7 Ways To Educate Yourself on Social Issues & Promote Social Justice
While 2020 put numerous social justice issues directly in our faces, these issues have been bubbling beneath the surface for decades. Racism, sexism, mental health stigma, etc., are not going away without everyone's earnest effort to do their part.
But where exactly do you start? How do you know what resources to use or people to learn from?
This post will help explain seven ways to educate yourself on social issues and promote social justice online and in your community. It also includes extra tips and resources to help you become a social justice advocate.
By the way, this list will highlight a variety of social justice advocates, resources, and organizations. However, this list is not exhaustive but a great starting point.
Make Your Social Media Feed Social Justice Minded
Following social justice advocates on social media is probably one of the easiest ways to educate yourself on social justice issues. It is much easier to be social-justice-minded when your feed is continually reminding you of it.
Here are some great people, organizations, and hashtags to follow on social media:
● #NativeTwitter (focuses on Native issues, events, people, etc.)
● Jessica Kellgren-Fozard (focuses on LGBTQ+ and disability awareness - Youtube)
● Audre Lorde Project (focuses on LGBTQ+ people of color - Instagram)
● Disability Justice Culture Club (focuses on disability justice - Instagram, Twitter)
● Simon Moya-Smith (speaks on Native issues - Instagram, Twitter)
There are so many more out there. Find what drives you and those individuals actively focused on that cause.
Books are usually the method of choice for learning for many people. I love books for learning because I can stop and digest the information before moving forward. I'm also a person who writes in books (sorry!).
The books on the list below highlight women, LGBTQ+, racial justice, and more.
● Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot - Mikki Kendall
● Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century - Alice Wong
● Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism - Safiya Umoja
● How to Be an Antiracist - Ibram X. Kendi
● Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement - Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
● Hope in the Dark: Untold Stories, Wild Possibilities - Rebecca Solnit
If you decide to purchase these books, try going through a local/independent or BIPOC/woman/LGTBQ+ owned bookstore. Check out this list or this list for stores in your area.
Your reading doesn't have to stop with books. You can read magazines, essays, poetry, and more to delve into these topics.
If you're not a reader, that's fine! Documentaries may be where you want to do your learning. Documentaries, like books, can be stopped to digest information and may be easier to get through than reading a book.
Some of the best documentaries on social justice issues include:
● 13th directed by Ava DuVernay - focuses on institutional racism (Netflix)
● Knock Down the House - focuses on House representatives as they were running for Congress (Netflix)
● Sicko directed by Michael Moore - examines the US healthcare system (Amazon
● Crip Camp directed by James Lebrect & Nicole Newham - focuses on attendees of a camp for teenagers with disabilities (Netflix)
● I Am Not Your Negro directed by Raoul Peck - focuses on the black experience in the US (Amazon)
In addition to watching documentaries, educate yourself through fictional media. What does this mean? You can watch movies, and television shows written, produced, and have most actors representing historically underrepresented or marginalized groups (like Black Panther, Insecure, Crazy Rich Asians, Pose, etc.). Watching this type of content will show television networks and movie studios that people want to see stories featuring diverse voices. Hopefully, this will, in turn, lead to more content with marginalized groups at the center.
The same goes for fiction books!
Talk to People (Who are Willing to Share)
First, I want to say that sharing personal experiences is emotional labor, and not everyone will be willing to share. However, many people are. When you find those people, use the following communication tips to have a better dialogue with them.
Tips for communicating:
● Approach every conversation with respect and humility.
● Acknowledge your privilege. Almost everyone is in the "majority" for some aspect of their identity.
● Mind the language that you use (ask about pronouns, use person-centered language, etc.)
● Use active listening skills (ask open-ended questions, listen more than you speak, etc.)
● Don't assume to know their story. Marginalized groups are not a monolith. Each person has their individual experiences.
● Be okay with being vulnerable and also sharing your story (an authentic dialogue requires it)
Get Involved In Social Justice Organizations
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of social justice organizations that you could support. Please know that you don't have to know about or get involved in all of them. Find one or two organizations that are meaningful for you and give them 100% of your support.
Want to get involved? Here are a few organizations to look into!
● American Civil Liberties Union - focus on multiple social justice issues
● Black Lives Matter - focuses on racial justice and ending police brutality
● Campaign Legal Center - focuses on campaign ethics and voter rights
● The Trevor Project - focuses on mental health support for LGBTQ+ youth
● The Sentencing Project - focuses on criminal justice reform
● United Negro College Fund - focuses on scholarships and education reform
There are many ways that you can be involved in social justice organizations like volunteering, donating, sharing their posts on social media, or joining their newsletter.
Get Your News from Fact-Based News Sources
We are living in an era where you can get news 24/7, literally at your fingertips. But, not all information is created equal or with facts. Evaluating a news source is vital in making sure that you are getting the correct information. Unfortunately, many news sources skew the facts to fit their narrative, often at marginalized groups' expense.
When you're evaluating a news source, ask yourself the following questions:
● Does this news story go against or confirm my beliefs?
● Are quotes in context?
● Who is the news source?
● Can I prove this story with other news stories (not from this source)?
● Does this news source only feature people with similar viewpoints?
Take a Class, Webinar, or Training
There are hundreds if not thousands of trainings, webinars, and classes that you can take to educate yourself on social justice issues. Often, people will not take trainings or courses because of the cost. Many of these trainings are usually free, low-cost, or "pay what you can. "
However, if you can afford to take a training that costs more money or pay a higher "pay what you can" fee, please do so. Many of the people who produce these trainings are the same people in underrepresented or marginalized groups and share their personal experiences. Pay them for their emotional (and actual) labor.
Not sure where to start to look for trainings? Here's a list of where you can find some.
Eventbrite - Educate Yourself: Online Racial Equity Workshops Collection
Hollaback! - provide anti-harassment and bystander intervention trainings
Acumen Academy - provide free and paid courses on social change (as well as a fellowship!)
Injustice exists and will continue unless we do something about it. So how can we promote social justice to ensure that everyone is included and treated equally? By educating ourselves and doing the work.
It's normal to feel overwhelmed if social justice isn't something you understand or previously put effort into learning about. I ask you to challenge yourself to try just one thing from this list and see how it goes. You might find that you actually understand more than you thought.
All of us individually and collectively would benefit from educating ourselves on these social justice issues and actively work towards equality. How are you going to step up and educate yourself?