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Judicial and Social Literacy

What is Judicial Literacy?

Judicial or Legal Literacy is at its most fundamental level, the knowledge an individual has, or demonstrates regarding the law. In the United States, laws generally originate from the United States Constitution, federal and state statutes, state constitutions, common law, case law and administrative areas of law and seek to address and control criminal, civil or regulatory behavior and infractions.

Why is it important:

A basic level of legal knowledge is crucial for every person, as it informs the consciousness of a culture, promotes participation in the formation, development and implementation of laws and ensures that all populations – particularly marginalized and/or underprivileged communities – have the information to promote fair and equitable treatment, within safe environments. It is only through knowledge of the laws’ protections and constrictions that each person can identify, mitigate and combat injustices.

Things you can do TODAY to increase Judicial literacy:

There are so many things we can each do, every day, to improve our awareness of the laws and ensure they work for the collective Us:

  • VOTE
  • visit the local library and read area(s) of law that are of interest/need
  • research online sites that detail the applicable law(s) of a specific region. Laws very often vary across state, county and even city lines
  • take an online class/course in Civics, or Law “101” in area(s) of law that are of interest start/join a social media advocacy group
  • talk with family, friends and neighbors about their legal experiences and perspectives (try to avoid Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday celebrations – after all, there are hundreds of other days in the year for these discussions)
  • reach out to the Community Outreach departments of your local police precinct on ways to collaborate, teach, learn and advocate
  • call/write/tweet/follow your local, state and federal represent at ives to share your experiences, thoughts and ideas of what you and your community requires and expects of them
  • did we mention, VOTE? Many laws that directly impact our lives are decided by school board and local county/city elections

What is Social Literacy?

Social Literacy requires the ability to read, comprehend and communicate the spiritual, ethical and moral nuances of one’s society and to subsequently utilize that information to navigate social circumstances and societal norms for the improvement and enrichment of self. It includes an acknowledged and intentional sense of responsibility for equity, dignity and fairness toward the collective. In short, it requires “the development of social skills in a social setting.” Social literacy can be discerned in the young child who negotiates what it means to “share” with another child, or in the abled adult who refuses to park in the handicapped spots.

Why is it important:

The more ethically, morally and socially informed one is, the better we are able to effectively and successfully negotiate interpersonal relationships between our fellow man. This obligation to oneself and others demonstrates our commitment to and understanding of what it means to be “my brother’s keeper.”

Things you can do TODAY to increase Social literacy:

  • Normalize tough or uncomfortable conversations: it stands to reason that those conversations that cause us discomfort or shame are the ones we avoid at all costs. But, they are also the ones we should challenge ourselves, our families and friends to have. One of the most taboo topics – abuse – is amongst the list of the most prevalent social problems in this country. So, speaking about child, sexual or domestic/intimate partner abuse (especially if directly relevant to your family or in your intimate social circle) does two things immediately: it validates and supports the victim and it registers your denunciation of the behavior. These “little” acts pack quite the punch!
  • Advocate! Most, if not all of us are passionate about something. What’s yours? Are you affected when you see the homeless living under the bridge or sleeping on the subway bench? How about when stopped at a traffic light and a child and their parent rush to your vehicle’s window with a bucket and a sign? Do you keep your eyes straight ahead or immediately find change in your car’s console? How about the death penalty? The rising cost of health care and the sub-standard education provided to black and brown children? Racism? Mass incarceration of minority men and women? If confronting any of these causes you discomfort, empathy or anger, you’re passionate about something. So, get involved! Advocate! Challenge the bureaucrats who work for you. Donate. Volunteer. Outreach.
  • Challenge yourself to become more culturally sensitive. Being a good human means we treat others with fairness, dignity, respect and grace. That requires we learn what those qualities mean in our as well as other cultures. For instance, in Western culture, not making eye contact can be perceived as being deceptive or disingenuous. But, in some Eastern cultures, making eye contact is considered challenging, forward and disrespectful. Preparing and guaranteeing a safe and fruitful world for our children and their children require we begin today to work with our neighbor in solidarity, and that requires understanding and honoring who he or she is and what matters to them.