(A recap of points 1-5 here. Points 6 & 7 here & here.)
Fairness. Equity. No one getting left behind.
Call it what you want but without it, without an underlying sense of social justice, all these previous points I’ve taken the time to write out are worthless. If they aren’t in the service of delivering social justice, then the whole lot is nothing more than window dressing. Hobbies and pastimes for those with a roof over their heads and food on their plates.
A city without social justice is a city rotting from the inside.
What do I mean by social justice, you might ask. It’s a pretty broad notion, encompassing a wide spectrum of ideas. Housing. Food. Health. Education. Work. Inspiring public spaces.
Where do you start?
Social justice means equal access to opportunity and freedom from precariousness.
The best coverage we can provide together for everybody from the vagaries of life.
That’s my idea of social justice.
Housing. Without a safe place to offer up shelter and comfort, nothing good or positive will happen very easily. If a city does not endeavour to adequately house every one of its residents, that city has failed to deliver equal access to opportunity and a freedom from precariousness.
Food. A city endowed with social justice is a place not riddled with food deserts. Residents left to fend for themselves and their families with little more than fast food and convenience store supplies do not have equal access to opportunity. They are not free from precariousness.
A truly public realm. A city that places more importance on private space than it does public space exhibits little interest in social justice. Everyone, as they move around the city, should have equal access to the opportunity of doing so in vibrant, welcoming public spaces. That ability, that fundamental right, promotes an environment of inclusion. It lessens a sense of isolation and instills a feeling of mutuality. Freedom from precariousness.
Fill in your concept of social justice here but without it, in whatever form it takes, a city becomes a hostile place. An everyone-for-themselves, grabbing and stashing of self-interest. What’s in it for me? How do I get what I need and want at the lowest cost possible?
The city as a shopping mall.
Of course, as it stands, cities themselves do not possess an equal access to opportunity and are subject to all sorts of precariousness. Even intent on pursuing a mandate of social justice, cities do not have all the tools at their disposal to do so. Higher orders of government used to recognize this and showed interest in the well-being of cities. Social housing was part of their purview. Public transit. Matters of good health and education remain files of provincial and federal governments. Cities however are subject to the unpredictable degree of interest those truly holding the purse strings show in such matters.
The impulse by some elected local representatives is to simply throw up their hands in defeat, blame others for the inaction and say, what are we going to do? Our hands are tied. We’d really like to help but…
Unfortunately, whoever’s fault it may be, the resulting mess of neglect always lands right at the city’s feet. Where are the homeless homeless? Where does the crime happen when people are desperate and frightened? Where do the roads get clogged and buses packed to the hilt when there’s not enough money for public transit to operate properly?
A lack of social justice manifests itself mostly where the people are. The people are in the cities. More and more so.
Happy City author, Charles Montgomery, tweeted out a link to an article yesterday, quoting a line from it. “For if the city is not for everyone, it benefits no one.”
That is the essential core of social justice. Any candidate seeking public office in order to represent the needs of every resident of their city who does not have that line written somewhere in their campaign literature (and backing it up with policy ideas to bring that impulse to reality) really needs to consider why it is they’re running in the first place. And voters, considering such candidates, really have to wonder just whose interests it is they’re looking to serve.
— helpfully submitted by Cityslikr