The Candor

Social Justice Can’t Succeed Without Open Dialogue

Omair Ali

Perspectives Editor

America has experienced various waves of social justice and associated reform throughout its history. Some of the more prominent periods of social justice include: social justice preceding the Revolutionary War, the abolitionist movement prior to the Civil War, the era of “Progressivism” facilitated by President Theodore Roosevelt, and the great Civil Rights movement in the mid-20th century. The era we live in today can also be considered a significant period of social justice, as we are experiencing a brand new wave of reforms centered around various ideas.

Now, with the advent of an administration that is bent on fulfilling its personal goals, it is no surprise that social justice is one of the hottest topics in our society. The Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) defines social justice as the “virtue” that guides the creation of institutions that would provide socially good resources and also enforces individual contribution to the greater good so that progress can be made in “personal and social development.” In other words, social justice is the instrument by which all human beings would remain entitled to rights and resources in the form of institutions and upholding the law.

Failures in Today’s Social Justice Movement

While social justice in the past incorporated Social justice fails to adhere to one principal: Being representative of the needs of all people. Unfortunately, social justice, as defined by current conventions and mainstream media, is now identified in tandem with a clear political agenda, in which the supposed “victims,” or ethno-racial minority groups, have risen to become the principal plaintiffs of the social justice movement. Black Lives Matter, third-wave feminism, and many single-issue groups demonstrate these single (or few) issue agendas, often sharing opinions with only one political party without encompassing a holistic approach to social justice. Not only that, proponents of social justice are admittedly less tolerant of opposing views, making it hard for politically stagnant individuals to sympathize with these groups.

While social justice of the present has largely been a peaceful movement, there have been violent elements that have plagued the collective efforts brought forth by social justice. The recent University of California, Berkeley demonstration is one instance of social justice that was obscured by violent measures taken by extremist groups. The violent demonstration at this event perverted the ideas of social justice and obstructed the right to free speech, which has made many members of the public less fond of social justice. It also important to note that Berkeley wasn’t the only instance of violent action taken in the name of social justice in recent times.

Social justice has not only become a movement that fights only for “victims” but also a vehicle for antagonizing political entities. In particular, proponents of social justice appear to denounce the current presidential administration rather than trying to work with it, all the while social justice has become a big-name player in the game of post-truth politics. This also makes social justice organizations unrepresentative of the wishes and needs of the majority of people, let alone all people, which ideally it should strive to be.

Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that the current model of social justice needs to be amended and adapt to the existing conditions: Divided communities and hatred among each other. If the point of social justice is to improve the overall goodness of society, then this means that the social fabric within every community must be strengthened. And what I mean by social fabric is the quality and quantity of interactions between members of the community, excluding no one. So how can the social fabric be strengthened in communities? Well, community-wide engagement in political dialogue is one feasible way of improving the love of diverse ideas in the community.

Political dialogue strengthens the social fabric of our community by providing a safe environment for people of all beliefs to share their thoughts. As well, political dialogue challenges the existing notion of political dissonance because the point of dialogue is to listen to and share a broad range of ideas, meaning that opposing sides of the spectrum must be willing to respect each other. In fact, forceful indoctrination of beliefs is the antonym of the open-minded discourse that dialogue has to offer, which is why political dialogue can be used to facilitate social justice in all aspects of American life without offending anyone. Personally, I find political dialogue to be very rewarding because I always become inspired by ideas and stories that I hear during dialogue, and through this build-up of information I am able to construct and refine my own political beliefs and ideas.

Would you be surprised if I told you that there are platforms for open dialogue on campus?

Become Involved with Dialogue Groups, Forums, and Other Events on Campus

It is a fact that students on campus are interested in participating in events that are dedicated toward social justice. Events from last semester such as the talk on undocumented immigration, the panel on criminal justice, and the post-election reflection were packed with curious students and staff, indicating that social justice is something that the Benedictine community wants to partake in. Luckily, Benedictine University is not short of these activities in the near future.

As a free-thinking community, Benedictine University houses multiple platforms for discussion that are not exclusively pertaining to social justice. Student political groups that host political dialogue, such as the Political Science Student Association, exist on campus. Faith-based groups affiliated with the Campus Ministry such as Interfaith Dialogue provide additional, safe places for people to share stories, opinions, and ideas. Several other clubs have missions that resonate with the core principles of social justice. Events are also held throughout the school year, featuring guest speakers from a variety of disciplines and activities that encourage civic engagement. In fact, the most prominent of social justice events, Teach-In day, will take place all day on March 6. This event will focus on several aspects related to social justice and race, with guest speakers and activities focused on enhancing civic engagement. This day is important for all advocates of social justice as well as politically active individuals who want to learn new perspectives about our society.

All of these opportunities would enable all of you to become free thinkers and interact with people of different backgrounds, both of which would help promote social justice in an effective manner. So what are you waiting for?