social justice, Are We Moving Forward or Backward?

By Melissa Wilson

     Social justice, activism, politics, and business; all of these things exist in this world every day; everywhere we go, we know it, or think we know it, and acknowledge it. However, if we know–or think we know–that these things are involved in an issue, how should we acknowledge it? Does it truly exist in what we are experiencing or referring to, or are our emotions influencing our judgment? For some, like Peters in his article “The Gift and the Grift. What’s Jay-Z’s Deal Really About?” It shows us how strong opinions are regarding this matter. Compared to Dyson’s article, “Jay-Z did not ‘sell-out’ by dealing with the NFL. This is just how activism works.” Arguments like these leave the question are we moving forward or backward in today’s world? Does social injustice exist? Yes. However, when we assume and judge everyone’s actions without valid facts, this hinders us and sends us further back to the time we fought so hard and came so far from.

     When looking at the injustice that still exists today and where the focus tends to get lost, we must acknowledge where some of the problems may lie. When Peters (2019) refers to “Kaepernick eventually settled in February for an undisclosed amount, believed to be less than $10 million.” (para. 5). Is it right to redirect Kaepernick’s actions by focusing on the money Kaepernick received? Comments like this can diminish Kaepernick’s motives behind his initial actions and leave us questioning if it was an act influenced or driven for personal gain. Could this be making us part of the injustice we are opposing? If so, in retrospect, are we adding to the issues?

     A civil rights activist’s actions should not be based solely on how they went about their movement or their financial position, but instead, on the reasoning, they set out to influence change. Peters (2019) questioning Jay-Z capability to consciously be aware of the situation by saying, “Exactly how socially conscious can a billionaire be, really?” (para. 12). Again, this supports the question I have of, are we moving backward? Statements such as this are a clear example of injustices to imply someone’s actions or motives are due to their financial status. Envy is envy. Just because someone has what we may have, or may not have, does not make their reasons or actions less or more consequential to the purpose they set forth. We are or should be fighting for equality all-around. To characterize one due to their financial status is unjust and makes Peters a model of what he claims to be against.

     Understanding our past civil rights activists, learning from their mistakes and their judges’ mistakes will allow our current activists and future activists to continue influencing change and impacting us moving forward. As Dyson (2019) said, “In 1963, Malcolm X, who advocated armed self-defense of black folk in the face of white supremacy, flayed Martin Luther King Jr., who preached nonviolent resistance to social injustice. “The white man pays Rev. Martin Luther King, subsidizes Rev. Martin Luther King so that Rev. Martin Luther King can continue to teach the Negroes to be defenseless,” Malcolm charged. He was a “modern Uncle Tom.” Elsewhere, Malcolm dubbed King “the best weapon that the white man . . . has ever gotten.” (para. 1). We all can agree that these two are significant influencers who made a significant change surrounding civil rights. They obviously did not always agree, but even Malcolm X, in the end, grew to realize his words contradicted his beliefs and even patronized what he set out to accomplish. He only finds himself later in his journey to verbally acknowledge that he and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted the same thing–freedom.

     So, while our intentions may be to bring awareness and shed light on the issue of social injustice today, we have to sit back and acknowledge the part of the injustice that we are instinctually playing a part in. We have to ask ourselves, are we part of the problem or the solution? Are we helping us move forward in the movement, or are we setting us backward? There is no such thing as a perfect human. Neither is there an ideal plan of action, attack, or approach to such a topic. We all have and will continue to make mistakes, especially regarding such a controversial topic and real-world situation that affects our lives every day. As Dyson (2019) puts it, “All of us have blood on our hands and dirt beneath our nails” (para. 10). There is no perfect answer or solution; however, if we continue to learn and grow from our past while practicing speaking with less judgment, we can move forward with change, for the better, instead of backward where we fought so hard to escape.


Dyson, M. E. (2019, August 23). Jay-Z didn’t ‘sell out’ by dealing with the NFL. This is just how activism works. The Washington Post.

Peters, M. (2019, August 21). The gift and the grift: What’s Jay-Z’s NFL deal really about? The Ringer.