If you keep up with cultural/political/worldview issues you undoubtedly have heard the term “social justice” come up on multiple occasions. To be certain, writing or speaking on this issue is eerily similar to riding a roller coaster, you never know what is going to happen and the ride is quite frequently unpredictable with several bumps along the way. Nonetheless, it is an important topic and so I want to address it in a more robust manner than I have previously, so expect a rather lengthy roller coaster ride here in this post!
The first step is to define what exactly is meant by the term “social justice.” Thankfully, a helpful website named New Discourses gives us the definitions from the very proponents of social justice themselves. Here is one of them:
“Social justice is both a process and a goal. The goal of social justice is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are psychologically and physically safe and secure.”1
At face value, this idea sounds like something many folks would encourage. My initial question when looking at this statement is to wonder what the word “equitable” means in this definition. Brandeis University, a college committed to “social justice” cites this definition of equity given by Morton and Fasching-Varner:
The notion of being fair and impartial as an individual engages with an organization or system, particularly systems of grievance. “Equity” is often conflated with the term “Equality” (meaning sameness). In fact, true equity implies that an individual may need to experience or receive something different (not equal) in order to maintain fairness and access. For example, a person with a wheelchair may need differential access to an elevator relative to someone else. (See Diversity and Inclusion).2
Notice this part of the definition explicitly, “In fact, true equity implies that an individual may need to experience or receive something different (not equal) in order to maintain fairness and access.” Chew on that one for a second. Instead of treating individuals equally, social justice wants to treat individuals differently. Now, I get the example of a wheelchair, a person who is bound to a wheelchair needs a ramp, that is frankly good, old-fashioned common sense and not necessarily social justice equity talking! But, beyond wheelchairs and elevators, how does this idea of equity play out in the social justice worldview? Let’s allow leading social justice advocate Ibram X. Kendi to tell us:
Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing. Here’s an example of racial inequity: 71 percent of White families lived in owner-occupied homes in 2014, compared to 45 percent of Latinx families and 41 percent of Black families.3
Did you notice how Kendi considers a statistical disparity to be a racial inequity? For example, he automatically assumes that because 71% of white families live in owner-occupied homes in comparison to 41% of Black families that distinction is attributed to racism. Dr. Kendi fails to actually give evidence as to why this statistic proves racism. Could it be racist? Sure, if there were actual laws keeping black individuals from homeownership then obviously that racist polity would be the reason for this statistical disparity. However, Kendi just assumes the difference proves racism without backing this statement up in his thought process. He makes a huge claim without substantiating it, something which is poor scholarship and bad argumentation at best. An important point to note here is that a disparity does not automatically prove discrimination. For example, if I handshake with more Americans in a day than Chinese does that mean I am discriminatory towards China? That is one possible reason, but the real reason I shake the hands of more Americans than Chinese is that I live in America! Thus, a disparity does not prove discrimination.
Now that we see the social justice movement is operating off this specific definition of equity, we must ask the question how do those holding to this ideology pursue equity? Kendi tells us what racial equity would look like:
Racial equity is when two or more racial groups are standing on a relatively equal footing. An example of racial equity would be if there were relatively equitable percentages of all three racial groups living in owner-occupied homes in the forties, seventies, or, better, nineties.
Under Kendi’s viewpoint any difference amongst races would be a lack of racial equity. So, how does he propose for us to rectify this viewpoint?
Since the 1960s, racist power has commandeered the term “racial discrimination,” transforming the act of discriminating on the basis of race into an inherently racist act. But if racial discrimination is defined as treating, considering, or making a distinction in favor or against an individual based on that person’s race, then racial discrimination is not inherently racist. The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.
According to Dr. Kendi, we need to discriminate against certain groups (a.k.a. reverse racism) in order to achieve racial equity. Lest you think I am overstating the case here is another quote:
The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.
Under the social justice ideology a person must discriminate against others in order to pursue racial equity. To put this in plain English, Kendi pushes for discrimination against white people in order to create greater “equity” amongst other races. What does this process look like when implemented in the real world? Perhaps there is no better example to consider than Coca-Cola.
Social Justice Goes To Business
According to Coca-Cola, the color of a person’s skin matters. They are going to increase their spending to black-owned businesses by $500 million over the next five years when choosing their suppliers.4 Here are there new guidelines for choosing legal counsel:
As part of this commitment, The Coca-Cola Company’s Global Legal team announced (in January 2021) new outside counsel guidelines to drive diversity. U.S.-based law firms that service the company must commit that at least 30% of each of billed associate and partner time will be from diverse attorneys, with at least half of these amounts from Black attorneys. These minimum commitments will be adjusted over time with the aspiration that at least 50% of billed associate and partner time will be from diverse attorneys, with at least half of that amount from Black attorneys.
Once again, Woka-Cola . . . excuse me . . . I mean Coca-Cola, considers skin color to be a determining factor when doing business. Their basis is not skillset regardless of skin color, but skin color regardless of skills. Folks, this is what happens when the worldview of the social justice movement gets put into action. Instead of just doing business with whoever is the best regardless of skin color, the social justice movement drives racism and promotes that sin.
