If you are a conservative and you hear the words “social justice,” you probably cringe. If you are a liberal, you probably clap. Regardless of what side you find yourself on, I want to suggest that the term “social justice” in its currently conducted form is a contradiction in terms.
We know that there are the poor and the rich. The weak and the strong. The ignorant and the smart. The stupid and the wise. We are aware that this has been humanity’s case for...ever. We also know that these roles can reverse themselves, make themselves parallel on one end or the other, or at least adjust in some direction, if not in both.
Inequality provides the ultimate visual at every natural level (tall-short, fat-skinny, beautiful-ugly, etc.). But there is something in us called sympathy (or empathy) that drives us, or at least nudges us to help in some way. “I will encourage them to work out.” “I’ll show them how to dress better.” “The poor thing hasn’t the first clue about eyeliner, I’ll assist.”
It’s part of the human condition to want to help people, even if we actually don’t lend a hand. This is good, and it is one of the many things that separates us from the animals.
And then we have social justice. According to Oxford, social justice is “Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.”
On its face, you might think there is nothing wrong with that. Except for that little word “distribution.” When it comes to distribution under social justice, it is forced distribution. Not so much a gun-to-the-head type of force, but a government-to-your-head type of force.
Social justice is not actual sympathy, empathy, or compassion of any sort. It is forced sympathy, empathy or compassion of a specified sort. Although no one can force you to be kind, they may be able to force you to do a kind act.
So instead of calling it “social justice,” how about we go with “forced generosity”?
Wealth. Opportunities. Privileges.
Let’s do all three separately, shall we?
Jesus said that “the poor you will have with you always” (Matthew 26:11 and Mark 14:7). If Jesus said that they will always be with us, then does that mean we should consider ourselves helpless to assist them? No. Or that they are helpless to help themselves? Also, no. This means that we will always have the opportunity to help those less fortunate than ourselves; and these are opportunities we should often take.
So how does that look? That looks a lot like regular people doing what they can for others, and not like forcing random people into compassionate servitude. Nor demanding the wealthy to give more...a little more...OK, now some more. That isn’t justice. That is simply use-of-force.
“But they have so much, while those people have so little.” Well, have you talked to everyone of those poor people and asked how they go where they are? No, you haven’t. Much like you haven’t talked to the rich people and asked how they got where they are. But to further address that, I will now refer you to my previous article “What Is Wrong with Work?”
“Everyone gets a trophy!” This has got to be one of the biggest scams to be instituted into the modern public. If you like the idea that not only should your kid get a trophy, but that everyone on the team should get a trophy, there’s probably two reasons for this: either your kid sucks at the sport or you sucked and now your kid sucks.
I know that came out harsh, but you should probably get this through your skull: we all sucked at some point in time. We all struggled with our coordination. We all had a hard time drawing. Not all of us were good enough at music to be in the jazz ensemble. Not all of us were smart. But if we wanted to be on the team AND play; or if we wanted to get first place OR at least get a ribbon of note; or if we wanted to be in the ensemble; or we wanted to be awarded for our good grades, whether at school or at home, then we applied ourselves. And if someone was still better than us, then chances were, they applied just a little harder.
This doesn’t mean one’s environment doesn’t play a factor. I believe it does. But that doesn’t mean that people should be given opportunities that do not belong to them. “But they’ve worked hard!” According to who? Them? You? Their current results?
If you want a kid to struggle (internally and externally), put them in competition with those who are several levels ahead. Just because you want that kid in Harvard doesn’t mean they should be, or even need to be. Inequality isn’t just real; it’s true. The best way to get on equal terms with someone is to work hard at whatever it is. You may never best your competition, but much like everyone else who played with and against Michael Jordan, they were on the court with him at the same time. They had earned that opportunity.
There are few ideals that are so coveted, yet simultaneously condemned. It appears that anyone who is successful, especially of a specific class, gender or race, is successful due to privilege, regardless of their work ethic. And anyone who is not successful, especially of a specific class, gender or race, is unsuccessful due to their lack of privilege, regardless of their work ethic. Something in the human DNA has somehow suddenly changed, dramatically.
I’ll be the first to agree that there are plenty of financially successful people and those with a plethora of opportunities who are neither hard working nor talented. But what am I to do about that aside from think it’s unwarranted? I treat it as Jesus said in His parable about the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30): “let them grow together.” The two will always stand out noticeably, even if it takes time. (I know how impatient Americans can be, especially those who hate having to work for something.)
But to say that someone is successful merely because they are white or a woman or Jewish or born into wealth, is the same as blaming one’s failures on being black or a man or Catholic or born into poverty. One thing may have something to do with the other, but we live in the US where your opportunity for success is more contingent on hard work, ability, perseverance, a good attitude, kindness, respect, and the desire to learn. We don’t live in a caste system or an aristocracy. Are there those who practice caste? Sure, but minimally. Are there aristocrats? Yeah, but very few.
Success or failure, there are many reasons why I am where I am today, why you are where you are today, and where our neighbors are today. Some of those reasons can be mentioned with pride, some with shame, and some avoided altogether.
End Injustice By Being Just
Creating justice for someone based on their race, ethnicity, gender, or economic background is simply that: a creation. It isn’t real justice. It is a perverted form of justice. It is a justice that we don’t actually see with our eyes, but it is what we want to see. Whether we want to see that type of justice because we want to feel good about ourselves or about other people, I don’t know. But even God commanded we not “create justice,” especially since justice belongs to Him.
Deuteronomy 1:17 You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s.
Whether they are poor or rich, justice must be served justly.
Exodus 23:3 You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.
Leviticus 19:15 You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.
It’s why we have the word “just.” So let’s act accordingly. Let’s be just. Not social justice warriors who want to force wealth out of those hands who have earned it, or take opportunities away from one who is deserving and give to another who isn’t, or demonize a race or class of people because they are deemed to have an unspecified “privilege.”
Social justice merely teach kids a perverted form of justice. It teaches them that stealing and the use-of-force are acceptable forms of behavior. It teaches them that if they were born of a specific race, class or gender, then they should feel guilty of being so imprudent.
The fact is social justice isn’t justice at all. The last thing we want is a new generation coming up thinking that tyranny is justice and that justice is tyranny.