When “Social” Distance and “Social” Justice Fail

When “Social” Distance and “Social” Justice Fail June 24, 2020

Well, this is pretty interesting. I don’t, I’m sorry to say, understand half of it. I only discovered the term “girlboss” very recently when wandering down various rambling trails searching out information about Rachel Hollis. Moreover, I don’t know who any of these people are. I’ve had other better things to do than read about the lives of women trying to make a buck off other women. But here is some sort of description of a girlboss from the piece:

The girlboss was a disruptor; where others saw a problem, she saw an opportunity. Millennials weren’t buying $18 lipsticks at department store beauty counters? Sell them $18 lipsticks on Instagram. The ascendancy of the girlboss entrepreneur coincided with the growth of direct-to-consumer brands, which spent a gazillion dollars on targeted social advertising to meet their customers where they’re at — scrolling.

But this is the part that’s pretty good:

Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility is number one on the New York Times bestseller list and it’s poised to become the Lean In of the 2020s, a book by a white woman, for white women, that says: See this big systemic problem? Start by working on yourself. White Fragility is social justice through the lens of self-improvement and, as is always the case with self-improvement programs marketed to white women, there’s money to be made here. DiAngelo is available to speak to your organization for a $30,000 to $40,000 fee. If you want anti-racist education in the comfort of your own home, Saira Rao and Regina Jackson will come to your dinner party for $2,500. The Wing may never recover as a luxurious in-person hub for ambitious go-getters, but working on your white privilege is fast becoming the next elite social club. The end of the girlboss does not represent the failure of women to make corporate America more diverse, inclusive, and equitable in 10 years or less. That would be asking a lot of her (and nothing from the men at the top). The rise and fall of the girlboss says more about how comfortable we’ve become mixing capitalism with social justice, as we look to corporations to implement social changes because we’ve lost faith in our public institutions to do so. As Americans become less religious, and our distrust in politicians grows, we increasingly turn to corporations and influencers for moral leadership.

I love that throwaway line, “As Americans become less religious.” The writer concludes by insisting that, of course, we need to continue to dismantle capitalism. Social Justice wedded to capitalism is still just capitalism, and what we need to do is still take some of that money and spread it around to everyone. Which is curious to me, because it’s still all about the money and not about the people.

I guess really, what is happening is that the word “social” doesn’t mean anything more than the word “justice” does. The two terms have been hollowed out like expensive, organic, designer pumpkins and are gradually rotting and collapsing on themselves. When you can have “social distance” and “social justice” in the same intersectional moment, and one means that, of course, no one is being “social,” we’re all keeping as far apart as possible, because we are really dangerous to each other, too much physical proximity is a very bad thing for our health, and the other term, “social justice,” that vaunted ideal that will surely bring heaven to earth if only everyone will agree about it immediately, but that nevertheless only produces disparate crowds of people and more and more confusion on the internet, at some point it would be nice to stop and consider another way.

Unfortunately, as she said, Americans are becoming “less religious,” which I would point out means that they have neither any idea of what the word “social” means, nor “justice.” And they don’t have any business trying to remake systems or cultures. They can’t even possibly understand what any of the money would be for.

Because, don’t you know, you can’t have “social” anything when it is still totally and completely about the “self.” You can’t have “justice” when the social part has been so effectively and completely dismantled.

A better word would be, I think, “congregation.” I’m not suggesting that the American experiment should become, at heart, a religious one, though everyone is religious and worships one thing or another. No, we, no matter what anyone might say about it, are not the same as ancient Israel. Mr. Trump, thank heaven, is not a king. Our houses are not organized graciously around the tabernacle. Our prophet hasn’t gone up the mountain to get the law. Nevertheless, Christians, as a radical, transforming, or just very unusual task, could try out some other more ancient words. It doesn’t need to be about the individual and his or her personal convictions on any particular subject, of which there are so many it would be impossible and unpleasant to line up all people perfectly so that they would actually agree. Nor does it need to be about purity of life or thought. And it absolutely doesn’t need to be about how much money anyone has.

The task could be to take risks on behalf of other people. Not risks that will be seen and applauded on one platform or another. No, the small, painful, life-altering risks that bind one person’s heart to another. Men and women—rather than girlbosses and entrepreneurs—could take their places in the congregation, could find their identity in the God who made them, and then could turn to each other in greeting and friendship, discovering the pain and satisfaction of self-disclosure, of binding one’s own way to another person’s so totally that the world finally has nothing to say about it.

It is a pain that we can’t exactly go to church in the usual way. But the congregational tenor of the Christian life is more crucial when we cannot meet, rather than less. It is the way individual people can so turn themselves towards each other and God, can so let go of the corrupt, destructive systems of the world, that heaven does occasionally flash upon the mind and heart of those who are perishing.

Or not. Maybe we should just keep tweeting more or something. How ‘bout another article on Medium.

"Love this so much. It felt like a healing. Thank you for writing. Write on."

What Would Jesus Pray?
"Yes! Good idea! I'll update the post but in the meantime there were:A Place to ..."

3 Books for Friday
"Would you list the books and authors in the paragraph above the video? Or spell ..."

3 Books for Friday
"Thank you."

3 Books for Friday

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!