I saw a ‘wishing tree’ awhile ago, and I was thinking about this sentiment that was hanging on it. It’s a nice idea: love and peace, not war and hate. It’s a nice ideal, even. Something we should hold in the back of our heads as a reason for doing the work. But the work still has to get done, because love alone won’t solve anything. Especially when there are people out there literally claiming the Berlin Wall was a good idea. And not just people, but a professional. On TV. Who influences viewers.
Love and peace not war and hate is a nice sentiment but it doesn’t do anything.
Social justice is ideals in action. At its best it is the embodiment of the love and peace sentiment. Just as the walls are the embodiment of fear and division. I’m starting to think of social justice as being a way of affirming people. Social Justice says to people, ‘in this specific sphere of what is important to you, you matter, and tangible things need to change to show you that you matter and to make the world safe for you’.
Essentially that’s what people are doing when they work for prison reform (or abolition of it), when they organize to #FreeBresha (sign here) or when they take to the streets to protest or classrooms to learn. They are saying ‘this aspect of the world is dangerous to people. Let’s make it better’. At its core, social just is about love and peace.
And like Heather said on Wednesday, it is a practice (a spiritual discipline, even). It’s not something that comes naturally to a lot of us, because we’re trained in the abstract ways of peace and love that ends with throwing our hands in the air because it’s all just too much. Everything is broken so why even bother, especially when we have our own families to consider.
So many of us are trained in the way of wall-building. We build walls around our family, around our church community, even our organizations. Our sole focus is on what’s inside and how we can best succeed and thrive.
But social justice compels us to look outward. To see people who are different, who are at risk, and it asks us to get involved. Achieving justice is not something that ‘just happens’. It takes time, effort, and money. It takes people motivated by love and peace. And it takes a desire to tear down walls instead of building them.