Ruth Bader Ginsburg and The Future of United States Social Justice

Image Source: Colgate News Magazine

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an icon for social justice advocates around the world. As the second woman appointee to the Supreme Court, she was a champion for human rights and liberal values. Her opinions broke ground on issues such as gender equity and fair pay. Justice Ginsburg’s illustrious career included a vast number of accomplishments in the fight for social justice. This article, however, is not about the late justice’s accomplishments. Rather, this article explores a pressing issue that advocates for social justice must now face. The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left an empty space in more places than just the seat on the bench.

With Justice Amy Coney Barrett being nominated to fill Ginsburg’s post, social justice advocates must grapple with how to continue Ginsburg’s work. Barrett has repeatedly signaled, in writings and oral statements, moderation on issues such as gender equity compared to her predecessor. In her words, “my father told me ‘anything boys can do, girls can do better’ but I would add ‘boys are great too.’” It is clear that advocates and organizers across the country who received guidance and vigor from Ginsburg’s championing of social justice must look elsewhere. Where exactly to look for such leadership, however, is an elusive question.

In truth, using the Supreme Court as a catalyst for change is never what Justice Ginsburg intended. According to , Ginsburg believed that major social change ought not to be achieved through the court system. Rather, change should occur through Congress and state legislatures. Ginsburg focused her approach on specific aspects of issues such as gender discrimination, in order to send a message to Congress. Ginsburg’s writings are guiding principles for the political and legal systems of governance. Instead of working directly to enact change, Ginsburg set the standard for social justice reform and held violators accountable. She created a platform in which activists could build upon to create a clear social justice doctrine. The question in not who must replace Justice Ginsburg as much as it is who will utilize the foundations that she created to effect real change on some of the country’s most pressing issues.

At a time where hope may seem lost, there are shreds of opportunity. Grassroots organizing has become even more prevalent since the 2016 election. Organizers achieved record voter turnout by increasing accessibility and breaking down barriers to the ballot box. New initiatives, backed by groups such as the and Human Rights Watch, to remedy racial injustice have been presented in states and districts across the country. Political participation amongst minority groups and young adults has also significantly increased over the past several years. These accomplishments were not achieved by any justice or congressperson. These accomplishments came from the hard work of activists and organizations who are inspired by the standards set by Justice Ginsburg. Ultimately, permanent change may be enacted through Congress, but such change begins with those who believe in Ginsburg’s message and refuse to accept the status quo. From the looks of things, the United States is in no shortage of those kind of individuals and will not be anytime soon.

The number of groups and advocates continues to grow. Through social media, organizations have been able to accomplish massive collective actions. Instagram users who had no previous relation to the social justice movement now rush to share new stories about racial injustice and include links on their profiles to resources and educational materials. Groups once completely excluded from the fight for reform can now be fervent activists for justice. Groups of thousands have become millions, all of them are building upon Ginsburg’s guiding principles for social justice. Grassroots organizing in the United States is more prevalent and more powerful than ever; and there is no shortage of leaders who wish continue the fight for reform. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death may have shattered the world of social justice advocacy, but it won’t take long for advocates to pick up the pieces; perhaps because there aren’t as many pieces to pick up as originally thought.

Originally published at



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Tony Hemphill

Tony Hemphill

Ceaseless thinker | sports & fitness enthusiast | political science and financial markets researcher.