Social Justice is Not Justice

Socrates defines individual justice as “What is good for the individual soul.”  He defines justice for the community as “Each person doing their part in a way that others do not interfere with their societal roles.”  Social justice as applied in the United States fails to meet either definition of justice.  Social justice policies have caused massive property destruction, increased crime, increased inequities, and increased racism.  Rather than meeting Socrates’ definition of justice, they embody injustice by their very nature.  These policies cause both individual harm and cripple many of the essential functions of society.    

In 2020, businesses and neighborhoods were looted, burnt, vandalized, and shredded during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) riots.  Across the country, hundreds of mostly minority communities were torn apart in the name of “social justice.”  Under the claim that the riots were necessary to right past wrongs, the damage stripped communities of resources, families of incomes, and left neighborhoods abandoned.  Social justice warriors (or rioters, depending on your perspective) claimed that they were protesting on behalf of minorities, yet it was minority communities that were devastated.   

Supposedly, social justice is about righting past wrongs and creating equity, outcomes that are the same across all tiers of society.  The outcomes created by the 2020 protests severely damaged minority communities.  There was nothing equitable about those outcomes, nor was there anything resembling justice. 

Social justice has swept across the United States.  The idea of righting past wrongs and creating equity has been used to justify affirmative action in education, hiring based on race and not merit, farm subsidies based on race, cashless bail, prison reform, defunding the police, and Critical Race Theory (CRT).  These policies are supposed to create equity, giving those “oppressed” by the system a way to achieve the same outcome as those with privilege.  The outcomes of these policies, from the riots to CRT, have created an army of victims, left neighborhoods destroyed, and lives disrupted.  Given the stated goal of social justice, these policies have failed utterly. 

Perhaps the flaw in social justice begins with the flaw in its premise. The social justice movement was founded on the idea that slavery was the primary driving force that created the United States, and that as such, the founding, and the country itself, were illegitimate.  Even if that premise were true -- and it is not -- this country’s attitude toward slavery changed so much that hundreds of thousands lost their lives during the Civil War to bring an end to slavery.  One hundred years later, many fought to abolish Jim Crow laws, bringing legal equality to all races.  That would not have happened if attitudes about race had not changed dramatically.  Race-neutral attitudes have taken a huge leap forward over the past 250 years.  If attitudes toward slavery and race have long since matured and moved toward a race-neutral position, then social justice is trying to right a wrong which no longer exists.  The social justice movement ignores this attitudinal change and is in many ways reversing that progress.    

Affirmative action in education and raced-based hiring (although illegal) are two areas where race has become the dominant tool for deciding who will get into school or who will get a job.  Underqualified applicants are hired or admitted to school for positions for which they are not prepared and for which they are not the best candidate.  According to a Heritage Foundation article, raced-based admissions substantially increase the failure rate for students who do not meet the academic standards required for a particular curriculum.  Whereas the student may have fared better in a class more suited to his or her academic achievements, race-based admissions create a mismatch which is costly to the student and ultimately prevents many students from succeeding.

While some unqualified candidates are admitted or hired, others who are qualified are excluded.  These become the new victims of discrimination.  This is the discrimination that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was supposed to eliminate.  In medicine, construction, aeronautics, and many other industries, subpar employees increase the risk of negative outcomes. (Including death, in the case of medicine) These new victims bring us back to the question of justice.  Is harm to a new set of individuals justified?

Many businesses and schools now teach Critical Race Theory (CRT).  CRT says to white people that they are part of a privileged class (the oppressors) and as part of that class they need to make reparations to minorities (the oppressed).  Even though no acts of oppression or racist behaviors have occurred, all white people are white supremacists.  They are guilty because they are unconsciously racist and as such should pay to right the wrong.  They are shamed for feelings and thoughts they do not have as evidenced by their acts, which show no racist activities.  

Designating minorities as victims (oppressed) incapable of helping themselves, discourages effort and contributes to a sense of helplessness.  Generations of young people think of themselves as subpar, as oppressed, and unable to get ahead even if they try.  Education, a good job, and working to better one’s life are considered fruitless efforts.  Minorities are taught that white people are to blame for any failure.  This teaches race hate, and bigotry.  Every failure is assigned to the oppressors rather than to those that failed.  It creates an excuse for failure rather than motivation to try again or to overcome challenges.  The oppressors become the scapegoat.  By Socrates’ definition, this labelling destroys the soul of both the oppressed and the oppressors, preventing them from reaching their full potential.

Social justice has been used to promote defunding police, emptying prisons, and cashless bail.  Since more minorities are jailed for crimes (based on population), social justice advocates argue that those minorities must be unfairly targeted through a process called systemic racism.  The possibility that those minorities commit crimes more often is not considered.  Implemented in numerous venues across the country, the outcomes from these policies have not been ‘equity,’ giving these oppressed individuals a second chance, but have resulted in massive increases in crime, mostly involving minorities.  

If equity entails making everyone a victim, then these reforms are moving in that direction.  Clearly, this does not meet Socrates’ definition of justice as it applies to a society.  People cannot contribute to society without undue interference when the prevailing atmosphere is one of fear and victimhood.  

Whether it’s the 2020 riots, affirmative action, CRT, or criminal justice reform, each policy created to promote social justice results in innocents being hurt and harm to communities.   Depending on the policy, there is significant harm to the individual soul. Harm to an individual’s ability to function as part of the community is an evident result of these policies.

Socrates would have considered social justice a harm to society and as such, injustice. He would have argued that social justice was a perversion of justice and as such had no place in an ideal society.  Based on that, social justice is not justice at all.  It harms even those it is supposed to benefit.

Image: Dan Aasland

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