynists. Now he knows. Go and sin no more.

  • Michael Heath

    Thanks all for the context. When Ed used the term, I didn’t realize social justice warrior comprised a label any group was using. Instead I was and remain surprised any group is explicitly bashing those who fight for social justice for being pro-social justice.

    Those I encounter who oppose social justice typically deny they’re against social justice nor do they explicitly ‘bash’ those who are for that fact, e.g., conservative Christians. Conservative Christian opposition to social justice is consistent with how they claim they’re not racist, while claiming to be against racism, while they practice racism. Or how conservative Christians claims they aren’t bigoted towards gays, while justifying their bigotry with the Bible as if that makes their bigotry not-bigotry.. But in neither case are conservative Christians overtly criticizing those who oppose racism or bigotry for their being anti-racist and anti-bigotry.

    Al Dente’s Urban Dictionary term frames the label as a justifiable pejorative. I thought al dente was also using it as a perjorative since he provided no context on who abuses this term. I now see it’s a term of denigration only from those who don’t value or effectively oppose social justice.

    As I stated prior, I’ve never encountered anyone criticizing those who advocate for social justice and prioritize it for being pro-social justice. I’ll start with Richard Dawkins given I’m surprised he’d be in a camp overtly criticizing those who rally for social justice.

  • Michael Heath

    The first result when typing ‘SJW’ in the home FTB page is someone claiming Richard Dawkins is a SJW while Dawkins says nothing about the topic in what is quoted in the text of the blog post. Link: http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/06/dawkins-v-sjws/.

    So it appears we have at least two sides abusing this label. Perhaps it’s a label used by those incapable of making a cogent argument from either the right or the left.

  • leni

    This is what Dawkins said in one of the tweets Ophelia quoted:

    Learned a useful new phrase this week: Social Justice Warrior. SJWs can’t forgive Shakespeare for having the temerity to be white and male.

    That sounds like a little more than nothing and, in this context, SJW is clearly intended to be an insult.

    Oh, and for those of you out there bashing “social justice warriors,” let me take this opportunity to say: Fuck you.

    It’s like you read my mind!