Advancing Social Justice Work

Posted on: May 21st, 2016
By Kathleen Maas Weigert
Carolyn Farrell, BVM, Professor of Women and Leadership
Assistant to the Provost for Social Justice Initiatives

Is there such a thing as “social justice”? How do people define it? Is it important, and if so, why and to whom? Can we talk about ‘advancing’ social justice?
These questions have puzzled and preoccupied me for as long as I can remember. I look around the world — the ‘glocal’ (the global and the local combined) world as someone suggested — and see how interdependent we all are. What happens in Chile, China and Congo affects me in one way or another, as do events right here in my home city of Chicago. I have friends who live in other parts of the world and I have been privileged to travel to many countries. We have immigrants from dozens of countries living in our midst, making their contributions; we have refugees, fleeing horrific situations in their homeland, struggling to learn a new language and new ways of living.
Envisioning our planet as a ‘global community’ helps me realize that interdependence means real people’s lives are intertwined with mine. And then the questions with which I opened these remarks come to the fore. Why? Because when I look around, I see so much that is positive and inspiring, but I also see so much that cries out for change. Three examples: in a world of over seven billion inhabitants, there are close to one billion who are hungry. In the United States of America, with its population of over 310 million, nearly one in six is living in poverty and some 50 million have no health insurance. And in my home city of Chicago, with its population of about 2.7 million, some 22 per cent of Chicago residents live below the poverty line, and 44 percent of 18-64 year old high school dropouts were employed versus 56 per cent of high school graduates. These ‘inconvenient facts’ challenge me to think about causes and potential solutions. And that is where the frame of social justice becomes salient.
It’s not enough to ‘give’ people food or clothing or medicine. We need to remove whatever obstacles are placed in their way so that they can provide those essentials for themselves and their families. As the Catholic bishops of the USA wrote in their 1986 historic pastoral letter, Economic Justice for All, “Social justice implies that persons have an obligation to be active and productive participants in the life of society and that society has a duty to enable them to participate in this way. This form of justice can also be called ‘contributive,’ for it stresses the duty of all who are able to help create the goods, services, and other nonmaterial or spiritual values necessary for the welfare of the whole community” (para. 71; italics in original).
I’m excited to work with others to advance that idea of social justice, here at Loyola, in our city, state and country, and indeed in this global community of ours. And I’m excited to hear your stories, to learn about resources you have found useful in thinking about and acting for justice. This social justice web portal is one vehicle for that. Welcome to it!

Loyola University Chicago's Social Justice Web Portal is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. Comments will be screened for tone and content. All comments must include the first and last name of the author and a valid e-mail address. The appearance of comments on the Web Portal does not imply the University's endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.

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