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The Power Of # Vocabulary For Social Justice

There are sadly too many injustices in this world to count, which is why defining our social justice movements should be of the outmost importance. We may see the inequality; we may know something is wrong within our society, yet without an identifiable word or phrase we are lost in a sea of feelings we cannot describe. The power in creating vocabulary that provides movement in our ability to activate, persist, and change is undeniable, particularly when we place a # in front of it. Without words we lack the ability to even begin a conversation, without a # the conversation will never go viral, it will never reach into the homes of those who need it most and our causes fade away.

#MeToo is our most recent example of how empowering defining our # vocabulary is. It is a phrase coined by Tarana Burke in 2006 who herself had experienced sexual assault and felt it could help other women. And it literally took one # tweet from a celebrity for millions of people around the world to truly understood the crisis of sexual assault and harassment against women.

#BlackLivesMatter, #Cyberbulling, #rapeculture, #sexualentitlement, #takeaknee, #yesallwomen, instantly produce meaning when one reads their vocabulary. All instantly give us the language to begin an open dialogue. These dialogues aren’t always comfortable and often come with counter vocabulary like “all lives matter”, but even those counters provide us with an opportunity. For example, do I agree with “all lives matter” no I do not. In fact, I believe strongly this counter clearly establishes why we need a black lives matter movement in this country. However, is it important for me to understand that there are others in my country who don’t believe it is of value to them, yes it is. It is important because it leads to awareness and hopefully creates a channel for real policy change.

So when # social justice vocabulary became a “thing” you can imagine how excited social justice advocates must have been. These are human beings who are advocating for their world daily with conscious intention. They wake up believing justice is just around the corner and it is their mission to be purposeful with how to relay their cause. Their insight matches no other in the power of # vocabulary for social justice causes and my hope is this trend does not end.


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