I continue to read with confusion the attempts of some of our Idaho legislature to scare the public with ideas that social justice as divisive and harmful. Social justice is simply a recognition that everyone should have equal access to the same rights and privileges our country offers. That sounds pretty American, doesn’t it? It is consistent with our Constitution that we are created equal “with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Social justice also examines factors like race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or ablebodiedness, that have historically served as barriers to safety, resources, and successes. It is our job as Americans to reduce those factors as barriers. Examples of these injustices include: men only having the right to vote, own property, open a line of credit, file for divorce, and work in certain professions. Other injustices include enslavement of Black and Native people, lynching of Black Americans by mobs for alleged crimes with no due process, Black Americans being forced to sit at the back of a bus, enter a building from the back entrance, drink from a different water fountain, and being prohibited from entering public pools. There are many more example, of course, that also extend beyond race. Today, the injustices are not gone—they are just less visible because there are not codified into law. We know that Black Americans are disproportionately incarcerated for crimes compared to white-majority areas. Some have been killed by the hands of those that we trust most—our police officers. (Please note that I am a white American and am grateful to trust our police officers that serve our community. This is a privilege I have that that does not detract from the fact that injustices have happened at the hands of a small number of officers. You can support Black Americans and police officers at the same time, but also call for reform within the police force.) We also see voter suppression in states in which Black votes have historically been suppressed. Other types of injustices are hidden, like implicit biases that may lead an employer offering a lower salary to someone because of their race, gender, etc., even though that employer is certain he is not racism, sexist, etc. One thing is clear—even if we do not wish to admit it, injustice has always been present here in America and it is a part of the fabric of our culture. It is up to each of us to examine, rather than deny, our role in it if we wish to change it. Social justice is what led women to get the right to vote, to eradicate the overtly racist Jim Crow laws of the south, and to allow everyone to be able to marry whom they love if they so choose. We have historically viewed these movements as restorative to justice, even if it is incremental. Identifying it is painful and feels divisive because those of us in the dominant position are given the opportunity to examine our role in it. But if do that with open hearts, then we can do the work to make things right. Supporting education that helps us become more accepting and open to diversity, more able to identify injustice when we see it, and more likely to look at our role in it helps us be more able to do something about it. We need legislators who support equality and condemn racism and white supremacy in this state.
Erin B. Rasmussen,