Social justice is defined as:
The objective of creating a fair and equal society in which each individual matters, their rights are recognized and protected, and decisions are made in ways that are fair and honest.Oxford Reference
It addresses the factors that cause some segments of society to be disadvantaged in terms of access, equity, rights, and participation. These factors can include disability, gender, race, sexuality, and historically oppressed groups.
What brings us together is much greater than what divides us. Yes, we have differences, but it’s entirely arbitrary which of those differences are considered to have social relevance. That means that change is within our power.
Social Justice Page Overview
Mental Health @ Home Stance on Social Justice
We all have elements of our identity that confer advantages and disadvantages, and being able to appreciate those in ourselves can help us to relate to others. I recognize that as a white person, I have tremendous social privilege. Being cis-gendered, heterosexual, and well-educated also confers privilege. At the same time, I’m at a disadvantage by being female in a society still dominated by patriarchy, having a mental illness, and experiencing disability because of that illness.
While I may be disadvantaged because I have a disability, I am confident that if I am pulled over by police for a traffic stop, for example, the police officer will not shoot me. That doesn’t feel like social privilege unless I think about what might have happened in that same situation if I were a Black man.
We learn the stereotypes that are associated with these disadvantaged groups early on, and often carry them around as automatic, unconscious implicit beliefs. We can begin to change those beliefs through stereotype-disconfirming experiences, which means getting up close and person with those who are different from us.
We should be celebrating the diversity among us, embracing the whole range of human identities, experiences, and beliefs. Love unites us and makes us stronger, and hate only divides and weakens us.
That’s why this blog is a discrimination-free zone. To maintain a safe space for all, discriminatory comments will not be tolerated.
Social Privileges vs. Burdens
The term white fragility (based on the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo) is sometimes used to describe people’s resistance to being told they have white privilege. My concern with this is that it may create more resistance, especially if one tries to beat people over the head with the accusation that they’re racist and white supremacist. If the goal is social change and social justice and equality, perhaps we need to look at ways to reframe the issue to overcome the barriers that are getting in the way of understanding and constructive social change.
Social privilege only exists as a counterpoint to social burdens. Rather than conferring a tangible benefit, privilege acts as a free pass to avoid having to bear the corresponding social burden.
Privilege can only be recognized when one is aware of the corresponding burdens; if I don’t know that a particular burden exists, I have no way of knowing that I have the corresponding privilege. The only way I can understand that social burden is to hear the voices of people who experience it.
Addressing social privilege isn’t about changing the experiences of the privileged; it’s about removing the social burden so that both burden and privilege cease to exist.
In keeping with the concept of intersectionality, there are many social characteristics that may be associated with social burdens or privileges, and a given individual will likely have a combination of both. I can have white privilege while still having considerable social burdens in terms of mental illness and associated disability. It shouldn’t be a competition over who has the most or least privilege; we’re better off listening to and respecting others and their experiences.
Posts that go into more detail around this include:
Exploring Our Social World
- Ableism: The Assumptions People Make About Disability
- ‘Cause We Are Living in a Material World…: Is addressing consumerism an individual, government, or corporate responsibility?
- Is the Term Gaslighting Overused?: People are using the term gaslighting to describe social phenomena rather than just individual emotional abuse, but is that appropriate?
- Marginalized Groups and On-Screen Representation
- Remembering the Fallen of 9/11: a look at those who fell to their deaths, and how society judged them
- Some Thoughts on My Version of Soft Atheism
- What Influences Your Worldview?: There are many factors that shape how we view our social world.
Political correctness is one way of talking about marginalized groups, with the aim of avoiding giving offence. However, a lot of people are totally turned off by the whole concept and see it as an attempt to silence people. Sometimes, political correctness creates offence where none was intended, like telling people to stop saying “merry Christmas.” It’s good to speak respectfully, but if PC alienates the target audience, perhaps a different approach would be more effective.
Democracy & Freedom
Voting matters. It’s your chance to have your say. Yes, there’s money and power involved and you may not like everything any candidate has to see, but an election is where you as a voter have your power. Many parts of that world don’t have that luxury. When governments restrict access to voting, that’s an assault on democracy.
Voter ID laws are a form of voter suppression. Obtaining or replacing ID can pose significant challenges. When you don’t have any ID, getting it is very hard if you don’t know certain specific pieces of information. While such restrictions seem like a good idea on the face of it, but they end up disenfranchising marginalized groups, including people who belong to racial minorities or who are disabled, elderly, poor, or homeless.
Voting behaviour is influenced by the outcome that we expect from elections. Learn what What Political Polls Mean (and what they don’t).
Freedom of speech is a fundamental part of a democratic society. However, sometimes people misinterpret what freedom of speech actually means. The concept of cancel culture, which actually encompasses multiple disparate phenomena, often gets drawn into the mix as well. Putting too many things on the don’t-say list risks triggering reactance, which makes people actively resist what they perceive to be restrictions on their freedom.
In the time of Corona, there have been many, especially in the US, who have argued, sometimes with guns raised, that wearing masks infringes on their freedom. But in any society, there are limitations on individual freedoms to protect the rights of others. We can’t be in a car without seatbelts, we can’t drive drunk, etc. The post I Am Not Free to… looks at this further.
The post Kyle Rittenhouse as Christian Right Hero? looks at the disturbing overlap between pro-gun, adamantly pro-self-defense, racist, and Christian right views.