The viewpoint held by Ibram Kendi, Coca-Cola, and the modern social justice movement is flat-out unbiblical since the Bible clearly tells us not to show partiality (James 2:1). Certainly, James is talking in the context of rich and poor in that passage, but this concept applies beyond that specific example. There is no room in Scripture for discriminating against anyone on the basis of race/ethnicity because all humans are created in the image of God. Even the Jew/Gentile divide of old has been reconciled. Paul urges the Christians to realize they are one because of Christ regardless of whether they are Jew or Gentile (see Ephesians 2:11-18). Romans 2:11 also tells us that God Himself “shows no partiality.” I will also mention another interesting fact to note. Booker T. Washington, who actually lived as a slave in the south for part of his life, was invited as the first black man ever to speak with Southern whites made this statement to the white race while speaking at the Cotton States and International Exposition:
To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits of the prosperity of the South, were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides. Cast down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labour wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South. Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of head, hand, and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your factories. While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen. As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, nursing your children, watching by the sick-bed of your mothers and fathers, and often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves, so in the future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in defence of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both races one. In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.5
Booker T. Washington was known not only for helping the black man, but also the white man. The notion of discrimination being necessary to fix societal problems was foreign to this man who was enslaved because of the color of his skin. Instead, he said the black men should be ready to die for the white man. Washington wanted a future where both races worked together in society, did not discriminate against each other, and were willing to die for one another. He wanted the races to be interlaced together in society in every way, whereas Kendi seeks to divide individuals on the basis of race. The modern idea of social justice and racial equity as espoused by Kendi and many in the culture is far from biblical justice and far from men like Washington who lived as slaves. Rather, in order to pursue social justice, you must discriminate on the basis of skin color. Coca-Cola is the prime example of that fact as we saw earlier.
Booker T. Washington also said this, “I have always been made sad when I have heard members of any race claiming rights or privileges, or certain badges of distinction, on the ground simply that they were members of this or that race, regardless of their own individual worth or attainments.” Coca-Cola says you need to be given their business on the basis of your skin color, Booker T. Washington, who lived under slavery, said he was saddened by people who try to obtain privileges based on their skin color. To pursue biblical justice you must not practice this discriminatory racism advocated by the modern social justice movement at all under any circumstances. The distinction between the viewpoints could not be greater.
There is much more which could be said on this topic, but I hope this post helps to show the distinction between true, biblical justice, and the modern social justice movement. I am all for pursuing justice and seeking to have God’s standard of justice reign in society. Standing up against racism is a necessary action for any human being to take. Why? Because we are called to stand up against sin, evil, and wickedness. However, the social justice movement has changed the definitions of justice, racism, equity, and so forth. Therefore, Christians are wise to reject this movement and as always to hold to the biblical truth!
3 All quotes from Dr. Kendi come from this link: https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2020/june/ibram-x-kendi-definition-of-antiracist.html
4 All Coca-Cola company quotes and facts can be found here:https://www.coca-colacompany.com/news/coca-cola-accelerates-commitment-to-black-owned-businesses
5 Information about Booker T. Washington and the quote come from his autobiography Up From Slavery which can be found here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2376/2376-h/2376-h.htm
6 Endnote 1: I need to be overly clear that I do not object to the idea of pursuing justice. Christians should pursue justice as defined by the Word of God (see Micah 6:8). We should stand against evil and injustice. However, I am opposed to the modern social justice movement because it is unjust and is a false worldview. Interestingly, individuals such as William Wilberforce used the term social justice and I have no qualms with his ideas on that realm. I respect Wilberforce and the work he did over his life. What he was seeking is biblical justice, unlike Ibram X. Kendi who is promoting injustice. Some have helpfully differentiated between the two by using the term “critical social justice” to reference the modern movement. It is to that movement which I directed my attention in this post.
7 Endnote 2: Whenever I use the term “equity” in this post I am exclusively focused on that term as defined by the critical social justice movement. They have a specific application of that term which is incorrect. Here is Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary on the definition of equity:
Justice; right. In practice, equity is the impartial distribution of justice, or the doing that to another which the laws of God and man, and of reason, give him a right to claim. It is the treating of a person according to justice and reason. (http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/equity)
I have no issues with this idea and would support it wholeheartedly. Do not be confused, I am not disagreeing with equity as historically used, but I am disagreeing with equity as applied by the critical social justice movement and individuals like Kendi.
8 Endnote 3: This is only one post about the topic of social justice. I am sure I will write many more in the future over the course of my blogging. I focused on the difference between biblical justice and social justice in this post. Of course, I did not have time to dive into concepts like Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, Standpoint Epistemology, and such. If you have questions about this movement send me a message and I will try to eventually write a blog post dealing with the area which your question is about. Such ideas are greatly appreciated!