The Social Justice Blind Spot: Part 9, The Revolution No One Wants

So, I've done my best over two weeks to point out and illustrate what I think is a blind spot in calls for social justice. Specifically, it is taken as axiomatic among social justice warriors that oppression and injustice are systemic problems requiring systemic solutions. Our problems are not moral. You hear this claim every time you hear a social justice warrior throw shade on the notion that change doesn't happen by asking people to change their hearts. 

To be very, very clear, by pointing out the moral and spiritual dimensions of justice work in these posts I'm not denying the systemic side of the equation. My argument isn't reductionist (systemic or moral?), it's holistic (systemic plus moral!). 

Now you might be wondering, what's my agenda in pointing out this blind spot and contradiction?

The goal isn't to deflate justice work. I want us to seek justice. But if injustice and oppression are rooted, at least partly, in moral problems, we're going to have to turn to moral solutions to address those problems. For example, how can you ask people to be anti-racist without that becoming, very quickly and profoundly, about morality?

Personally, I think many social justice warriors, deep down, know this to be the case, that the problems we are facing are deeply moral and spiritual. Let's revisit Michele Alexander's assessment:
I no longer believe we can “win” justice simply by filing lawsuits, flexing our political muscles or boosting voter turnout. Yes, we absolutely must do that work, but none of it — not even working for some form of political revolution — will ever be enough on its own. Without a moral or spiritual awakening, we will remain forever trapped in political games fueled by fear, greed and the hunger for power.
I think the reason the moral, spiritual aspects of justice work gets marginalized is because most social justice warriors disagree with Michele Alexander. They believe that a political revolution actually will get the job done. That's the appeal of marginalizing morality and going all in with the systemic focus: it keeps hope in the political revolution alive.

But if Michele Alexander is right, if she's right that we can't "win justice simply by filing lawsuits, flexing our political muscles or boosting voter turnout," if she's right to question that "working for some form of political revolution will ever be enough on its own," then social justice warriors have to face a very uncomfortable truth. Specifically, social justice warriors are ill-equipped to lead the "spiritual awakening" Alexander thinks we need.

In short, the revolution we're all looking for is inescapably religious, and that's something most social justice warriors are unable to admit because it's a revolution they know they cannot lead. Consequently, they throw shade on any suggestion that there are, indeed, "moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions of justice work," claiming that oppression and injustice is all "systemic," that the political revolution will be enough.

That, in my estimation, is the source of all the confused, mixed messages you find in social justice rhetoric and work.

Social justice warriors want to end oppression and injustice, but they cannot lead the spiritual awakening and revolution that will get us there.

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