Why JEDI?

Abstract: Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. JEDI. Why? Here’s a quick look on why it matters, why you matter, and why everyone matters in this significant work.

The difference between the terms equality, equity, and liberation, illustrated; © Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire. This figure was uploaded by Shrehan Lynch on ResearchGate


A lot of you might be leaning towards thinking about that famous movie franchise, and how that relates to what we’re going to talk about. It is totally understandable, we get that a lot. Whether that is good news or bad news or neutral for you, what we’re going to talk about briefly here is a totally different thing. However, we can say that we are also onto awakening the force! The force paving the path of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion! When we put it this way, it feels a tad more relatable, but we understand that these four words may be daunting to think about when you turn to what these mean and why they are incredibly important.


Why JEDI? We should ask ourselves this more often than not. It does matter that you know what justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion mean but it matters more that you can answer why it matters and why you matter in why it matters. Yes, you read that right, you matter in why it matters. We’ll get to that in a few. To start it off, let’s try to understand the terms separately and how they work together to provide context and significance to a larger cause, a bigger movement.


Justice

To understand justice better, let’s try to go through these definitions you can easily find with one click on any online search engine.


Google provides us the following definitions:

  • just behaviour or treatment.

  • the quality of being fair and reasonable.

  • the administration of the law or authority in maintaining this.

ScienceDaily shares a detailed definition of justice:


“Justice is a concept of moral rightness based ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, equity and fairness, as well as the administration of the law, taking into account the inalienable and inborn rights of all human beings and citizens, the right of all people and individuals to equal protection before the law of their civil rights, without discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, color, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, wealth, or other characteristics, and is further regarded as being inclusive of social justice.”

If we want to delve deeper into the core features and concepts of justice, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides an in-depth discussion on this which we can easily access and read further. Complementing the resource prior, the Institute of Humane Studies of the George Mason University shares a more contextual discussion of justice:


“One of the most influential accounts of the origin and nature of justice comes from Plato’s Republic. According to Plato’s account, we can think of the principles of justice as mutually agreed to principles for the coordination and structure of social interaction that would benefit all who are subject to them. What those principles are will depend on the society. In addition, there’s a second theory of justice that Plato offers that’s more general. According to this second theory, justice is “each getting what is rightfully theirs and no one getting what is rightfully another’s.” In other words, questions of justice always ask, “Who has a right to what?””

However, much better than dichotomizing the idea of justice - and one that is more in line with understanding justice in the context of JEDI - is to subscribe to what Dr. Cornel West had shared: “Justice is what love looks like in public, just like tenderness is what love feels like in private.” Takim Williams in his article about Dr. West’s message emphasized that


“West’s subject matter was black hardship in America. Yet his broader point was that greed and selfishness, which are the root of exploitation, ought to be replaced with “unarmed truth and unapologetic love.”

We can learn so much from unarmed truth and unapologetic love, from justice in this sense, and this can pave the way towards radical truth-telling and dismantling structures of oppression - and hopefully, towards liberation.


Equity

You may have encountered this term mostly in relation to markets, trading, investing, or the financial realm for that matter. In other instances, you may have also encountered equity juxtaposed with equality, since equality has been part of many movements and we cannot deny how pushing for equality has led us to an understanding of equity in many situations. Also how important it is to realize that the latter is really what we should be pushing for.


A quick search can easily lead us to these definitions:

  • the quality of being fair and impartial.

  • the quality of being fair and reasonable in a way that gives equal treatment to everyone. (Collins Dictionary)

However, these quick searches provide little to no context on how equity functions when you think about JEDI. The image above illustrates the important nuance between equality and equity. Here’s a simple explanation in understanding equality, equity and liberation from this study on social justice and teaching physical education:


“Equality means fairness or treating everyone the same. If we provide everyone with the same, we cannot be equitable. Thus we need equitable teaching spaces. Liberation means including everyone and removing all barriers, which combines equality and equity.”

Diversity

This term has become ubiquitous and it continues to be. Going by what we have been doing in the entries prior, a quick search would give you these two different but equally important definitions:

  • the state of being diverse; variety.

  • the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.

The recognition of variety, of differences, has pushed for changes in a number of fields and industries. For JEDI, recognizing differences and validating diverse experiences are at the forefront of this significant movement. Linda Martin Alcoff’s sentiments on difference, as stated in her 2006 book “Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self,” provides an insightful context on diversity:


“…it is the refusal to acknowledge the importance of the differences in our identities that has led to distrust, miscommunication, and thus disunity…When I refuse to listen to how you are different from me, I am refusing to know who you are. But without understanding fully who you are, I will never be able to appreciate precisely how we are more alike than I might have originally supposed” (Alcoff, 2006, p. 6).

Inclusion

Looking at the root word of the term, one can already understand what the concept conveys. In a simple scenario, to include somebody within your circle comes with an understanding of their situation, their nuances, and how you can assure that they can be comfortable in this space. Moving further with technicalities of the term, here’s a definition in the context of JEDI:

  • the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or intellectual disabilities and members of other minority groups.

There are several specific categories of inclusion e.g., educational inclusion, social inclusion, disability inclusion, among others. There are numerous resources available for you to explore and discover to understand all categories of inclusion, together with its core ideas.

At this point, being critical about all scenarios relevant to these concepts is of great importance, together with an understanding of where YOU are in all of them. You see, one way or another, you might have already understood what JEDI stands for through an understanding of one or two of the words in this acronym. A primary reason for that is the interconnectedness of all these concepts; and that is one of the core notions that you can take to heart - that at the core of JEDI and this vital work are emotions, connections, reflections - is humanity. We are in this together because we will not be able to spark change, embrace growth, and enjoy freedom if there are still those who are left behind.


Written by Allison Atis and Jen Self


This article is the first entry in the Brick13 JEDI Blog Series.

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