Four Things We Can Do To Accelerate Justice Fairness

Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), is helping address the crazy inequalities in the US justice system; much of which is along racial lines; e.g., mass incarceration of blacks, “1 in 3 black males born today can expect to end up in jail or prison”….

At a recent Google ‘Zeitgeist Minds’ talk, Stevenson lays down a bold social justice message; a message both disturbing and hopeful; a message conveyed with masterful storytelling and clarity; a message that needs to be shared. Here it is:

(Video not displaying? Watch it here, on Youtube)

How do we bring more justice into the world; more compassion, reduce inequality, address historical wrongs, improve relationships…? Stevenson’s message:

  1. Proximity. Get up close to the problem. Getting close teaches you things that you can’t learn from a distance. When you get up close, you hear nuances and details that you can’t see from a distance. Responsible influencers enable closeness. Connect directly with the community that’s suffering. This directive makes me want to high-five my local restorative justice organization
  2. Change the narrative. Change the narrative that sustain the problems; e.g., “hundreds of thousands of Americans are in jails and prisons for possession of marijuana… these people are not a threat to public safety… the narrative is that (over last 40 years) politicians have been competing with each other over who can be toughest on crime… fear and anger rule (sound familiar, Canada?) … slavery in america still undercuts… truth and reconciliation is needed… in Berlin, you can’t go a hundred metres without seeing on a marker or stone that’s been placed at the home of a Jewish family that was abducted taken to the camps….” This rings close to home. My father was a German Jew, born in Berlin. He escaped, barely.
  3. Hope. “Injustice prevails where hopelessness persists… hopelessness is the enemy of justice and when you begin to think that you cannot do anything about these income disparities, about income inequality, about health outcomes…”
  4. Do uncomfortable things. “This is the hard part of justice. To create justice, we have to do uncomfortable things.” Action. Yes, there will be battle scars.

Canada is not the U.S. Yet, Stevenson’s message is one of justice, writ large, and applies here. We have our own messes. Our Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a response. Here’s how I experienced it. The EJI message provides us further guidance.

Choose your injustice. Get close to the problem to better understand it. Reframe the issues. Be hopeful. Act with courage.  

“Keep beating the drum for justice.”


  1. Some very good points, Ben. And boy could this world, in a macro or micro lens, use all you mentioned – “more compassion, reduce inequality, address historical wrongs, improve relationships.”

    Takeaways for me:

    1. “Responsible influencers enable closeness. Connect directly with the community that’s suffering.” — This is empathy, perspective taking, that creates understanding, rapport and receptiveness.

    2. “Change the narrative that sustain the problems.” — the stories we tell ourselves and the stories others tell are strongly ingrained. Yet we create movement, progress, when we open up to understanding why others feel as they do and consider that there might be more to the reality than just our current viewpoint.

    3. “To create justice, we have to do uncomfortable things.” — We all love our comfort zones and can become defensive in our thinking and actions, yet that often sustains dysfunctional, dangerous, harmful and painful actions (including inaction).

    4. “Reframe the issues…Act with courage.” — Without a doubt, critical components to affecting, influencing positive change.

    Ben, what a great add to your article about mentioning your dad escaping Germany. How that affected your family’s, your existence and future. And look at the good you’re doing in the world, your legacy. A triumph for light over darkness.

    Michael Toebe
    High-Value Outcomes

  2. Thanks Michael. Sorry for the delay in responding. Excellent contributing points you make. Light over darkness… wow – not sure I view myself that way, still I appreciate your positive thoughts. 🙂

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