by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
That’s the topic of a recent Quillette piece in which Clay Routledge takes a critical look at the social justice movement. Here are some excerpts [with my favorite passages emphasized in bold]:
Other writers have argued that the secular left has turned social-justice ideology into their religion. I think there is merit to this argument and propose that, just like traditional religion, social justice is often exploited for personal and political purposes, which potentially further harms those most in need of our support.
Like politicians who show up at church for the cameras and sprinkle religious references into their speeches and interviews—but otherwise show no signs that the teachings of Christ guide their lives—many social-justice academics, writers, and activists seem more intent on gaining status within their political tribes and elite professional niches than on actually assisting truly disadvantaged and vulnerable human beings. There are individuals who are sincerely dedicated to the cause and are making a difference. We rarely hear from these folks because they are … quietly and diligently working to help others.
It is notable that the most radical and chic forms of social-justice activism play out at elite universities, where tuition can cost more than the annual income of the average American family—not at the community colleges that working class and poor students of all races and ethnicities are more likely to attend. For many of these less fortunate students, higher education is an investment that they desperately need to monetize through study and hard work. They can’t afford to waste time playing identity politics. They are too broke to be woke.
Though it might grant social and professional benefits to members of the elite liberal class, engaging in scholarship and activism that demonizes men, white people, or heterosexuals doesn’t make the world more just, nor does providing students with empirically-unsupported implicit-bias training and “toxic masculinity” workshops. These practices bake the seeds of prejudice and discrimination into educational experiences that are supposedly focused on fighting prejudice and discrimination. …
The world isn’t made more just by ignoring or trying to suppress scientific evidence that challenges one’s preferred worldview, encouraging witch-hunt methods to attack those who deviate from far-left orthodoxy, or promoting a culture of victimhood. These practices push away those who may otherwise support the cause.
Some of the greatest lessons I learned in actual social justice came from my parents, even if they didn’t use the term “social justice.” They showed me that one way to make the world more just is simply by taking responsibility for oneself and one’s family, so that limited community resources can go to those who are most in need. They taught me to treat people as individuals who share a common humanity, a strategy that has been backed by research examining how to reduce prejudice and promote intergroup harmony. They fostered a mentality of dignity and resilience, never letting us wallow is self-pity. I could go on.
My family lived in a part of the world plagued by mass poverty and disease. Here in the United States, I have seen up close the people in our communities who are truly suffering or unable to provide for themselves. And I realize that despite the fact that the Western world is becoming increasingly open-minded and tolerant, we are still sadly cursed with bigotry and hate. But I also know how to tell the difference between those working for a cause and those making a cause work for them. Beware of the false prophets of social justice.
Whether we call it social justice, God’s work, or something else, there are people on the left, right, and everywhere in-between working hard to study and solve the ills that infect our society, elevate humanity, fight injustice, and help those in need. These individuals often receive little or no public recognition. But there are also many who may be in the spotlight but, whether they realize it or not, are, at best, just in the way. Whether we are talking about traditional religions or their new secular substitutes, if you want to find the people who are making our world a more just place, don’t look in the spotlight. Look in the shadows.
Read the whole thing!