Social Justice Versus Economic Justice

Recently, the Democratic Party has focused their policies and speeches around social justice. Trump beat the Democrats by appealing to economic justice. Trump’s speeches about bringing jobs back to America pierced the “blue wall” of Democratic voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio. The stark reality is the Democrats forgot their base. The dems chased social justice in terms of healthcare, proportion of Black Hispanic people graduating from college, and bemoaning Black Americans shot by police. Of course, these are legitimate issues and they must ultimately be addressed as a society. The liberal, highly educated dems understand these issues are essential to having equity in America. They must be tackled or we will have anarchy in the streets. However, the dems cannot address social justice when they are out of office.

Fifty years ago, the labor unions were the backbone of the Democratic Party. The focus of the party was supporting good jobs with good benefits. The unions owned the legislators and held them accountable to support working people and their families. As union membership has waned, so has the support for workers in America. It is inconceivable that dems could be so insensitive to such a base issue to their party. Jobs are the keystone to people living in America. When thirty million jobs were sent overseas, the dems made no outcry. Where were Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton? They were focused on healthcare and social justice. In hindsight, they took their eyes off the ball. They neglected the historical base issue of the Democratic Party, jobs and benefits. American workers who lost their jobs or who are working for fraction their previous pay are angry. And their extended families are angry as well. The country is no longer providing decent paying jobs for millions of people who are willing to work. Trump is the wrong messenger, but he is the only one speaking up for these millions of Americans who lost jobs or who want to work or who want to make more money.

The reality is that these angry people are largely unskilled and have no potential of moving to find a job. And this all leads back to America’s huge population of unskilled people. There is no national system of employment preparation. It used to be you grew up in town with a factory and your dad worked there. You got your job in the local factory and made a good living even though it was unskilled work. When the factories closed, these people had no skills to offer in the American workplace. We must change this scenario to one where everyone has documented employable skills. A highly skilled workforce attracts business and keeps it home. And when change occurs, the individual worker has skills to put to work elsewhere. There are literally hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs available in America right now with no skilled workforce to fill them. And as baby boomers retire and die, there will be millions of jobs needing skilled workers.

The place to create a national system of job preparation is the American high school. The unions of yesterday are largely gone so the onus to lead educational reform of American high schools is left to government and business. This means political leaders must get involved in supporting high school career technical education. To date, high school education has been left to a group of elite hobbyists. This must change to where governors, state legislators, and city council members get seriously involved in high school education. Chambers of commerce must get involved. Helping out in high school must be seen as something akin to patriotic. This is too important of an issue to allow inexpert school board members to continue their elitist curriculum. We need national and state leadership to require all students to receive a documented set of employment skills while still in high school. This means a four-year sequenced program of a career technical education program.

The dems didn’t see the anger of displaced workers in America. The “blue wall” was pierced by Trump’s appeal to American workers for jobs–good paying jobs. Well, the dems also missed on high school education reform. In their zeal to raise the proportion of Black and Hispanic college graduation rates, they missed the need to provide an appropriate education for the supermajority of high school students of all races who are not going to graduate from college. It is time for us all to recognize that technical skills are necessary in order to work in America. Yes, social justice is important, but economic justice is primary to most Americans and is necessary in order to get dems elected to provide social justice.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on

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Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on
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