A few months ago I started asking readers here if they’d want to join an online course/community about social justice dogma. Over 15,000 of you said yes, so I got to work. This past Monday, I launched “Social Justice, Minus Dogma,” making it a thing. And you can join today.
I’ll explain what it is here, and a little bit about how it works, but know that all of that stuff will be better explained at www.sjmd.space.
Here, I’m mostly going to talk about why I created this, and the evolution of activism and how I view the work that led us here.
A Snapshot of the Social Justice, Minus Dogma Course + Community
The course is 6 modules, each with a different theme, that are designed to be completed over 6 weeks (1 per module). You can’t progress faster than that, but you are encouraged to take as much time as you need.
It’s made up of readings (e.g., articles, blogs, book chapters), listenings (e.g., podcast clips, interviews), watchings (e.g., YouTube, TED), and fieldwork (active tasks to complete in the world), and really hinges upon discussion and community.
The community is a private, members-only discussion board where learners can process the course materials, explore topics related to social justice or the dogma, be challenged, and find support.
It’s asynchronous and textual, which is a fancy way of saying you can pop in whenever you like and get caught up on the conversation, and nothing will require live video conferencing or be dependent upon your schedule.
Everything is driven by you, the learners and community members, so if there’s a topic the community wants to cover, we’ll create a module that covers it. The course materials, fieldwork, and more are also influenced by, suggested by, and (hopefully) some will even be created by members of the community.
Price? Dates? Easy: you choose both. This course is offered in the gift economy (like this site, and everything else I do), so you choose the tuition amount (even $0). And enrollment is accepted on a rolling basis, so it starts (and ends) whenever you’re ready.Want to read more about the Course + Community? Head to www.sjmd.space and you can learn how the course works, read about who it’s not for, and view the FAQ.
If you’ve followed what I’ve been writing here for the past year and a half about Social Justice Dogma (SJD), you’ll likely already know the answer to “Why am I doing this?”
But I’ll talk about it anyhow. Because there are a few things I haven’t shared.
Without realizing it, I started creating this course back in December 2017 when I wrote I can’t stop thinking about the “Social Justice Dogma,” or keeping quiet.
That was the first time I spoke publicly about SJD, and it struck a chord with a lot of people in a way that I didn’t expect. It also derailed my life in a way that I kind of (morbidly) expected.
Two Huge Things Happened When I Started Writing about SJD
There are two huge things that happened when I published that first article that I didn’t realize were huge at the time:
- Everyone I talked to about SJD already knew about SJD. They (people within the movement, activists, educators, and other SJ people) didn’t have that phrase to describe it (“social justice dogma”), but whatever they called it, it was a thing they were already grappling with in their own life.
- Almost all of the response that I got was private. For every public Facebook comment or Twitter reply, I got 100 emails or DMs. More people respond directly to me about the SJD emails on my mailing list than anything else I write.
What does that have to do with why I started this course? Everything.
Writing about SJD is like putting a note in a bottle and chucking it into the forest.
Because SJD felt like a roadblock we needed to address, and I immediately realized it wasn’t just me, I started writing about it a lot. But that didn’t work too well.
Articles that I would write that confronted or exposed SJD wouldn’t get shared nearly as much as my more SJD-compliant articles.
How much less are we talking? SJD articles would get a few hundred shares (if I was lucky) in the first week of publishing, versus the few thousand I have come to expect.
And of course that’s true: the first rule of SJD is you don’t talk about SJD.
IPM is a grassroots, independent blog (One person! Just me! Writing, coding, and funding everything with the help of these 33 beautiful people). And because I don’t run ads, the traffic to this site is almost entirely generated by word of mouth.
So this was a problem. I couldn’t rely on virality to get the word out.
Writing articles about SJD isn’t the way to confront it, because they’re inherently anti-viral. Check.
But podcasting should work, right? Well, no. Obviously.
That’s when I turned to creating a podcast about Social Justice Dogma.
My thought here was that audio is more personal than writing, it’s better for long-form conversations, and it’s perfectly suited to nuance and complicated conversations.
I also hoped it would work to pop the bubble in a way that writing couldn’t. Turns out, it had all the same problems as writing articles, plus a new one: getting guests to be on the show, to talk about SJD publicly, was too scary of an ask.
I recorded a couple of interviews with people who weren’t “social justice people,” and I still hope to publish those (when I have a full season ready), but I couldn’t get any of the people I really, really wanted to be on the show on the show.
And the response I got from everyone was basically identical. Some version of:
- This is so important
- I know exactly what you’re talking about
- I have a lot of thoughts and opinions on this subject
- But I can’t be public about them
- So here’s an email 🙂
- Good luck!
In hindsight, this is obvious. More obvious than the “blogging about this is a dead end” point, it should have been something I knew wouldn’t work.
Two years ago, I would have been a great guest to be recruited to a show like Heretic, and two years ago I would have sent the above reply. I would have guessed that talking about these things publicly would derail my life.
And I would have been right. I was asked to step down from organizations, distance myself from friends and colleagues, and had speaking offers rescinded because of my talking about social justice dogma.
So I absolutely understand, empathize with, and harbor no resentment toward the would-be guests who declined. I would have, too.
A podcast about this won’t work because the ideal guests have too much to lose going on the show. Damnit. Check.
We need a designated space to talk about this.
Talking about SJD on social media is too risky. Going on a podcast is potentially career-ending. So, how do we talk about this?
Thankfully, I have friends who are smart cookies, and one of them suggested an online community / course. He’s not even a “social justice person,” but a musician with a conscience, and he quickly identified both the problem and potential solution.
I talked about the idea with a few other friends, all of whom are social justice people, and they agreed.
That’s when I put the ask at the top of this site, checking with all of you whether or not this was something you’d want. Turns out, a whole lot of you also agreed.
And now we have www.sjmd.space, my third try at having this conversation, and the one I’m most optimistic about working.
I hope to see you there.