Wednesday, September 21, 2016

No, I did not invent or promote "social justice warrior" in 2009

I'm a bit obsessive about getting the facts right, so here is why I am often falsely credited with coining or promoting "social justice warrior" in 2009.

I encountered the term in 2011 (or 2012; see note below) at Be a SJ Ally, not a SJ Sally. I went to Urban Dictionary to verify it. I didn't like the term because it was ironic and irony is always misunderstood by literal-minded people, but it was already being used and I couldn't think of a more precise alternative for the people who rage, mob, dox, and issue death threats in the name of social justice. So I accepted the name when I made this blog, which was originally titled Social Justice Warriors: Do Not Engage. I imported some posts I had made elsewhere, including some from 2009, which had the unintended effect of making it look like Social Justice Warriors: Do Not Engage had existed under that name since 2009.

Since "social justice" was coined in the 19th century, it had been associated with pacifists who believed in working in the world and treating everyone with love and respect, so the common expression for those people was social justice workers. Only rarely was "social justice warrior" used as a term of praise by the same people who use "Christian warriors" as praise, failing to note that it evokes the Crusaders who massacred Albigensians and sacked the Christian city of Constantinople because it was an easier target than any Muslim city.

Calling Martin Luther King a "social justice warrior" appears to be a retcon. If you search his writings, you'll find few references to social justice. Durng the 1960s, the term was still primarily a theological concept. King, a democratic socialist, was more concerned with economic justice, which is why his most famous speech was given at the culmination of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and he was killed during the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike while planning the Poor People's Campaign.

ETA: To my amusement, people are discussing my use of the term at Talk:Social justice warrior/Archive1 - RationalWiki. I suspect David Gerard is correct about the timing.