There's More to Social Justice than Awareness


Whenever I see my friend Keturah—which isn’t all that often, since an international boundary bisects our friendship—we come parched for a certain kind of conversation about social justice that we can’t have anywhere else.  

Both Keturah and I have worked in the sphere of human trafficking prevention for long enough to know there are certain opinions we must keep to ourselves. As social justice advocates, there are burdens we all silently bear, but can’t publicly admit out of fear that our secret will simultaneously diminish both the credibility of our work and the value of our soul. 

We are too ashamed, too fearful to speak candidly. And yet, for Keturah and I, these truths need to be articulated outside of our soul-to-soul coffee dates and international Skype calls, because we don’t hear them spoken anywhere else.  

We’re tired of justice. 

Don’t get us wrong. It’s not justice itself that we find perturbing—it’s how we’ve come to understand and politicize it. 

In my own experiences of humanitarian service from Canada to Cambodia, it seems that when it comes to justice, we often contort it to fit our own agenda. We define its dimensions according to our level of commitment to it. We speak of it to flatter ourselves, inserting “justice issues” casually but strategically into conversations—as if it gives us more buoyancy in the human struggle for worthiness. We sensationalize justice, without unpacking what it really means or looks like.

So to be honest, I’m tired of it. And so is Keturah. And so are many other social justice advocates writing grants in high-rise offices in Hanoi and rebuilding one-room hospitals in rural Haiti or searching for dignified employment options for human trafficking survivors in Houston.

But we’re also ready to shift our posture towards justice. And I think we start to do things differently by changing the conversation.

This article originally appeared in RELEVANT. View the full version here>>