Diversity Toolkit: Social Justice
Social justice refers to a concept in which equity or justice is achieved in every aspect of society rather than in only some aspects or for some people. A world organized around social justice principles affords individuals and groups fair treatment as well as an impartial share or distribution of the advantages and disadvantages within a society.
Social justice includes a vision of a society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others and the society as a whole. (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Adams, Bell, Griffin, 2nd ed., Routledge 2007)
The absence of social justice results in social oppression. Racism, sexism, ageism, classism, ableism, and heterosexism are some forms of social oppression in society. Societies and individuals form hierarchies of oppression in which certain types of oppression are addressed and others are not. Oppression of certain groups or individuals can result in social or legal exclusion, discrimination, inequitable distribution of resources, and emotional and physical consequences.
- Focus on diversity—awareness of the diversity in communities is critical to fostering social justice
- Address real consequences of oppression—when discussing social justice in lessons or staff meetings, it is important to acknowledge the real social and economic disadvantages that oppressed people face in society, not simply the psychic harm of oppression
- Understand the mechanisms that perpetuate oppression—i.e., those attitudes and behaviors (e.g., racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism) from a position of privilege
- Resist hierarchies of oppression—form strategies to foster justice with an inclusive mindset: who is being left out?
- Seek to address social justice on three levels—personal (self), institutional (school) and societal (community).