If you’ve been thinking about how you can help advance social justice, this is the post for you. This is written from my perspective as someone born in the USA and writing to a majority-American readership. I hope these ideas can still apply no matter where you’re reading this from.
I’ve always been a person who wanted to do good. But the older I’ve gotten, the more that desire has swelled into a driving passion. Travel exposed me to a world filled with injustice to a level that I didn’t understand growing up. It helped to make me the informed citizen that I hope I am becoming.
So even in my bi-weekly newsletter, what started as a one time feature has grown into a full section of ways to help people and planet at the closing of each issue.
Yet I do not believe myself to be an expert in social justice. Instead everything I share comes from a place of learning and sharing what I learn so that maybe it may help others. I don’t share with expectations or the belief I know it all; but with the stance that the more of us who speak up about social justice, the better the world will be. Also more of us need to be willing to be wrong and willing to fail. Rather than emphasizing perfection or the idea that we will ever fully arrive and know it all.
With all of that in mind, here are 13 ways that I think we can be personally working to advance social justice:
1. Support businesses in our community and online
This is essentially the idea that money talks. As consumers in a largely capitalistic-based world, we have the power to advance social justice with every dollar we spend. We can choose to support local businesses that
- are owned by those who are not white
- advocate for change and put their profits toward changing the world for the better
I think that to do this successfully, we must pay closest attention to smaller, minority-owned businesses. [+ see end of article under Sources or Resources]
Though before we even get into the rest of this post, I think we need a new term for “minority” as white people are no longer the majority in the USA where I sit as I write this. *
2. Give support to those who speak out
Being vocal to support social justice often makes you a target. By those who feel threatened when a spotlight is shone on their actions or beliefs. Musicians, authors and artists of all genres are often the most dedicated to social justice. By supporting and sharing their work, you can help them gain some of the recognition – and often the safety – that they deserve. That helps them continue the important work they do.
3. Look Inside
I used to be driven by belief systems that were ingrained into me as a child. That’s true for so many of us. Those systems influenced how we did or did not engage in social justice. Or whether we were even aware of it at all. But we have the power to undo the programming of our youth if that was our experience. We can choose to engage in positive action that brings about inclusion and advocates for social justice. It begins inside ourselves when we lean into self-reflection, learning, and openness to growth.
The best way to do # 3 is to actively begin to familiarize yourself with issues that affect those you know. Educate yourself on what affects the people closest to you first and that will naturally lead to understanding those you don’t know, better, as well. So whether it’s as “well known” as the Holocaust or a lesser-understood issue like our for-profit jail system in the USA: start to learn. Research the importance of equal voting rights. Look into homelessness, hunger and food insecurity, gun violence or other issues. +++ Be a student again! Learn how we got where we are today so you know what you can do to change it for the present and the future.
5. Let’s get involved & take action in our own communities
This can happen in large or small ways. For bigger picture, we can look to groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and their local chapters. Seek out organizers and activist groups in your community whether they are involved with something like the ACLU or working on a smaller scale. Look to Eventbrite and Meetup in order to find or locate groups near you. Try to learn about issues within your community by listening to independent podcasts and reading locally-run blogs or news sites that are not corporate affiliates. For instance, here in Los Angeles, we have L.A. Taco **
We can also write letters and call our city and state officials regarding social justice issues. Here in the USA, reference usa.gov/elected-officials if you don’t even know who yours are.
6. Get on the radio
I understand that not everyone wants to talk or feels comfortable doing so. But as a former radio DJ, I can tell you that it can be a lot easier than you think. So if you can, use your voice when local talk radio programs ask for listeners to call in. Check out resources such as Radio Locator to find radio stations with a format in your area that seeks to have people call in. ***
7. Use social media for the powerful tool it can be
YES, social media can misinform us. Social media can widen the gaps that divide us. It can make us skeptical of one another. Facebook, just as one example, is not always a good thing. BUT if we choose to use social media for good, it has the power to educate and unite. It’s all about intention. So whether you join a group, reshare an informative graphic, post a vetted article or share a personal experiences – you can help facilitate the advancement of social justice if that’s your intention. It can also be a place you stay quiet and simply learn from the testimonials of others!
8. Show up to advance social justice!
I still remember the buzz I felt when I attended the women’s march in NYC. I can channel it when I am angry now about social justice. Even during the pandemic, taking all safety and health pre-cautions available to us, we can still make our voices heard. We can attend social justice protests that happen in virtually every major U.S. city. Showing up is one of the easiest ways to show others their concerns and struggles are valid!
I recommend reading, Ours to Explore: Privilege, Power, and the Paradox of Voluntourism by Pippa Biddle. Volunteering is a broad idea. Like our use of social media, I believe that as long as our intention is good and we do our research – volunteering is one of the more powerful ways to make a difference. But I emphasize making sure your heart is in the right place. And that you do your research.
Once you are ready: reference Idealist, GozAround and VolunteerMatch as organizations that can help you find places and ways in which to lend a hand.
10. Use the money we have and donate but invest responsibly
Proper funding is imperative to cause-oriented organizations. But I don’t give without doing my research. I use Charity Navigator before I make a donation. It’s a website that rates organizations based on their financial health, accountability, and transparency.
I have also closed my accounts at banks funded by fossil fuels or which supported the for-profit prison system. That is one of the greatest causes of injustice in the United States. One of the things I am researching now is finding mutual funds that focus on global equality and gender diversity. I’ve read that Investopedia publishes a list of the best-performing funds that focus on companies with sustainable practices.
If you’re interested in banking better, check out the resources at the end of this post ****
11. Get involved with politics
I almost don’t want to mention this. It’s easy to feel politics has failed us. But I believe we have the power to hold politicians to account and to require that they not fail us. We can align ourselves with candidates at all levels of elected government that proclaim to believe in the causes we believe in. Learn where they stand on social justice and support their work toward a just world. Just as examples: we could share about a candidate on social media, volunteer at a phone bank or canvass in a neighborhood to raise awareness.
12. Find out what’s happening with students
Bless the youth. We were all young once! And it’s easy to forget what it was like. Yet time and again, history has shown us that kids and those in school are already focusing on the issues we need to be placing a stronger value on. Learn what they’re doing and get involved to help them succeed. Work with them. Don’t do the work for them. Don’t get in their way. But assist, if you can and if they need assistance.
Look at Sunrise Movement as just one example of this though it’s not directly linked to any one college or university. It’s also focused more on climate but as Intersectional Environmentalist might point out, climate justice is social justice. ++
13. Last but not least, let’s be driven by…
I’m always amazed at the people who go through life with such “positive vibes only” that they don’t even see the problems others face every single day no matter how hard they work or how hard they strive for better lives. The simple fact is that these are trying times for so many people. And for so many, the times have always been trying! I get that in dealing with our own issues, we may easily forget the struggles others face. But social justice begins within us. If we remember to be kind, understanding and compassionate – above all, to care for others as much or more than we do ourselves – I think we can make a difference!
I hope you will join me! In trying, at the very least.