Gender, Feminism & LGBTQ+
A fundamental concept when discussing gender issues is making a distinction between sex and gender, with sex referring to biology and gender referring to identity. There is some debate as to whether those differences are entirely due to biology or social constructs, but I believe the issue is more complex than that, and there iis some of both.
As a feminist, I believe that patriarchal power structures and societal expectations to conform to rigid gender roles are harmful to all of us. For example, men who are told to “man up” are deterred from seeking mental health care, which can have dire consequences. Changing these traditional notions that hold back all genders requires the concerted effort of all of us for our mutual benefit. You can read more on this in Why feminism helps all of us.
- My body is my own questions why governments should get to decide what happens to my body, and in particular my reproductive system.
- The Cost of Being a Woman: In the Western world, the “pink tax” takes the form of differential pricing of personal care products and taxation of feminine hygiene products. In developing countries, a lack of period products means that girls are missing school.
- The Tragedy of Female Genital Mutilation: This horrific practice, sometimes euphemistically referred to as “female circumcision” has devastating health consequences for women.
A quick note on terminology: On MH@H, I use LGBTQ+ as a broad term, recognizing that there’s a whole array of beautiful identities and orientations that are encompassed within that umbrella, even if they’re not explicitly specified.
- Gender Identity and Parental Obstruction: my reaction to a news report of a parent going to court to block their teen’s gender transition
- It’s a Bad Time to Be Transgender in Arkansas: the state has passed a law making any sort of gender-affirming treatment illegal under the age of 18
- Suicide Risk Among LGBTQ+ Youth: when society discriminates, suicidality can result
- What is… Conversion “Therapy” gives an overview of this disgusting approach that attempts to change people’s sexuality and identity
- Who gets to decide others’ identities? challenges why the Vatican thinks it can dictate what gender identities are valid
The social determinants of health are a set of psychosocial and socioeconomic factors that influence health outcomes. Systemic inequities can have a huge impact on the health of disadvantaged populations that go beyond just differences in access to health care.
The issue of access to health care is covered in:
- Is healthcare a right or a privilege?
- I have a pre-existing condition
- How Does Your Local Health Care System Work?
The Failure of the War on Drugs means that disproportionate numbers of poor people and people from racialized communities are being incarcerated en masse. Treating addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue promotes better individual and community outcomes.
Poverty & Homelessness
- Homelessness & Addiction: Embracing Stigma: an ugly, ignorant editorial in a small-city newspaper dismisses homeless, drug-addicted people as “druggies,” “crackheads,” and “undesirables”
- Poverty Can Be Very Expensive: barriers like ID and lack of affordable banking can drive people living in poverty to use costly payday loan/cheque-cashing services
- The Benefits of Universal Basic Income for People with Mental Illness: UBI could go a long way towards eliminating poverty
- We All Deserve a Roof Over Our Heads: Homelessness & Mental Illness: people with mental illness are disproportionately represented in the homeless population, and Housing First research shows it’s actually cheaper for society to house people
Racism & Ethnic Discrimination
Oppression becomes part of the social fabric until we dismantle and rebuild the social systems that serve to perpetuate oppression. Intergenerational trauma occurs as the effects of historic oppression and collective trauma can continue to impact descendants of survivors.
- Halloween, Blackface, and Cultural Appropriation: After an old photo surfaced of the Canadian prime minister wearing brownface, how should we judge socially inappropriate behaviour from years ago?
- The Holocaust and the Failure of the US Education System: the younger generations are becoming less aware of the Holocaust, while antisemitism continues to rear its ugly head
- International Holocaust Remembrance Day: quotes from Elie Wiesel and a #weremember video from the World Jewish Congress
- Indian Residential Schools: Canada’s National Disgrace: government policy of forced assimilation created multiple generations’ worth of trauma, the effects of which can still be seen today
- Where race and mental health collide focuses on the challenges that race, racism, and cultural stigma can have on access to care. An interesting perspective on this issue is Rheeda Walker’s book The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health, which I’ve reviewed; it’s written by a Black woman specifically for Black people.
- Words of Wisdom from Martin Luther King, Jr.
Black Lives Matter
Over and over, Black people, especially Black men, are losing their lives for no other reason than the colour of their skin. How many times does this have to happen before systemic racism is addressed? You can read here Why I Use My Voice to Say Black Lives Matter.
In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.Angela Davis.
It doesn’t get any clearer, does it? On April 20, 2021, former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts.
Sexual Assault & Exploitation
Dr. Jessica Taylor’s Victim Focus site offers a free e-course on caring for yourself after sexual violence.
MH@H posts on this topic:
- Rape culture kills: the deaths by suicide of both victims featured in the documentary Audrie and Daisy are a stark reminder of the damage that rape culture can do
- Slavery Isn’t Over – The Horror of Human Trafficking: to this day, men, women, and children are trafficked for forced labour, forced prostitution, and other forms of exploitation
- The Survival Sex Trade is a stark example of the power of addiction and trauma
- Why don’t more people understand consent? And why does society continue to blame victims rather than perpetrators?
Climate change disproportionately affects people who are already disadvantaged. The theme for World Toilet Day 2020 was the potential for climate change-related events, such as floods and rising sea levels, to overwhelm sanitation systems, resulting in outbreaks of disease.
On World Toilet Day 2019, I learned that 673 million people worldwide practice open defecation. This poses a major public health risk. Women’s safety is jeopardized if they have to walk outside at night to get to a toilet, and menstruating girls may have to stay home when there is a lack of sanitary facilities in schools.
Economically disadvantaged people are less likely to have access to clean air and water, as I learned on Earth Day 2019.