While I do not count myself as an active member of any denomination or religious tradition, though raised in the rich tradition of Adventism, I do count myself as a believer in the great Teacher. I am a “Red Letter Christian,” if you will, a disciple who aspires to walk in the footsteps of the man from Samaria, that hero on the road to Jericho. As we witness the events unfolding since the murder of our brother, George Floyd, my conscience will not abide a genteel sip of the holy cup. Rather, I must drink from that noxious dew the “great cloud of witnesses” leaves for nourishment to those who pray for help with unbelief.
I’m not sure that it’s as much of an effect of the intellectual chicanery, but a “minitus” problem of the system that we have, in which we don’t care to justify philosophical position of “mine” beyond it being an assumption that’s perpetuated as an axiom. That axioms is seldom deconstructed, and the scope of our responsibility as it relates of how we as individuals benefit from broader net of structure, is seldom explained.
Yes, you could say that it’s about cops killing black people like Floyd. But, these killings are arguably rare. What isn’t rare is a context in which these type of encounters exist. Cops, who are middle-class citizens, end up largely enforcing the property rights of their communities in a way that “maintaining order and justice”, which in some isolated settings becomes “order over justice” that MLK was disappointed with. So, it is a problem of “minatus” expressed itself differently on either side of that equation of “what’s mine is mine”.
On one end, there’s a feeling of deserving something because one worked for it and earned it. On the other , there’s a feeling of deserving something because of the idea that it was taken from you… as an opportunity, dignity, etc.
The first important thing to recognize is that either side of that equation understands justice to be two very different concepts, and looks at justice through two different lens. Hence, I’m not really sure that throwing the word “justice” without a clear definition would achieve anything other than what I described above - people talking past each other. One side points to the rules of the game in order to justify winning the game. The other claims that the rules are rigged and unfair, even though one signs to play by these rules.
The second thing to recognize, depending on how one defines justice, is that MLK was both wrong and correct. If we define justice as some existential phenomenon, independent of any human contracts and agreements, and largely stick with some ideals of the “grand narratives”, then both you and MLK have a point. Picking justice over order makes sense. On the other hand, if justice could only be viably defined in a scope of human contracts that are formulated in the societal laws, then we can’t have justice apart from the system in which justice is a mechanism. And you can’t rationalize away the theft and private property damage simply because one feels wronged and sees no other way to make a point.
So, before we get to discuss these issues, I think we need to stop assuming that there’s a default understanding of “justice” apart from subjective “push and pull” mechanism that mitigates some “middle ground” ideals. As you know, most of the cases are settled out of court.
The second point to make, which is a little more complex to address in full here, but it relates with statistical approach of projecting injustice on some scope of disparity as opposed to addressing these issues in specific case-by-case basis in which individuals and not groups are evaluated. After all, one couldn’t be saying that all of the individual cases are accounted for, yet as a whole there’s some “emergent wrong”.
There’s a tendency as of late to consolidate statistics derived from complexity of individual cases, and then re-project it back on individual without any nuances that such statistical models couldn’t communicate.
If you have time to, I would like to hear your perspective on these issues, or anyone’s perceptive for that matter. What does the concept of justice mean to you?
David Hoffman, is a documentary film maker - or was. Every few days or so, he releases footage of old interviews he’s done (on his YT channel), which he believes helps his viewer better understand the past - he’s got some really good stuff too. On June 17th of this year he shared with us this 26 min interview. And the title couldn’t have said it better:
“The Most Intense Heartfelt Description Of Racism I Ever Filmed”
As my subscribers know, I have done thousands of interviews in my life. This interview with journalist, civil rights advocate, lawyer Roger Wilkins was one that I never forgot. I asked him to be straight and honest with me and to speak to his grandchildren in the future, of his experiences. That is exactly what he did, with such intensity and clarity. During this challenging time with the black lives matter movement and police unfairness and the coronavirus pandemic, I thought that I would present Roger’s comments again. I always felt that every student (at any age) should hear Roger to better understand what was experienced by so many Americans during slavery, in the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s, and, to some extent, today. I want to take the time in this description to thank Roger Wilkins for the effort and energy he put into his responses to my questions.
I will most definitely watch this again.
Roger Wilkins: “And when we get together, they will cease to be ignorant about us, and the scales will fall from their eyes and they will begin to be decent… that’s what I thought, I was pretty naive.”