One of the questions that we may ask is “What is the more important topic we should focus on today: social justice or social injustice?” The more likely response is “social justice, of course.” However, as I look more closely at these concepts, I think perhaps looking at social injustice may be an even more important topic to speak and write about nowadays, because it affords us the opportunity to examine the many ways in which justice is not being met in our society. By focusing on social injustice, this exercise may be instrumental in helping us think of social justice policies that would alleviate much suffering.
What is Social Justice?
What is social justice? Social justice can be described as “the fair distribution of resources and benefits to all members of a society.” We believe that in our democracy there should be fair distribution of resources, so that all members of society are able to have a decent life, and that all members of the society are able to gain access equitably to the benefits society provides. But this is in theory, as we look around and see that this is not the case.
What is Social Injustice?
What is social injustice? Social injustice is when there is a gap between what should be and what is. As we look around, we would observe that while some people have so much wealth that they don’t know what to do with it, there are members of the same societies that are experiencing great want. Looked at from a broader perspective, the world reveals nations where people are literally starving and other nations where there is great and wanton waste of resources. The social injustice is not because some people have more and others have less, but because the measures that allow some to have more and that prevent others from having are unfair.
Types of Injustices?
One of the injustices we have to face today is in education, with some young people not having access to the basic education they need to develop the skills that will enable them to make a living. In many instances, this happens, not because young people do not have the ambition to be successful, but because they not have the resources to pay for the education. In some instances, they may have the ambition and the resources, but are discriminated against, so that they do not have access to the right institutions.
What Can We Do? Speak Out
What can we do about this? If we are denied access, we can let others know about it. In many instances, institutional racism has prevented many from gaining access. If this injustice is not brought to light, then it will continue. If you work in an organization where there is injustice, point it out to those in positions of authority with the power to make changes. Wherever you are in society, you can speak out when you see injustice, and try to make a difference.
Address the Injustice – Speak Up
Another major injustice, and what some may see as an existential threat to human life, is climate change. While there are some who put their heads in the sand like ostriches and say there is no climate change, there are others who may see measures to combat climate change as involving too great a cost. Since this cost may impact their wealth or resources, they may prefer to pretend that they do see or understand it. Regardless of the reasons given for the denial of climate change, we must speak up about it, because it is blatantly clear that climate change is responsible for much disaster around the world.
Take Action – Stand Up Against
What can we do about this? We can be courageous and stand up against it. Already, many of our young people are speaking out boldly against climate change. But the injustice of climate change exposes many related injustices, namely, human rights violations, racial, gender, age, and sexual discrimination, unfair labour processes and practices, and lack of a decent minimum wage, to name a few. But many younger, and older people too, are standing up against these social injustices.
Despite Lack of Popularity, Commit Ourselves
Some of these young people are not well known. Of greater popularity is Greta Thunberg, the teenager who was not afraid to tell world leaders at the UN about the injustice and inactivity of their actions. As she pointed out, “People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing”. She also called them to attention when she explained her having to speak to them about the injustice of climate change in the following way. “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you.” But the truth is there are many young people, less well-known, who are making a mark in an valiant effort to save the world from the ravages of climate change. What we can all do is commit ourselves to taking action on climate change. Through our personal behaviour, we can conserve the environment by using less rather than more resources, whenever possible.
Silence is Complicity
But we are all aware of social injustices. We may be involved in perpetuating them or in addressing them. We may be living with unfair social policies , but doing nothing about them. We have to take action. If not, the saying, “To be silent is to be complicit” would apply to us. This saying demands that we should stop keeping quiet and speak up. We should remember that if we do not speak up, do not reveal injustices where we see them, do not advocate for their end, then we become part of the problem and not part of the solution. However, we must remember that violence is never a means of achieving any goal or resolving any problem. Violence merely short-circuits any gains that may have been made, and complicates the problem. Speak up, speak out, don’t be silent, but be peaceful.
Keywords: social justice, social injustice, climate change, discrimination, racism, Greta Thunberg, silence is complicity, social activism