Those who lived through the Civil Rights Era sometimes speak of similarities to today’s social justice movement. The ideals of justice, freedom, and solidarity echo through both. But make no mistake, today’s social justice movement is very different from its predecessor.
Civil Rights activists won many significant legal, legislative, and social victories that ended blatant racism against blacks and truly advanced the goal of equality in America. Unfortunately, the current social justice movement is pursuing an agenda that undermines the equality previous generations fought for and sowing discord in our country.
Now, there is a broader effort to transform America more fundamentally. Many in today’s social justice movement advocate for equity, a far more nebulous concept than equality. Equity says that it is not enough for people to be treated the same under the law or to have access to the same opportunities regardless of their race. Equity is the pursuit of the same outcomes. The problem with equity is that it is nearly impossible to ensure equal outcomes in life, because individuals have different preferences for the kind of life that they desire for themselves and their families. The government should not be an obstacle to opportunity, but it is should not be the arbiter of outcomes either.
Personal agency is a core value in the fight for equality along with hard work, a commitment to learning, self-reliance, and personal responsibility. Civil Rights leaders promoted these values because they led the black community to uplift itself through powerful religious and civic organizations. Unfortunately, today’s movement rejects those “bourgeois virtues.” As former Civil Rights activist Robert Woodward, Sr. explained, these values are painted as “the legacy of white supremacy, colonialist values.” But this attitude ignores how these values benefits all mankind.
Support for today’s social justice movement likely stems from nostalgia for the mass mobilization of the Civil Rights Era. But history measures the effectiveness of movements based on results. The Civil Rights movement transformed life in America for blacks and minorities. The question is whether the current movement will achieve anything close.
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