A few months ago Carl Benjamin, also known as Sargon of Akkad created a petition to suspend Social Justice courses. I signed it, thinking that at best it was nothing more than a way of calling attention to the problem. But how can we achieve meaningful change?
There is a time and a place for activism. When a culture or society refuses to recognize or address injustice activism is a necessary first step. If the grievance is great enough and the dominant culture continues to be oppressive enough, activism can and should escalate.
In extreme cases it may be necessary for activism to include violence. The American Revolution is a perfect example of this. But what happens when activists succeed? What happens when the changes are made, unjust laws are repealed or new laws implemented to right the wrongs?.
The problems do not disappear completely overnight. But the time for activism ends because what happens next is that the major, obvious problems go away and the remaining issues become much more subtle, more nuanced. And aggressive activism does not have the tools to address these issues effectively. Indeed “legacy activists” as I call them have become part of the problem.
What has happened since the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960’s is the creation of a grievance industry that perpetuates itself at the expense of the dominant culture as well as the disadvantaged groups they claim to represent. They have run into a very simple problem of supply and demand.
There simply isn’t enough racism, sexism, homophobia etc. to justify the hundreds of thousands of activists that are being churned out of our universities. So what do they do? They rail against ever smaller slights and in some cases make up grievances to advance their agenda. In other words, they manufacture injustice and inequality and thus address their demand problem.
Intersectional feminism makes perfect sense when you view it from this perspective. By co-opting any and every “oppressed group” that views themselves as disadvantaged they have expanded their potential market exponentially.
As a professional in the sales and marketing field I have to admire their ingenuity. As an American that is genuinely committed to a just and equal society, I am appalled. I think of them as dung beetles. While I am completely repulsed at what they do, I have a grudging respect for how diligently they go about their work.
So what can we do about this problem?
Many have suggested abolishing social justice based courses like Gender Studies and African American Studies by defunding them or by other means. I disagree with this completely. For no other reason than it simply won’t work. Firstly, defunding would only impact public universities. Some of the worst offenders are private universities.
Secondly, people tend to focus only on the faculty and students and ignore the fact that the administration and infrastructure of these institutions are completely infested with social justice warriors. People tend to laugh about how SJW’s are going to be unemployable and end up going back to live in mommy’s basement.
Some will but many of them end up being administrative assistants, travel coordinators, cultural liaisons etc. They worm their way into the very fabric of our universities and unlike students and some faculty, they never leave.
If you look at the demands made by BLM and Feminists as a result of campus demonstrations they tend to make very vague, nebulous demands. Things like “smashing patriarchy” and “ending institutional racism” are a few of their favorites. The only thing they ever get specific about is the money.
X amount of money to expand or create a new grievance based program employing Y number of people invariably accompanied with a hiring preference for women and people of color. Defunding or another quick fix simply cannot work with any institution that is compromised down to its very foundation.
I believe in a long term and subtle approach that involves improving rather than abolishing social justice programs.
My first suggestion is to make hard science a part of the curriculum for social justice based degrees. These courses must not be taught within the social justice department but instead taught within their respective departments.
Number one that will ensure they are taught properly and number two it will drag them out of their little bubbles into an actual reality based environment for at least a little while. I can’t help but think that exposure to actual science and interacting with students that are not part of the social justice collective will have an impact. Reality has a way of asserting itself if you are exposed to it long enough. The social justice clan recognizes this which is why they go to such lengths to avoid it.
My second suggestion is that social justice programs include a mandatory one year public service component. I don’t mean attending meetings, printing brochures and stuff like that. I mean rolling up your sleeves and sorting clothes in the back room at a women’s resource center, doing dishes at a soup kitchen, cleaning bathrooms at a homeless shelter. I have done work at all of these places and I can tell you that it changes you.
Another thing I can tell you that in all this time and at all of these places I have never encountered anybody that could be considered an SJW. I have met some liberal people, conservative people, libertarians, etc. but no SJW’s. One of the defining characteristics of a SJW is a complete disconnect between them and the people they claim to care about.
If they have any humanity left within them there is no way they can maintain that while actually helping people who desperately need it. I repeat: It changes you and it benefits you far more than it does them. Also, as I mentioned with the introduction of the science component they will be forced to interact with people outside of their bubble.
This will make them kinder, more generous people and I believe it will make it all but impossible to remain a prototypical SJW. I realize that many of these people are irredeemable but I believe many of them are simply immature and significant exposure to reality and actual altruism will have a profound effect on them.
This will prepare them for what I believe to be the correct approach to helping marginalized and disadvantaged people. Richard Nixon of all people summed it up best: “Idealism without pragmatism is impotent. Pragmatism without idealism is meaningless. The key to effective leadership is pragmatic idealism.” Another thing that this approach does is it makes these people employable outside of academia.
Someone who can look at complicated nuanced problems in society or within a business and can utilize social as well as hard science to create a more equitable and productive environment can bring real value to any organization. Abolishing social justice programs is a pipe dream. But I believe we can and should use a subtle, incremental, and long term approach to change social justice programs into something that produces the idealistic, pragmatic leaders that we need.