Fighting for Social Justice Doesn’t Stop You from Being An Oppressor

By: Dr. CI

Original Picture taken from portlandoregon.gov

Research states that there is no clear meaning of social justice. I beg to differ. As we think about social justice, the default of those who misunderstand it is to prioritize equality. Equality usually suggests fairness, equity, or the equitable; but what is equitable is often not to give people the same portions, but rather to give what is proportionate to the efforts of each (Novak, 2006). I have spoken with so called social justice warriors who overlook the actual meaning of fairness, which is equity, not equality, and in the fight for sameness they prioritize equality.

Social justice requires that we look deeper into our consciousness and understand our existence and position in the world and how we impact advantages and disadvantages. If you are a person who thinks that because you are doing meaningful work you are free from harming others, you are an oppressor. You don’t get to stand up for me and my rights by standing on my shoulders. If your identity is different then mine and you are allying for me, you should be standing behind me, not on top or in front of me. Again, without this understanding and practice, you are an oppressor with good intentions who doesn’t understand equitable outcomes. If you really want to understand social justice, unpack the list of things you need to know below:

  • Consciousness -understanding the relationship between your mind and the world in which we exist and how that impacts advantages and disadvantages.
  • Distribution -Understanding the distribution of resources both material and authentic in nature and who has the privilege of controlling the right to distribute these resources.
  • Oppression- Understanding a the positionality of the marginalized, oppressed, and privileged. Listen to the victims of privilege, prejudice, bias, and discrimination due to their non-normalized identities and the historical harm that has been done to these populations that impacts the manifestation of the harm that exist in our present and future.
  • Privilege- Understanding that normalcy of your identities and their relation to oppression and the willingness to use those privileges to empower the oppressed populations in which your identity contributes to their daily struggle.
  • Answering the Call to Action- Action in the sense that you are truly ready to check your own bias and its impact on others. Checking your bias means understanding how and why it exists and working daily to upend its influence and harm it has caused by any means necessary.
  • Inclusion of an Intersectional Lens- All human beings have multiple identities,(race, sexual orientation, gender, age, etc. If you are going to do social justice work you better understand the impact of how each of these identities might influence both privilege and oppression. Think of your identities as a team. They can either come together for the greater good or shit on the less equitable both consciously and unconsciously. Understand how your identities collectively work to inform your work!

For those of you who call yourself social justice warriors, you need to understand that warriors throughout history have sacrificed and fought for the greater good. To all the heteronormative identities, white liberals, etc fighting for the rights of one cause, does not give you the right in your fight to oppress another cause that is in need of equity and equality. So check yourselves, check your work, and measure the results or get out of the fight for social justice, we don’t need unconscious infiltrators.

Dr. Cheryl Ingram aka Dr. CI, is a very successful entrepreneur, blogger, content creator and expert of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.

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