Social justice challenges societal norms and structures, striving to eliminate discrimination, marginalization, and any form of injustice. This can include human rights, economic disparity, and social equity, and assumes those are integral to creating a balanced and harmonious society. Here are what some thinkers have written about social justice.

I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.

— Alice Paul

The world that we imagine will not come into existence if we are not courageous enough to challenge power where it operates at the largest scale, impacting the lives of millions, even billions of people.

— Alicia Garza, The Purpose of Power

Silence is a powerful enemy of social justice.

— Amartya Sen

Tomorrow belongs to those of us who conceive of it as belonging to everyone; who lend the best of ourselves to it, and with joy.

— Audre Lorde

When the mother of the race is free, we shall have a better world, by the easy right of birth and by the calm, slow, friendly forces of evolution.

— Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The woman power of this nation can be the power which makes us whole and heals the rotten community, now so shattered by war and poverty and racism. I have great faith in the power of women who will dedicate themselves whole-heartedly to the task of remaking our society.

— Coretta Scott King

The country is in deep trouble. We’ve forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that’s the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.

— Cornel West

Evangelicalism created a safe harbor for white people who wanted to be counted as Christians without having to accept what ecumenical leaders said were the social obligations demanded by the gospel, especially the imperative to extend civil equality to nonwhites.

— David Hollinger

Albert Camus, a great humanist and existentialist voice, pointed out that to commit to a just cause with no hope of success is absurd. But then, he also noted that not committing to a just cause is equally absurd. But only one choice offers the possibility for dignity. And dignity matters. Dignity matters.

— David Simon

The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty. The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation.

— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

— Eleanor Roosevelt

There is a city to be built, the plan of which we carry in our heads, in our hearts. Countless generations have already toiled at the building of it. The effort to aid in completing it, with us, takes the place of prayer.

— Felix Adler

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

— Franklin Delano Roosevelt

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

— Frederick Douglass

Commitment means that it is possible for a man to yield the nerve center of his consent to a purpose or cause, a movement or an ideal, which may be more important to him than whether he lives or dies.

— Howard Thurman

Neither failure nor success is written. The story of our generation will be based on what we are willing to do. Are we willing to endure the grueling fight against racist power and policy? Are we willing to transform the antiracist power we gather within us to antiracist power in our society?

— Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

The antidote to feel-good history is not feel-bad history but honest and inclusive history.

— James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me

We need to defend the interests of those whom we’ve never met and never will.

— Jeffrey D. Sachs

Feminism isn’t simply about being a woman in a position of power. It’s battling systemic inequities; it’s a social justice movement that believes sexism, racism and classism exist and interconnect, and that they should be consistently challenged.

— Jessica Valenti

Intersectionality has given many advocates a way to frame their circumstances and to fight for their visibility and inclusion.

— Kimberlé Crenshaw

Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.

— Louis D. Brandeis

We should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play.

— Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.

— Nelson Mandela

Our philosophy is to rob everything as much as possible and forget about tomorrow… But it makes a certain sense if the sole human value is making as much wealth as you can tomorrow. You don’t care what happens down the road and you don’t care what happens to anybody else. It makes perfect sense. If it destroys the world, well, it’s not my problem.

— Noam Chomsky

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

— Robert F. Kennedy

We may not all be equally guilty. But we are all equally responsible for building a decent and just society.

— Ruby Bridges

There is not a right too long denied to which we do not aspire in order to achieve; there is not a wrong too long endured that we are not determined to abolish.

— Samuel Gompers

The golf links lie so near the mill
That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.

— Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn, from “Through the Needle’s Eye,” 1916

We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.

— Sonya Renee Taylor

Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.

— Steve Maraboli

I don’t mind expressing my opinions and speaking out against injustice. I would be doing this even if I wasn’t a writer. I grew up in a household that believed in social justice. I have always understood myself as having an obligation to stand on the side of the silenced, the oppressed, and the mistreated.

— Tayari Jones

Each one of us is responsible for all of humankind.

— Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight.

— Walter Benjamin
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