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Social Justice: History, Impact, and Advocacy

Written By:

Brianna Vanderstelt

Publishing Date: 

April 23, 2023

The internet and social media have played an instrumental role in the fight against systemic issues in society such as racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and so on. With an easily accessible place  for discussion , concepts that were once only known within the world of academia and politics have spilled into our news articles, headlines, and public forums. One such concept is social justice.[1] 

            Social justice is a notion with several layers.[2]  At its most basic and concise, social justice can be thought of as equitable access to wealth, opportunities, and privilege within society (The Pachamama Alliance, n.d.). To add to this, five main principles can be associated with the concept: access to resources, equity, participation, diversity, and human rights (CFI Team, 2022). An even simpler way to think of social justice is similar to the idea of fairness. Rather than blanket equality, social justice calls for making society fairer for all by taking into consideration systematic barriers certain groups may face. It is this way of thinking that is perhaps the most historically accurate when considering the timeline of social justice as a concept.

The Rise of Social Justice

            First coined in 1840 by Luigi Taparalli D’Azgelio, an Italian Catholic priest, social justice was introduced in response to the overwhelming strain being put on American families during the industrial revolution. While this period is best known for its innovation and growth, families were also abandoning their  rural lifestyles for the opportunities in the city, leading to them becoming wage-dependent and exploited. Ultimately, the industrial period led to the abuse of marginalized groups, a highly stratified class system, and the misuse of human labor (CFI Team, 2022; Novak, 2009; Pachamama Alliance, n.d.). This combination of factors led to the rise of social justice. Early advocates focused largely on issues relating to capitalism, property, wealth, and workers’ rights. The net of social justice continued to expand as issues of other social spheres were acknowledged. Specifically, during the 20th century, we see the definition broaden from a focus on resources and wealth to equity and privilege as the civil rights movement took the stage (Pachamama Alliance, n.d.). From this point forward, social justice was molded into the social justice we know now.

Being an Advocate in Everyday Life

            From a fight to reduce extreme class stratification to shining a light on major systemic issues to being a model society strives for, the impact of social justice is and continues to be far-reaching. However, we are nowhere near finished and advocacy continues to be crucial. There are several  ways you can be a social justice advocate, with Kansas University (2021) compiling an informative and practical list for us. However, some often-cited options may not be entirely accessible (e.g., voting) or realistic (e.g., donating) for everyone. With this in mind, the following  list will describe a few ways you can be an advocate in your everyday life.

            Educate yourself and others. While cliche, educating yourself on social justice issues and listening to other social justice activists will give you a solid foundational understanding of the concept. This will allow you to see connections and become a strong critical thinker.

            Identify and speak up against social injustices. With education comes awareness. Once you start and continue to educate yourself, you may find it easier to identify moments of unfairness, whether it’s at work, in the news, or out with friends. By speaking up in these moments, you’re not only showcasing your advocacy but you’re also creating a safer environment for all individuals.

            Self-reflection. Uncomfortable but important, self-reflection means examining your thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Just as it’s important to point out the injustices others may contribute to, it’s equally important, if not more, to be aware of the ways you may be contributing to social injustice. Understanding your own privilege and how your beliefs and behaviors may be harmful will allow you to rectify those thoughts and actions.

            Be actively inclusive. Too often, inclusivity becomes a label plastered over every mission and value statement. However, because of systemic discrimination and bias, to truly be inclusive requires action. This can be something as simple as making connections with minority co-workers who keep to themselves or don’t speak up at team meetings. If you’re in a leadership position, this could mean more encouragement and affirmation to those workers.[3] 

Just suggested removing some phrases here that felt unnecessary for conciseness. I suggested removing the rest of the sentence because one of the ways social justice is layered is through definition, which you go into and already state with what's there. Just thought it might make a little more concise. I think all of this can go in the "Identify and Speak Up Against Social Injustices" section because it's all about taking action. It relates to that strongly so just taking your key points from this section, such as the ways you can take action here by helping coworkers and affirming them and moving that there, then getting rid of the rest of this section would cut down the article while keeping the main ideas together. I hope my explanation makes sense.


CFI Team. (2022, May 8). Social justice. Corporate Finance Institute. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from

Indivisible Project. (n.d.). How to be inclusive: An introduction. Indivisible. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from

Kansas University. (2021, June 28). 15 ways to advance social justice in your community. KU SOE. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from

Novak, M. (2009, December 29). Social Justice: Not what you think it is. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from

The Pachamama Alliance. (n.d.). What is social justice? The Pachamama Alliance. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from,capitalistic%20exploitation%20of%20human%20labor


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