Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have adjusted to a new world where social distancing, limited physical contact outside of a few people, and wearing masks have become new social norms. Whether we're at work, at home, or out taking part in recreational activities, we've all adapted to the new circumstances thrust upon us by this disease. But how can we continue adapting to advocate for social justice during this turbulent time?
Marking the World Day of Social Justice 2021
On February 20, 2008, the United Nations declared a new day of observation called the World Day of Social Justice. For the last thirteen years, nations around the globe have marked the day by calling attention to social justice issues locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. This year's theme, A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy, distinctly acknowledges that "social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations."
As nations across the world struggle to manage the effects of the pandemic, many of us are aware that social injustice continues to rear its head within our communities. For example, according to a joint 2015 study from Duke University, The New School, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, white households in the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area had a median wealth of $247,500, while Dominicans and U.S. Blacks had a median household wealth of close to zero. On a larger scale, data from the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2020 suggested that at current rates of progress, it would take 257 years to close the global economic gender gap.
Inequities go beyond race and gender as well. While the pandemic has taken millions of lives across the world—and nearly 500,000 lives in the United States alone—there are still daily reminders that, even without COVID-19, our nation and the world would still be fighting an uphill battle for social justice.
If you're an advocate for social justice, or you want to be, you must acknowledge that the pandemic has forever changed how we live and build community and that the fight for social justice still remains. But how can we advocate when we're forced to socially distance, wear masks, and limit our contact with others? How do we show solidarity on issues like civil rights, economic inequality, LGBTQ+ rights, and caring for our veterans in a digital world?
Advocacy in the Digital Realm
Being an advocate for social justice in our digital world comes down to three key tasks: establishing what issues you care about, doing your research, and finding ways to get engaged.
Focus on the Issues You Care About
According to Phone2Action's State of Advocacy Report 2020, digital advocacy exploded last year. Between January and June, fourteen million actions were taken on their platform, which is eight times the number from 2016 and a 32% increase from the same period in 2019. The report states that "a new advocacy landscape has emerged that will profoundly shape digital grassroots activity in the years ahead."
But before you start advocating, you need to determine what issues are top-of-mind for you. These might be issues that affect you or communities that you're a part of on a personal level, or they might be more existential issues, such as climate change, which has many ties to social justice matters, including environmental justice and ensuring a safe planet for future generations.
Sometimes all it takes to inspire action is a sobering statistic about the realities that our fellow humans face. For example, as you peruse the internet, you might stumble across this September 2020 report asserting that Black women are typically paid 63 cents, Native American women 60 cents, and Latinas just 55 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. In addition to piquing your interest, these statistics might make you want to do something about the underlying problem.
If that's the case, then you will have identified your interest in the gender wage gap, but once you've learned about the issue and resolved to act, what comes next?
Do Your Research
Once an important problem like the noticeable gap between what Black and Latina women earn and what men earn has resonated with you, your next step is to search for institutions that are aligned with your values so you can find ways to get involved. Luckily, we know that the National Partnership for Women & Children, which produced the above report, is an advocate for this issue. You could check their website to see if there are opportunities for you to make a positive difference in their work. How much time and energy these commitments will require may vary. For example, a light lift might take the form of signing an online petition asking congressional leadership to create a bill that closes the wage gap.
Another means of supporting groups advocating for issues close to your heart is to make donations to those organizations so they can continue their work. An October 2020 report from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project saw a 7.5% increase in charitable giving in the first half of 2020, which suggests that the advent of the pandemic spurred more people to start donating to causes because they saw a greater need to address disparities and provide social support.
After identifying the charities, institutions, and advocacy groups that align with your values, it's important to support them not only when you're initially encouraged to act, but also over time.
The word "engagement" means different things to different people when it comes to social justice. Some people might only feel comfortable with making donations, while others might be comfortable with phone banking, signing a petition, sending a letter to their congresspeople, re-sharing content on social media, or attending a socially distanced event. Research has shown that online activism, such as signing a virtual petition, could also spur positive offline activism, such as attending an in-person protest.
Once you have assessed your level of comfort and sought out ways to take action, aim to remain engaged over the long-term. The fight for social justice cannot be won overnight, so we all need to continue working to resolve the issues we care about until they are truly addressed for good.
Ensuring Social Justice, Online and Offline
As we negotiate a post-COVID-19 world, it will be pivotal for all of us to advocate for social justice virtually. While this may be a new way of engaging for some, the good news is that the next generation of youth are increasingly using digital platforms to advocate for a range of issues, from climate change to racial justice. As a community, we still have the collective power to make change and create a world where acts of good are not only carried out in person, but across the great expanse of cyberspace. Onward!
Join Us for Good as we advocate for social justice in 2021 and beyond.