Justice: Everyone Has a Part to Play
June 5, 2020
At the university where I work, classes have finished up. This past semester, I taught a course on Multicultural Counseling. A big part of what we talk about is how we can help advocate for justice in the lives of our clients.
We also discuss current events related to justice. We talk about the continued struggles in our nation for people who experience discrimination and prejudice based on various identities such as race/ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. Injustice has been front and center in our country during the past couple weeks, as we continue to struggle with issues such as systemic racism and police brutality.
Sometimes I struggle with teaching this course because I’m white. In fact, I identify with just about every privileged group in our society. I sometimes wonder if the course might be taught more effectively by a person of color, or a woman. I question what my role is in promoting justice in our society. In a similar way, sometimes I struggle with knowing how to speak out about injustice in our society at large. Sometimes as a white person, it feels like I represent part of the problem, so it’s hard to know how to help.
Each of Us Has a Part to Play
As much as I struggle with this tension, I absolutely believe each of us has a part to play in working for justice in our society, irrespective of our cultural background or whether we are part of a privileged or disadvantaged cultural group.
I remember talking with a professor whom I very much respect for his work advocating for justice. He said that advocacy is viewed differently depending on the source. For example, a person of color can advocate for their group and speak from a position of experience. I can’t do that. However, there may be white people who would discount a message from a person of color, but might listen to someone who looks like me.
Don’t believe the lie that you don’t have a role or part to play in advocating for justice. Advocacy might look different depending on your background and experience. But we all need to work together to make the world a place where everyone has an equal opportunity to live a full, free life.
Have you struggled to identify your part to play when working toward justice in our society? What would advocacy look like from your position?
Before we can have justice we have to have “respect” and that is not being taught in schools or many homes.
Another essential requirement is that of a strong moral basis. Without a strong moral basis we cannot think straight. This also is not being taught, in fact most of the media advocates anything but good morals.
I think you make some good points here. I do think that justice and respect go hand in hand, although I’m not certain I agree that respect always has to come before justice. (I think perhaps I think of justice or fairness as more of a fundamental right that all people should have irrespective of whether they behave in a respectful manner. Also, it can be challenging to behave respectfully when you feel like you do not have justice.) Interesting thought about the relationship between justice and morality. You might be interested in some of Jonathan Haidt’s work on moral foundations theory. Some people view justice to be an important aspect of moral decision making, whereas others focus on other things such as authority, loyalty, and purity.