Social justice can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Dictionary.com defines the term as “fair treatment of all people in a society, including respect for the rights of minorities and equitable distribution of resources among members of a community.”
The way people seek and achieve social justice will vary widely based on the unique needs and demographics of the communities where they live and work. But there’s a single, simple common denominator that can help you by an ally for social justice no matter where you are: helping those in need and being aware of the circumstances that created that need in the first place. Those are arguably the two most important branches of understanding and working toward more social justice for all.
Are you interested in learning more about social justice and the ways in which you can pursue social justice, be it for your own neighborhood or your entire country? We’ve got a few ideas to get you going.
This may be the best general advice anyone who is hoping to do more with social justice can receive. They say 90 percent of success in life is showing up. All social justice activities and organizations can benefit from having you in the mix. The more people who are involved, the more they can accomplish and the more successful they tend to be.
You’ll see this theme reflected in the ideas below, but some possibilities for social justice-oriented volunteering include:
- A local chapter of Black Lives Matter or another organization dedicated to helping address racial or ethnic disparities across all walks of life
- Food banks and warehouses
- Shelters for the homeless and other vulnerable populations
- Libraries, literacy councils, or another organization providing reading or other education services
There is bound to be a group near you that can benefit from an extra pair of hands, often literally. Take a look around and see what’s available in your city or town.
The vast majority of (if not all) houses of worship, including churches, synagogues, mosques, and others, are engaged in activities that advance social justice, even if the words “social justice” don’t actually enter the equation.
If you already belong to a faith community, take a fresh look at the programs that feed, clothe, or otherwise serve the needy. Perhaps they organize get-out-the-vote drives or educate members on how to be better stewards of the environment. These are all examples of social justice at work. Find an activity that speaks to you and get involved. Are none of the activities calling you? Consider starting your own.
Any honest effort to improve social justice has to begin with the person in the mirror. What are your beliefs around racial and ethnic diversity and fairness? Do you live those values? Why or why not?
This part of your social justice mission is as simple as it is important. Take a hard look at your beliefs and your behaviors: do they line up? Are you walking your talk, as they say? In addition to the ways we’ve listed above, some potential ways to lean into your values and help advance social justice every day include:
- Attending demonstrations and other events. Participating (safely) in legitimate demonstrations literally helps you lend your voice to a cause you care about. Put the social in social justice by organizing a road trip if your event is out of town.
- Speaking out on social media. Be careful not to overdo this one; constantly sharing or “spamming” your views is a quick way to get tuned out or even unfriended. A little bit goes a long way here, but don’t be afraid to let people know what you really think in a respectful and positive way.
- Look at where you work. Admittedly, this one is much easier said than done. Still, it may be worth examining your employer and how it does business. What are its hiring practices? Do they have a commitment to any particular charitable cause? What about the actual work? Depending on what you notice, you may want to suggest new directions or ideas to your supervisor. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel overnight, but small ideas like a volunteer opportunity can be a great place to start.
These are just some of the ways you can get involved in advancing social justice, no matter where you live or work. To reiterate, not all of these ideas may be perfect for you or your situation. But it’s likely that at least a few will be actionable. It’s surprisingly easy to get involved in organizations that are working every day to feed the hungry or help people learn how to read. All you have to do is reach out; you might be pleasantly surprised at what you get back.
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