Social Justice in a Real World

by Karen Gates

social justice

Injustice has been around since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden to enter the real world. Cain slew Abel when jealousy set in over whose offering was better, and the momentum has continued. There is much to be said about the injustices prevalent in the world around us. The list is endless, with quite a few familiar to most of us: domestic violence, sex trafficking, financial debt, homelessness, environmental pollution, poverty, and prejudices of culture, religion, gender, or socio-economic status.

The massiveness of the idea of justice versus injustice can be overwhelming or confusing and leave one feeling quite hopeless that any difference can be made. “What is justice? Don’t the courts take care of that? What does “social justice” mean? Where do I start? What difference can one person make? I don’t want to get up on a soapbox. What can I do? It’s been going on since the beginning of time… things will never change.” The questions and statements can be as boundless as the issue itself.

There are several principles that are important when defining social justice: truth, equality, dignity, solidarity, and community. Looking beyond the symptom of poverty for the root cause takes truth. In order to find truth, we must set aside preconceived ideas that have been prevalent for generations. The most necessary question will take many back to childhood: “Why?” and “Why?” and “Why?” again. When the truth is revealed, the next question must be asked of the man in the mirror: “What am I personally going to do?” The other principles are just words unless put into action.

We must remember that even a pebble thrown into a huge lake causes ripples that extend beyond the initial impact. This happens when we put a nugget of justice into an unjust world. The first place the pebble of justice must land is in our own personal lives. We must develop a mindset that moves our thoughts into action on a daily basis. Awareness, knowledge, and integration are each pieces of the process that creates social justice. We can start ripples in our own homes and amongst our own circle of friends by simply sharing in conversation. Raising awareness is necessary to bring about change.

Perhaps there is one particular social justice issue that touches your heart. Learn more about the issue or the many facets of what social justice is. There are multiple books, documentaries, articles, blogs, movies, and organizations available to you on your journey. One particular resource is Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World by Mae Elise Cannon (2009, InterVarsity Press). Another one that is available at the Corktown Restorative Justice Center is The Little Book of Restorative Justice by Howard Zehr (2002, Good Books). Of course, there is always the internet and your favorite search engine. Do not delay… get started today!