How Does Social Justice Culture Hold Our Pain?
I critique SJ culture because I see a lot of people in pain.
“Justice is what love looks like in public, just like tenderness is what love feels like in private,” Dr. Cornel West
I care about people's suffering above all else. I critique social justice culture because I see a lot of people in pain on every side of every conflict and that pain is often diminished, ignored, or projected onto others.
Is social justice only about improving material conditions? No, it's about alleviating suffering. It's about attending to the hearts, spirits, & souls of the people. It's about an ethic of love. At least that's what I learned from elders like bell hooks, Cornel West, & Martin Luther King Jr.
Does telling someone that their pain isn't valid look like love? Does reducing people to one identity or to their mistakes look like love? Does trying to destroy the livelihoods of regular people trying to survive in capitalism look like love? Does scaring people into silence look like love? No. Nor does it look like equity, liberation, abolition, or transformative justice.
To me it looks like people acting out their pain, invalidating & ignoring other people's pain, and fighting comrades in the movement rather than working to take down our actual oppressors. It looks like people who feel powerless over the system finding a sense of power and clout in taking down their peers.
The conflict over "cancel culture" within social justice culture (which is distinct from the cancel culture conflict in media regarding powerful public figures) is actually a conflict about how we treat each other in the pursuit of justice & liberation. It's a conflict over how we hold pain.
The "cancel culture doesn't exist" side defends their right to moral superiority and to invalidate people's pain. Rather than debate ideas, they claim authority over other people's experience and make demands of individuals.
The anti-cancellers listen to everyone who says they're in pain. They promote compassion & solidarity. They criticize ideas & culture while they build people up.
Which of these looks like love in public?
Which alleviates suffering?
Which sounds most like the world we desire to create?