I recently started working in the social justice field and it's made me reflect on how I view social justice. For much of my life, I concluded social justice is a collection of one-way actions that involve a giver and a taker. Yet, these roles of giver and taker can perpetuate a savior complex in the "giver". This then can demotivate and dehumanize the "taker" as apposed to helping them. Understanding this helped me realize social justice is a philosophy not formulaic action.
Real social justice is building action on the foundation of humanity. It defies the dissonance that excuses us from denying human beings their humanity. Thus, the first step of social justice is to humble ourselves to recognize we are all humans. Only then will we be able to unlearn harmful prejudice and maladaptive thinking. Our thoughts will move from, "what can I do to help these people?" to, "As a human being, there are certain right people should have. How can I find out what they need so we can come together and make those rights come true?". This shift from I to we is the only way to create helpful and lasting change for those who need it. Yet, this shift does not cohabitate well with our capitalist, American Dream ideals.
I combat this by telling myself social justice is not a handout, but an investment for the future. Yes, making our immigration initiatives humane and collaborative would have upfront costs. But, it would eradicate costs from horrid detention camps and improve international rapport. Yes, making government benefit initiatives more humane and collaborative would have upfront costs. But, it would reduce the time people need benefits because we would know exactly what they need and how to give it. This would then free up money for other government services like education. Investing in social justice is an investment in a humane and thriving future. Yet, this is not without work as the above examples show.
Real social justice is hard and uncomfortable. It makes us come to terms with the inhumanity and injustices in our communities. Even so, it is worth sitting with the effort and the discomfort because it will lead to the betterment of all lives.
Helpful further readings:
A. Savior complex in social justice