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What does social justice mean?

What does social justice mean?

Justice is the idea of fairness. Social justice refers to fairness in society. Fairness in healthcare, employment and housing are all examples. Social justice is a society where human rights are protected and discrimination is discouraged. How did the term “social justice” come to be? It was probably first used in 1780s. Paper #7 of The Federalist Papers contains the details. American legal scholars used the term to refer to economics after the Industrial Revolution ended. It is now used in all areas of society. It is viewed through the prism of traits such as race, gender, sexuality, and class. What is social justice?

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Principles of social justice

Four pillars are required to make social justice a reality: access, participation and human rights. These four principles are essential for social justice.

Human rights

Over the years, the connection between social justice (and human rights) has grown stronger to the point that many people use “social justice”, “human rights” interchangeably. Although they may be technically distinct, activists know that both can thrive without the other. A just society protects and respects all human rights. Social justice thrives when a society promotes and respects human rights. Because human rights are internationally recognized, this connection is vital. Activists fighting for social justice can draw on this connection to human rights in order to hold governments, corporations, or individuals responsible.


Access to basic necessities like shelter, food and medical care is key to a just society. Access to basic necessities is essential for any society. A society cannot just invest in innovation or create new opportunities. Society must prioritize access. Access to resources is limited based on gender, race, or color. This can lead to suffering for individuals and communities as well as society in general. Social justice activists dedicate a lot of their time to restoring and increasing access for all people, not just certain groups.


Who has a right to speak up in society? If only a few voices can be heard, social justice won’t be possible. The voices of the vulnerable and marginalized are often ignored in favor of those who have more cultural influence and wealth. Even when people are trying to solve major social problems, this is often the case. Solutions that don’t include the voices of the most vulnerable are more likely to fail than make matters worse. Everyone should be encouraged to participate and rewarded for their efforts.


Many people think that “equality” is a principle of social justice. But it’s really “equity.” Equity considers the effects of discrimination, and strives for an equal outcome. This graphic, which was originally created by Craig Froehle, a business professor, is often cited and adaptable. It shows three people trying to view a baseball game from above a fence. They all stand on a box. One person can see clearly, the other barely, and the last one is still blind. “Equality” gave everyone one box, even though the tallest person didn’t need one and the smallest person couldn’t see from one box. “Equity” grants the box of the tallest person to the shortest person so they can see. Everyone can now watch the game.

Examples of Social Justice Issues

A socially just society can be achieved when the four principles discussed above are applied in the right order. These principles should be applied where? Some social justice issues may be more urgent than others, depending on where they are located. Despite this, many societies face similar problems. These are just three examples.

Racial inequalities

Racial inequality is one the most prevalent social justice problems in the world. Many countries have a history of racial prejudice and discrimination. The legacy of Jim Crow and slavery is still evident in the United States. Racial inequality can affect a racial group’s ability to find employment, access healthcare, and get an equal education. Progress is a social and politically driven construct that does not exist in biological reality.

Gender inequality

Global gender equality will not become a reality if the current state of affairs is maintained. It will take 135 more years. Women are held back by obstacles like the gender pay gap and weakening of reproductive rights. A lot of progress was also lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which had a greater impact on women’s work and household responsibilities. Gender equality is a key social justice issue. It intersects with issues like racial equality and sexual equality.

Rights of LGBTQ+

The LGBTQ+ community is vulnerable to discrimination and violence. This could be due to prejudice at home, at work, or at school. Prejudice can affect a person’s ability find work, shelter, healthcare, or safety. The trans and non-binary communities have seen a rise in discrimination over the past few years. This is leading to violence and a reduction of rights. While LGBTQ+ rights are in greater danger in certain places, there is still little social justice for LGBTQ+ people in many countries. For example, in March 2022, nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ claims – most of which were directed at trans people – had been filed in the United States.

If you are interested in learning more, check out our selection of LGBTQ+ online courses.

Courses to improve your understanding of social justice

Social justice can be viewed as a wide field that has many branches. You can learn about topics such as racism, feminism, climate change and poverty within the field. Here are five courses that will help you learn more:

#1. #1.

This MOOC online is an adaptation of Distinguished Professor Bettina Atheker’s classic course. It offers students a fascinating tour through feminist history, using three events: The Empire Zinc Strike, the trial Angelia Davis and the #MeToo Movement. Students will examine a working definition for “feminism”, explore the causes and consequences of these major events, and engage with discussions. It takes approximately 8 hours to complete the course over four weeks.

#2. #2.

This course is part the “Addressing Racial Healthcare Inequity” specialization. The course examines the causes of racial disparities in healthcare. This is a critical social justice issue. The topics covered include the United States healthcare system and the history of racial discrimination within healthcare. The course can be completed in 5 weeks by most students, who will need to study 3-5 hours per week.

#3. #3.

This course is the final one in the “Environment on Global Public Health” specialty. It can be taken on its merits if you are interested in risk management and environmental justice. This course introduces students to EJ and environmental justice issues from around the globe. Learn about the most vulnerable groups to environmental hazards and how to use a 4-step risk assessment to reduce environmental injustices. It takes approximately 17 hours to complete the course and you can audit it for free with limited access.

#4. How to Change the World (Wesleyan University).

“How to Change the World” includes topics like gender, education and poverty as well as activism and technology. This course provides a comprehensive overview of the most pressing social justice issues in the world. The course includes videos, readings and quizzes as well as discussions. The course is taught over six weeks and takes approximately 26 hours.

#5. #5. Love as a force for social justice (Stanford).

Is love able to make the world a better one? What role does love play in social justice movements and how can it be used to improve the world? This course introduces students to non-violent communication and different forms of love. Students also learn how to use love as a force for justice. Students will gain a greater understanding of love’s role as a catalyst for change, community, and connection by the end of this course. The course covers topics such as biological, religious, and psychological perspectives on love. It takes approximately six weeks to complete the course, or 28 hours.

What does social justice mean

Social justice is the protection, promotion, and respect of everyone’s human rights. Every person has equal access to the resources and opportunities that they need to succeed. Although this doesn’t guarantee happiness for everyone, it does mean that everyone has a fighting chance to live the life they desire. They don’t have to be held back by systemic barriers, prejudice and discrimination. Although there is no one framework that will define what social justice should look like in practice, principles such as participation and equity are crucial. True progress can only be achieved if a nation values social injustice and is committed to its principles.