Justice

“Justice means giving each person what he or she deserves or, in more traditional terms  giving each person his or her due.” (Manual Velasquez, Clair Andre, Thomas Shanks, S.J., and Michael J Meyer/Justice and Fairness/ Markkula Center for Applied Ethics/2/22/2021) But isn’t there more to justice? What is justice anyway, and how can we make it part of our lives? How can we make justice a reality?

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.”

Psalms 89:14
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Justice dates back to Genesis in the bible, but it was debated and as a philosophical term starting with Socrates, and it continued with Plato and Aristotle. Justice was not an individual virtue but a “city” virtue or rather a societal issue according to Greek philosophy. In searching for the meaning of justice, you will also be drawn into the subject of law and its meaning of justice – according to the courts. However, that is not what this blog is about. 

Because we are looking for the definition and the virtues of strength, we must look how to incorporate justice in our own lives. Plato said that justice is the result of the weaker needing protection and not for the interest of the strong. I can see where that is a definite argument, however, justice is the ethical decision making process – and mutually recognizing the basic dignity of another person.

Justice also deals with our rights. As it is written in The Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Here in America, when I was a child, that was drilled into us at an early age. But there are other rights as well, the right to practice whatever religion we wish, we have the right to follow our dreams, we have a right to be respected, however, that is not only our rights, but everyone’s rights, so if we want to be respected and be able to enjoy our rights, we have to respect the rights of others.

As with all the strengths we have reviewed so far, Justice has a list of virtues: Fairness, equality, diversity, the ability to make right, and right relations to others.

Fairness

The idea of fairness is the idea of a level “playing field.” However, with such diversity in our society, a level playing field is difficult to impossible to come by, only because we try to level the playing field globally instead of locally. We need to focus on what is happening around us – locally – and focus on the actions and processes that are morally, honorably and equitably right. If everyone does this around the world, the playing field will become level.

The issue is that we like to take sides, when there is injustice and unfairness, we want to make sure that the “right” side wins. However, sometimes we don’t know the whole story, and we are consumed with what is right in front of our eyes.

“Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either.”

Aesop

Equality

Equality goes hand in hand with fairness. One again, we need to treat everyone fairly, they need to be given the space to be the people they want to be; not constrained by social and stereotypical harnesses that we have created as pigeon holes in our society.

Equality means that we must not see race, we must not recognize gender, we must not interfere with religion, and we need to start looking at people as people.

When I was in the Navy, My Masterchief needed someone to look after his daughter. My wife was a stay-at-home mom, and so she offered to take care of his child while we were at work. My boss said that he would come to drop his daughter off, and then we would go to work. The first day came and my Masterchief knocked on the door, and my wife answered. Everything went well and we were off to work. That night after his daughter was picked up, my wife asked me, “Why didn’t you tell me he was black?” She was just surprised that I never brought up his ethnicity.

I try not to make race an important factor, because we are one people; however, the elevation of one race above another is reprehensible. If you don’t believe me, study Germany of the 1930’s

Diversity

When you talk about equality and fairness: diversity wants to play. Diversity is a beautiful thing, when I was studying social studies in elementary school, we were exposed to a concept of “melting pot.” In other words we were supposed to be a mixture of ethnic groups – I didn’t understand diversity when I was a kid, and people melting into a pot, turned my stomach. However, as an adult, I have discovered the rich fabric of the United States.

Once again, I point to Germany of the 1930’s if you like to have “racial purity.” It didn’t work then, it won’t work now. We need to remember that we are all humans, and I don’t care what human origin story you subscribe to, whether it is God created man in his own image, we crawled out of a swamp or space seed. We all live on this planet together – we should have one race – the human race: in all its diverse beauty.

To make it right

“We must reject the idea that every time a law is broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is responsible for his actions.”

Ronald Reagan

Justice is a virtue which makes us get along harmoniously, it is also giving everybody what they deserve in each situation. In other words when something or someone is wronged, we must make it right. 

Photo by Tina Bowie on Pexels.com

My heart breaks when I hear that there was another police shooting. My heart breaks, because there is an officer that is now questioning his actions, he is under a microscope and his every move up to that moment is being scrutinized: Plus he has to live with that the rest of his life. My heart breaks for the family that has suffered this loss, they have to bury their loved one, and there will be a hole in that family forever. My heart breaks for society, because we are moving farther from Dr. King’s dream.

As it turns out, Officer shootings of black individuals are newsworthy. That is how they get the ratings. A black man gets shot, it’s all over the news. According to https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/ white people have been shot more frequently.  From 2017 to 2021, the total whites that have been shot are: 1,672. Total blacks that have been shot are: 900. Total hispanics that have been shot are: 646. The most interesting is last year; 432 whites were shot to 226 blacks; that is almost twice as many whites to blacks.

The sad part about this is: If we factor in other races that were shot and unknown; 4044 people were shot to death in the United States between 2017 and 2021. Why aren’t we marching in the streets for them – because it is not newsworthy.

Right relations to others

Relationships with other people are essential to our existence. We need to not only have relationships with loved ones and friends, but with our neighbors as well. The main reason we need to have right relations is because we will always treat those we have right relations with, with the virtues of justice. 

“It is reasonable that everyone who asks justice should do justice.”

Thomas Jefferson

Justice is the virtue of treating everyone with fairness and equality; recognizing the diverse nature of our society and when we do wrong we need to make it right, so that we can have right relations with others. Justice is a strength, and it contributes to our strength. However, justice is not easy, justice can be hard especially if we don’t see justice, but for our own strength we “… should do justice.”

Reference:

https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/justice-and-fairness/

https://www.greenwichtime.com/local/article/Perspectives-The-virtue-of-fairness-13619725.php

http://people.wku.edu/jan.garrett/ethics/rrelatio.htm

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