Social Justice essentially refers to the equal rights & opportunities for everyone, it is the belief that everyone should be treated fairly. Social Justice ties into human rights as well as they share the common goal of establishing and maintaining human dignity & fair treatment (Lea, 2017). Our group examined and researched different social justice issues that are currently plaguing the United States: Indegenous Socio-Political Rights, Police Brutality, Sexual Assault, COVID Impact on Asian Americans, & LGBTQ Rights & Policies. All of these issues have one commonality: the violation of basic human rights.
Indigenous Socio-Political Rights
The United States has used policy in several ways to attempt to eradicate its Indigenous populations, whether it be through the Trail of Tears and its main policy the ‘Indian Removal Act’ (Trail of Tears, 2020), or through the boarding schools instituted to ‘kill the Indian, and save the man,’ (“Kill the Indian, and Save the Man”, n.d). It is known that tribal law and US federal law often cross jurisdictions with each other, leading to a lack of justice in cases and a general sense of distrust by those who are supposedly protected by the law.
Native Peoples lives are disproportionately impacted by social issues. The general poverty rate in the American population is 13%, compared to the 50.7% rate in Native populations that live on reservations (Sandefur & Liebler, 1997, pg. 98). There are also vast health disparities, with the Indian Health Service (IHS) reporting that Native Americans have a life expectancy of 5.5 less years than the general American population, and are at risk for many chronic diseases (Indian Health Service, 2019).
Investing in social services such as the under-funded IHS can help remediate some of the disparities we see within Indigenous communities. It is also important to develop community-led projects that are already in existence, as these organizations have connections to their communities, and have an understanding of where resources need to be placed. There also needs to be a preference for trying cases in tribal courts, in the cases where the jurisdictions overlap.
In the last couple years, police brutality has been at the forefront of many social justice movements. This is mainly due to the rise in popularity of social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. African Americans make up only 13% of America’s population, but account for 28% of police killings in 2020 alone (Mapping Police Violence). Studies that have been done to examine police brutality in the United States have confirmed that black people are more likely to be harassed/killed by the police; 3x more likely than white people (Mapping Police Violence).
There are a couple viable options that have been introduced to combat police brutality, the biggest option that has gained much traction this year is the “Defund the Police” movement. Defunding the police also includes demilitarizing the police, it has been a conversation that has been circulating for a couple years, but with all the civil unrest that has occurred this year, it has been brought into the spotlight again. Defunding the police is essentially a policy in which the law enforcement budget is cut, and the excess money that comes from this reduced budget goes into other sectors of the community (Boatwright, 2020). It is the idea that instead of investing money into the institutions that oppress and terrorize many low income (often black) communities, they put the money towards resources that will help these communities (Fernandez, 2020). This can be done by enacting laws that funnel the money back into school systems, community centers, and professionals that youth in these communities can go to for help if needed. Basically get to the root of the issues in these marginalized communities, which is lack of opportunities and resources. Instead of funding part of the problem, they can help the problem.
Sexual assault is among the most commonly committed crimes in the country at this time, yet also the most underreported. On average, there are over 433,000 age 12 and older victims of rape and sexual assault every year in the United States. (Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics, n.d.) Despite so many incidents, it is estimated that for every 1,000 rapes, 230 are reported to police, 46 result in an arrest, 9 are referred for prosecution, 5 result in a felony conviction, and 4.6 result in incarceration. (The Criminal Justice System: Statistics, n.d). This leaves the disheartening fact that for those 1,000 rapes, 995 perpetrators will walk free.
Not only are perpetrators getting away without facing legal consequences, they are still able to live their life as if nothing happened, while their victims are left to suffer in silence. A prime example of this would be Donald Trump: a man with 26 reported incidents of sexual misconduct, yet he is still given the power to be leader of the free world (Mindock, 2020). We must look into creating and enforcing universal policies that don’t allow sexual assaulters to take such high positions of power, such as president. Additionally, creating more government funded victim centers will encourage victims to not suffer in silence, and seek the help they need (Tracy et al., 2012). By working together as a nation, we can make our country a better place to help victims, and prevent others from becoming one.
COVID Impact on Asian Americans
Asian and Asian Americans have been facing numerous counts of racism not only throughout history, but even more so now with COVID-19. A study that analyzed about one million tweets from November and March show that negative comments about Asian people increased at about 70% (Ao, 2020). The government needs to show the Asian community know they care about them.. As a solution, the government should work with Asian American associations on raising awareness and providing mental health care to those affected by COVID-19. Asian Americans are three times less likely to try to find the mental help that they need compared to other Americans (Gu, 2020).
Getting taxpayers to help pay for this idea would be a good opportunity, but working with Asian American associations would most likely be the most helpful in quickly spreading the message to a large Asian and Asian American audience. There is already a huge Facebook group called the “Subtle Asian Mental Health” that the government could reach out to collaborate with. They help raise mental health awareness and promote mental health care in the Asian community (Jain, 2020). There are not enough cultural mental health services out there to help Asian Americans, but it is important to take serious action and change this problem right away.
LGBTQ+ Rights & Policies
All throughout history, one can see a constant repression of people that have been a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Though religion and certain ideologies played an extremely large part in this, the government was also one to get involved with the oppression of the queer community. Policies like the Gay Military Ban and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, were great examples in which the government decided to revoke the rights of the queer community (Bumiller, 2011). These policies banned gay and lesbian military members to continue serving if they had been exposed as members of the community (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018). Seeing as though there are currently no federal policies protecting the rights and identity of the queer community, there are plenty more policies that can be put in place against the queer community.
One can look at a policy such as the Civil Rights act of 1964 and see how much it helped protect the human rights of black people in America. It allowed them the ability to gain a basis of equality with white Americans (Leffler, 2014). By either adding the LGBTQ+ community to the Civil Rights Act, or creating a new federal policy to protect the community this could help put an end to discrimination. By having a federal law for antidiscrimination, towards the queer community, this would make it easier for this group to press legal charges against people that do happen to discriminate against them. Giving them a federal legal standing would make acts of discrimination less likely to happen becasue there would be legal reparations if taken to court.
The topic of social justice is important to us all, as we stand for fairness and equality for all. Native sovereignty should be respected, and Native people should not face dire social conditions. Black people should not have to fear for their lives every time they interact with the police. Sexual assault victims should not have to suffer in silence. Asian-Americans should not have to accept racism as part of their life. The LGBTQ+ community should not have to live being discriminated against. Implementing policies that protect and better the lives of all Americans is a necessary step for this country.
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