The core concept that best fits my Social Justice experience this semester would be “Obvious”. This concept asks individuals to look beyond the surface reality, common sense understanding of social structures and phenomenon, and perceive the deeper underlying attributes and explanations for a given situation. Looking past the obvious justification of an issue is an integral component of sociology, and its core theories. To engage one’s sociological imagination, a person must dig farther, and move beyond basic explanations to achieve a stronger understanding of social issues. Obvious assumptions have plagued intellectual and every day thought for years. From contemporary acceptance of hegemonic indifference, to 19th century Social Darwinism, the refusal to look further than what we are told has contributed to many social injustices. Don’t get me wrong, common sense does work in some applications, but when understanding certain issues requires nuance, common sense often becomes nonsense.
Social reality is full of oversimplified explanations for unjust situations and phenomenon. Sayings such as “it’s always been that way”, or “those people don’t work hard enough” litter common discourse surrounding social injustice. These statements are trite, and only further the problems, and the divisions within society. Moving beyond unfounded, and commonly accepted reasoning allows an individual to engage social injustice intellectually, and combat it head on through praxis.
Racist dogma is full of misplaced “common sense” evaluations. When Europeans began to encounter other cultures 500 years ago, they judged the people and the cultures that they came in contact with empirically. Instead of seeing the “familiar in the unfamiliar” they only saw the unfamiliar and refused to reconcile the confusion they were experiencing with a deeper analysis beyond the limitations of the European positionality. Perceiving the people they came in contact with as unfamiliar others, the European mind dehumanized entire populations, and set the foundations for racism, exploitation, and injustice.
What I liked about the idea of “obvious” was that it is a simple concept, but it is integral to all sociological analysis. It is also applicable to other social sciences. To get to the core of an issue, an person must strip away conventional and commonly held explanations to find a better picture of an issue. Going beyond common sense and surface realities is what Sociologist Peter Berger referred to as “peeling away the the layers of an onion”. The concept of “obvious” is a helpful tool in both understanding the larger, global picture, and the smaller matters of our lives. It is definitely the idea that for me, fit well with the course material and the goal of social justice around the world. If we are to achieve justice for humanity we have to see the world beyond empirical explanations, look deeper into issues, and work with everyone to create change. To effect change, we need to deconstruct what we know, and deconstructing the “obvious” is the first step.