No more please, I’ve had enough social justice for this week. I can’t consume another bite.
Social justice warriors are easy to find at the University. They’re big-hearted opponents of systemic oppression, who chase out discrimination wherever it crops up and strive to uphold the politically correct. They are idealistic (never a bad trait) and heartfelt, but they have become a gang of extremists.
The nickname itself isn’t my own creation. Its definition isn’t concrete, but it’s a term being widely used to characterize the modern do-gooder and was just added to Oxford Dictionaries. Nothing is ever progressive enough in the eyes of a social justice warrior. Masses of these pro-everything protesters fight for social justice with the dedication and energy of soldiers on the front line.
The collective passion for social fairness has been growing rapidly and unconfined to the point of backlash — it’s too much of a good thing. There’s no function of the social justice movement that discriminates between serious issues and the absurd.
There are real issues at the University, where the pursuit of social justice brings about solutions. In 2014, protests by the Black Student Union led to negotiations with University administrators to address campus diversity. I don’t need to congratulate the BSU for the progress it’s achieved, but it stands out as an act of effective activism.
Used in this way, calls for social justice can be a constructive element of campus discourse. However, tireless efforts to sustain political correctness, inclusion and a safe space for everyone, sometimes get applied to other topics of discussion.
In the past week, two articles about meat have been published in this paper. While I personally never gazed across a dining hall menu for intrigue, perhaps I was wrong not to do so. The first meat-gate column and the subsequent response each garnered vocal discussion on social media. Though it would lack tact to reference any particular student’s thoughts on meat-gate, it was a subject plenty of social justice warriors were ready to battle over.
The details of meat-gate aren’t worth delving into, but it remains a prime example of how social justice is overplayed.
Pro-meat, anti-meat — it doesn’t matter which stance to take because it’s an inane and meaningless conversation altogether. If these are the types of discussions we as a student body decide to have in public forum, then we should remember to take breaks to laugh at ourselves.
The core values of social justice — inclusion, diversity, freedom from discrimination, etc. — are important issues, and should be taken seriously. Yet, they have been applied in ridiculous circumstances that undermine the reputation of the entire social movement.
Almost by definition, social justice warriors are emphatically liberal. After all, expanding social programs and the welfare state are classic liberal ideas. However, the needless policing of political correctness, on social media in particular, by social justice warriors, in social media in particular, has gone too far. A movement meant to unite is causing diversion, and social justice warriors are making the left wing of politics look bad.
In the same way that millions of Americans are moderate voters, most people are moral moderates as well. Most people aren’t homophobes or racists, but they aren’t archangels of social justice either. None of us can expect to always be perfectly refined in our social lives, and we all carry prejudices. Failing to acknowledge these truisms grinds any conversations about social rights and justice to a halt, because prescriptive social justice wants humans to act as something they can never be — creatures without bias.
Social justice warriors have proudly claimed their place at the helm of human morality, taking offense with any action that hasn’t been bleached clean by political correctness. Life on campus is sometimes like an episode of South Park. But not everything needs to be examined through a crystallized lens of social idealism.
Kanye gifted us with the wisdom-bomb “the art ain’t always gonna be polite” during his vanguard acceptance speech at this year’s VMAs. And indeed, it’s interesting to imagine what the landscape of art might look like if someone tried to restrict Kanye’s choice of words.
Social justice is clearly a positive and important cause, but in a microcosm like Ann Arbor’s University community, it has, ironically, become somewhat difficult to practice self-expression without having to consider the infinite ways words might be misinterpreted to betray the intended meaning. A bland statement of opinion can ignite a fiery debate about dining hall menus.
We should forgive people who cause offense or ignorance in our communities today, not digitally tar and feather them with Facebook comments. It needs to be accepted that people aren’t perfect, and we should stop heralding social justice buzzwords to such extreme lengths. If the tendency to force-feed political correctness goes unchecked, we might start suffocating our collective ability to have any meaningful conversation at all.
Tyler Scott can be reached at email@example.com.