Social Justice Terminology: Translations from the Wokish

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This encyclopedia of Social Justice terminology exists for a simple purpose: to create in one place a first attempt to pierce the fog and expose the language used by the ideology of Social Justice in plain language so that people can better understand what it is, what it wants, and how it operates in practice. There is currently a great need for such a resource, as Social Justice is rapidly ascendant, and its terminology has risen from relative obscurity to cultural prominence in only a few years. More importantly, these terms are the basis for institutional changes that many decision makers and those impacted by the decisions, once made, don’t understand as clearly as they need to.

As many who have attempted to deal with it or otherwise encountered it will know, Social Justice (as an ideology) relies upon a highly specific, often deeply academic lexicon that makes it difficult to understand. Some of the terminology is highly specialized, and some takes on the status of jargon or buzzwords. Much of what appears in this resource will help to clarify this specialized terminology and explain it in plain language that can be understood by almost anyone.

Of some note, altogether too commonly in Social Justice’s usage, everyday terms have been redefined in specific, which is a strategic move that allows the common parlance understanding of the term to open the door and be a defensible point of retreat while the specific meaning of the term is allowed to do the real work desired of them by Social Justice activists. (We refer to such terms as “Trojan Horse” terms.) In fact, the term “Social Justice” itself (which we intentionally capitalize) is a Trojan Horse term that plays upon the concept of social justice (which we have intentionally not capitalized). The way this works, to use this example, is that Social Justice advances itself by using the normal understanding of the phrase “social justice” while, in fact, being something far more specific and actionable that not all people would recognize by that term. Other Trojan Horse terms include words like “racism” and “misogyny,” which have been redefined under a “systemic” view of societal “power dynamics,” and “antiracism,” which sounds like one thing but means something quite different in specific.

Moreover, the terms aren’t merely difficult to understand on their own because their meanings are embedded in a more complicated, somewhat internally consistent worldview that has been adopted by Social Justice. This will rapidly become apparent to anyone who reads even a small number of the entries in this glossary but may not be entirely apparent from reading only single entries. Understanding the worldview of Social Justice is therefore another goal of this glossary and its parent site and organization, New Discourses. To facilitate this level of learning, the terms in this glossary are heavily cross-referenced to one another, and its users are encouraged to spend some time bouncing through a dozen or more terms to start to get the sense of the semi-coherent ideological worldview called “Social Justice.”

The way this glossary is put together is also important. For the majority of the entries, a “Social Justice Usage” for the term is given at the top. This is, in every case, we present an example or several examples from some authoritative source, whether a website, an academic paper, an essay, or a book, in context and in the words of advocates of the ideology of Social Justice. Below their words, we at New Discourses have offered our own commentary that explain the terms in plain language and also how they are often used. In some entries, in which the word is actually a commonplace word that isn’t necessarily given a clear and specific definition or clear example of usage in the Social Justice literature, the term is provided and explained according to our experience with its usage in Social Justice contexts.

The reason for this structure bears mentioning. We have received countless requests to build this glossary for a long time before we started it, and the reason we never got to the project is that, in that Social Justice tends to be very aggressive and unwelcoming of either criticism or plain-language explanation, we knew that to merely define these terms on our own in plain language would result in being accused of doing so dishonestly. To get around these accusations, we have opted instead to present one or more bona fide Social Justice examples in use for the terms first and then offer only commentary instead of our own explanations. Readers may judge for themselves if we have interpreted the terms honestly and are strongly encouraged to read the Social Justice-approved applications for the terms for themselves.

The intention of this resource is not to present a final product and be done with it. While we have presented these excerpts and our comments in a rather cursory fashion so far, our intention at New Discourses is to continue to flesh out the entries as we have time, adding examples from the Social Justice literature that make their intentions and meanings more clear and continuing to explain those examples in our own plain language so that they can be understood by all. This will add depth to the entries themselves. We also intend to continue adding more terms as we have time. This will add breadth.

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