We often group social justice people by identity, cause, or “-ism” (e.g., racial justice people, gender justice, queer justice, wage justice). People outside of the social justice movement seem inclined to group SJ people as being either “social justice warriors” or not. But what if we focused on other differences that define us?

What if we focused instead on the “mode” of advancing social justice? We’d notice differences like:

  • SJ Educators (who teach),
  • SJ Activists (who demonstrate),
  • SJ Expressionists (who share their subjective experience),
  • and more.

We might focus on the different ways people are advocating for systemic change. If we did, we’d see:

  • SJ Incrementalists (who are focusing on the baby steps of change within systems),
  • SJ Abolitionists (who see the path forward as being removing the systems altogether),
  • and more.

Or if we focused on the different wants people have for social groups. We might see differences like:

  • SJ Separatists (who want spaces specifically for identity groups),
  • SJ Unifiers (who want everyone intentionally integrated),
  • and more.

Now, like with any other social taxonomy, none of these boxes are neat and tidy. There are people who blur the lines above, or who exist outside of those taxonomies entirely, but are still working for social justice.

But these differences have been helpful for me as I think about others doing this work. It’s easy to focus instead on the “-ism” or cause, but that might be less helpful than we realize.

For example, two social justice educators in different causes (e.g., a racial justice educator and a gender justice educator) might have more to learn from one another, or be able to form a uniquely helpful support network, compared to two people in the same cause, but operating in different modes (e.g., a gender justice educator and gender justice expressionist).