Putting Social Justice into Perspective
Civil rights are the personal rights and freedoms guaranteed to individuals by the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments to the Constitution and other Congressional acts. These rights are considered unquestionable and deserved by all people under all circumstances. They include: the right to vote, freedom of speech and expression, protection from discrimination, religion, and more.
Culture is the integrated pattern of learned and shared values, beliefs, and behaviors that serve as enduring guides for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.
Cultural competence is the ability to effectively interact with people of different cultures. Four components make-up someone’s cultural competency: “(a) awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, (b) attitude toward cultural differences, (c) knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (d) cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures.”
Diversity is what makes us identifiably different. It encompasses much more than age, culture, ethnicity and gender. It includes identifying features such as, behavior, gender identity, intelligence, mental health, personal philosophies, physical abilities, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, socioeconomic backgrounds, and much more.
Multiculturalism is a diverse word in itself. It is a philosophy that promotes the acknowledgement, appreciation, and use of cultural differences as critical in the design, development, and implementation of systems. In different contexts it can mean 1) an individual’s cultural make-up; 2) an institution, community or society’s cultural make-up; 3) the “appreciation, acceptance or promotion of multiple cultures;” and 4) “the advocacy of extending equitable status to distinct and religious groups without promoting any specific ethnic, religious, and/or cultural community values as central.”
It is not without controversy. While some believe that communication between cultures can provide opportunities to create multiculturalism, others believe that cultural isolation is the only way to protect the uniqueness of that culture. From this argument, Fernando Ortiz, a Cuban anthropologist, noted that Transculturation is formed. This means that cultures interact but remain isolated, protecting their uniqueness and yet learning from each other. Thus, “Multiculturalism can be defined in ways that go beyond human activities to give a vivid multi-dimensional understanding of cultural interaction, cultural isolation and phenomena between these two extremes.”
WVU’s 2020 Strategic Plan emphasizes that the principle of social justice encompasses the legal and moral obligations to promote opportunity, equality, civility, and respect for all people.
Social justice is the creation of an institution, society or community that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity. The establishment is one that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being.