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Reflections on Racial Justice: Part XVIII – Social Justice

A reader dislikes how some individuals and groups use the term “social justice” to point out alleged moral failings in white, male, Christian, traditional Americans.  He believes this implies that people like me (and him) were born bad.  What does social justice mean to me?

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Reflections on Racial Justice: Part XVII – Global Perspective

Social means it’s throughout our society.  We are all involved.

Justice means fair and equitable treatment.  Justice can be legally mandated and protected.  Justice can also be expressed in language and behavior based on mores, customs, and values.  That language and behavior, while not necessarily legal or illegal in and of itself, may not support legal mandates.   Voting is an example.  The right to vote is established and protected by law, but language and behavior, not technically illegal, can intimidate and suppress some people’s ability to exercise that right. That is unjust.  Such language and behavior are often directed at people of color.  They can also be directed based on party affiliation.  I have never felt intimidated or that my right to vote has been suppressed.  However, we are all involved in recognizing such language and behavior in our society and accountable for its use.

In our society, Black people experience everyday and systemic discrimination, persecution, and even denial of their humanity based on their race—indicated by the color of their skin.

They worry when they get up in the morning that what they decide to wear may put them at risk.  I don’t.  They worry when their adult children go out at night whether they will come home battered or at all.  I don’t.  They must tell their kids that to compete they need to be twice as good in school, athletics, or on the job.  I didn’t have to tell that to mine.  Parts of my city that are dangerous for me to visit.  But when I leave those places, I can leave the feeling of danger behind.  Black people may not be able to leave their feelings of risk behind wherever they go.  All this is inequitable.

Broader social inequities exist in our society.  To paraphrase former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk, why do we struggle to see the value of everyone contributing to economic growth?  Why do we think it’s healthy to have unequal access to housing, education, health care, capital?  So many of these questions disadvantage people of color.

However, as a white person, I don’t feel ashamed or guilty about this.  I recognize that I have been privileged in that I have been permitted to assume that I would go to college, get a good job, be safe and secure.  I learned that not everyone is permitted to assume those things.  That is unfair and unjust.  However, I don’t believe that social justice is a zero-sum game.  When someone else gets something, I don’t have to lose it.  It is additive.  We all benefit when everyone prospers.

How do I keep from feeling guilty and ashamed?  Julianna Bradley, consultant, facilitator, and educator, offers an easily remembered framework for whites.  It consists of four “A” words.  I have been becoming Aware by reading, viewing, listening, and discussing.  I have been Analyzing to see where I am biased, angry, and indifferent by reflecting on my experiences, feelings, knowledge, and faith.  For now, I am taking Action within my sphere of influence by writing and sharing my reflections and resources.  My readers, like the one in the first paragraph, affirm, question, disagree, suggest additional resources, and make me think.  Thus, you participate in my Accountability.

Resource:  www.juliannabradleyconsulting.com

Frank Lloyd
Frank Lloyd
Dr. Frank Lloyd is the former Associate Dean of Executive Education at Southern Methodist University's (SMU) Edwin L. Cox School of Business, where he led development and delivery of award-winning executive leadership programs that transformed careers and organizations. He was the driving force in the creation of a national center of excellence on Latino leadership, and he was instrumental in the launch of the James M. Collins Executive Education Center. Dr. Lloyd joined SMU’s Cox School from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, where he was Vice President of Executive Education. Prior to joining Thunderbird, Dr. Lloyd was a human resources executive with General Motors. Among the highlights of his career, he was responsible for organization development and leadership training for GM Europe during its transition from mass to lean production, and he was the first GM Human Resources manager at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), the historic joint venture between GM and Toyota noted for its innovative labor-management relations and the introduction of the Toyota production system. Dr. Lloyd is an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of UNICON, the Global Consortium for University-based Executive Education. He served on the national board of Inroads, an organization with the mission to develop and place talented underserved youth in business and industry and prepare them for corporate and community leadership. He is the former board chair of Daystar US which mobilizes resources to support Daystar, a non-denominational Christian university in Nairobi, Kenya whose mission is to prepare servant leaders for Africa. He currently is a board member for Literacy Achieves, a Dallas, Texas-based non-profit that teaches English as a second language to adult immigrants to facilitate their employment, parenting, and other life skills. Dr. Lloyd was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Isfahan in Iran. He also served as a U.S. Information Agency curriculum consultant for Germany. He earned a master’s degree at Purdue University and a Ph. D. at the University of Iowa. His undergraduate degree is from Occidental College.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Charlotte, this is a good article. Thank you! A quick read left me with these impressions:
    An African American friend of mine says that when someone says they don’t see color, they don’t really see her. Color is part of her identity, not the whole of it, but an important and inescapable part. So it should not be denied.
    I liked that the author presented this as a kind of symbiotic issue–we each (colored and not–what a strange way to put this difference) need each other.
    And I agree that affirmative action should not be seen as a zero sum game.
    Frank

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