A SPECTRUM OF SOCIAL JUSTICE THEORIES

by Will Pierson

Sometime ago, a year maybe two, SoL’s Board adopted a new element to describe our primary mission.  The preamble to our By Laws contains a new paragraph on “Devotion to Social Justice”.  To implement this “Devotion” we pledged, in part, to “learn and strive to practice theories and processes that support the creation of a more socially just and sustainable world”.  SoL’s Praxis Committee will guide a conversation to help us define and “learn” from our own experiences a deeper understanding of “reparations”.  This conversation will occur via the Education Committee’s regularly scheduled “First Wednesday” Zoom seminar.   August’s opportunity to “learn” theories of reparations will be followed by September’s “First Wednesday” Zoom more directly addressing the “practice” of reparation theories.  

 Before getting to the ‘how’, we choose to first focus on the ‘what’, the ‘why’ and the ‘who’ of reparations as one practice needed to “support “the creation of a more socially just world”.   In its more general form the need for social justice is often addressed to a global ‘who’ denoted by the acronym ‘BIPOC’ (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).  Usage of the global ‘BIPOC’; and the inclusive ‘create social justice’ obscures the more detailed theories emphasized by distinct communities.  In our particular study of one theory needed to achieve social justice, we chose the particular case of using land trusts to promote Black access to agricultural land and rural living as one form of reparations.  Reparations as part of the desire for a sustainable future may take on different forms among other populations; and in other areas.

The theories of restorative ‘social justice’ voiced by Indigenous populations are often expressed better using the vocabulary of “decolonization” or “sovereignty.”  Work towards “a more socially just and sustainable world” requires learning and practicing a spectrum of individual theories each voiced in the language of a specific population.  Certainly, no one wavelength of the practice spectrum illuminates all the social injustices suffered by any one population.  Distinct populations however do respond more vigorously to particular theories of building social sustainability. Just so, neither one person, nor one organization can become equally adept at all theories and practices.  In building a socially just and sustainable world requires each to work to their strength, even as we learn about the diversity of skills held by others.

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