Reflecting on the Social Psychology of Social Justice Course at SHC

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

The most important lesson I have learned this semester is that everything I encounter in my daily life can be studied with a social justice perspective. I have had the opportunity to expand my passion for social justice as a whole, which has changed my perspective on daily social interactions and my desire to do good in the world, one person at a time. Advocating for changes in injustices starts with awareness—awareness of one’s own faults, prejudices, and conditioned behaviors to ignore the injustices surrounding our daily lives. Although I have been extremely inspired by many different topics during our class time and through homework assignments, I want to focus on the topic of social justice as a whole because its importance in analyzing daily life is what I have taken from this class the most.

One of the most difficult challenges in working for social justice is the gap between social justice awareness and social policy(1). This is problematic because social justice awareness inspires emotion and motivation within a lot of people because of its appeal to morality, but without the right people and procedures, these ideas never get implemented into society. Psychologists have the power to use “science” and “advocacy” together to bring about social change (1). This is what makes a psychologist so unique to create change, to make important things happen, because of their focus on research. With the concrete evidence that research can supply,it is much easier to both explain the nature, cause, and solution of injustice and back it up with objective data. With this data, it is easier for the right people to make policies and implement laws to benefit social justice.

Melvin Lerner defined that people have a “belief in a just world” (BJW) where we view the world as fair and just, and we act accordingly so that we can satisfy our desire for control of the type of world we want to live in2. We feel almost violated when we encounter or become knowledgeable on a matter of injustice because our desire to bring good into the world and observe the good in others is denied. This violation causes distress because our judgments of justice and injustice have been decided by someone else (2). What I found most difficult between the discrepancies of people’s views of social justice, as we all found ourselves in different groups of opinions when debating important topics of social justice, is that we usually are all acting for what we believe is just to a personal degree. Some fight for the social justice of human life, from its beginning to its end, while others fight for the social justice of freedom and rights to certain behaviors and opinions. Neither are wrong because their ultimate goal is for the good of all, but often these two drives for justice collide in a heated disagreement. From our debates, I learned that sometimes we have to leave our comfort zone and listen to other opinions to really see what the best policy is for the good of everyone.

Often throughout this semester during class time and my time outside of the class where I remember things we discussed about in class, I have felt uncomfortable with the realization of stigmas I had in my head that lead to prejudice thoughts. I have realized that I cannot advocate for social justice and inspire others to understand the value of human life when I myself have thought very hurtful thoughts about others just based on their appearance, past behaviors, or stereotyped identities. I feel that through this class I have been transformed to counteract the way I have been conditioned to judge others based on past people I have surrounded myself with. The change in myself I have experienced comes from the way I now think on a day to day basis. I am more aware of the people around me and the value of their life and with thought to what they could possibly be going through without my knowledge. I have learned that culture and history do not define every single person we encounter that could fit the stereotype the past has made for them (3). In order to better myself as a Jesuit-educated student and an advocate for social justice, I hope to keep all of these new research-based opinions, transformations in thought, and changes in behavior a part of my day to day life. I am very proud of the growth I have undergone in this class alone, and I am grateful for the subject of Psychology to better explain and make tangible social justice advocacy.