The Problem With Social Justice Warriors

About two weeks ago an event entitled “The Real NU” was held on campus to bring to light the many issues surrounding Northeastern: like the gentrification of Roxbury as a result of NU, “poverty wages” for adjunct professors, and a lack of gender neutral bathrooms on campus, among other issues. I did not attend the event because I had an 18 page paper to write last minute but I read tweets about the event and saw quite a few Facebook posts regarding the issue.

Now, I want to say that I think all of these issues are worth addressing. But this article is not about that, in fact, I am much more interested in writing about the people who have been the most vocal about these issues. I don’t consider myself to be very politically active and that can be attributed to some level of apathy. But I do involve myself in projects that I think can bring positive change and are organized in a way that promotes inclusivity and feelings of unanimity among the people involved.

Over the years I’ve come in contact with some self described “social justice warriors.” The people who protest at every event, write politically charged posts, and follow radical ideologies. And while I believe that some people have been extremely productive at bringing about real change, I can’t help but think the majority of efforts and have been futile. But in order to make a fair distinction, I will refer to the people I have issues with as “social justice screamers.” I have deemed these people as such because they are often the ones who are hostile in any situation and who can have any conversation without making it into some debate about the wrong and right ways of thinking in which they have to be right. But to go back- I think this failure can be attributed to the fact that the people who want change are the ones least fit to bring about change. Why are they the least fit? Because they are condescending, polarizing, self loathing privileged types who don’t have the communication skills necessary to engage in the dialogue and diplomacy needed to create real change.

I used to be part of a social club on campus that experienced a PR scandal when it failed to look into the ramifications of an event it was supporting.. But instead of asking why this event was supported or the club’s relationship with the event, the club was attacked by people who weren’t even part of it. People wrote angry posts accusing the club of terrible acts when in reality they had little to no idea as to what they were talking about. The anger was misdirected and what was worse- the people who were complaining had little interest in actually solving the issue at hand. I’ve always felt that if you complain about something without doing anything about it, that you really don’t have an issue with the problem at hand. And I can’t help but think this was the case in the situation. These people wanted something to be angry about so they latched onto whatever they could as a a way of justifying their self-righteousness.

I like to think the majority of my blog posts are civil or at least somewhat neutral. But this article isn’t and I’m certainly okay with that. In fact, I’d love for people to reach out to me so we can hash out the matter and I’d be more than willing to personally point out the people I think are doing nothing but creating a cloud of negativity on campus with no attempt at making the university a better place.

In my advocacy writing class we are working on a Communication plan for a local nonprofit. And what I’ve learned in that class is that positivity has power in bringing about real change. The best approach is to identify the issue, brainstorm solutions, and say what we can do to make things better. We don’t sit in our bedrooms and write angst ridden posts or condescending comments on Facebook pages. We don’t tell people to check their privilege because we most likely have some privilege of our own and shaming others doesn’t create the equal footing needed to talk meaningfully. Because at the end of the day if you’re not willing to enter into dialogue, if you’re not willing to put aside the screaming matches to justify your self righteousness, then you have to admit that you too are part of the problem.

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