Law in Contemporary Society
Justice for whom?

The idea that those in law school are in law school for one of two reasons: the love they have for justice or the hate they have for injustice, made me realize that my hate for injustice inspired me to go to law school. As an African American Muslim woman living in North Carolina during the presidential election, it is not hard to see why I decided to come to Columbia when I did.

I believe that the notion of justice is subjective. Two people can have similar definitions for what they believe is just, but individual experiences shape the application of how circumstances are perceived as being just. Which brings me to the main point that I struggle with: justice for whom. How can justice movements such as “Black Lives Matter” be deemed domestic terrorist organizations by the FBI? How can we reconcile this fact when white supremacists, responsible for twice as many deaths in the United States than Islamic terrorists considered “very fine people” by the president? How can there be justice when students at the University of Virginia are told that there is “blame on both sides” in response to the white supremacist rally on their campus? Is it just when a person who has grown up in the United States for basically all of their life is deported? Is there truly justice when Muslim countries can be banned regardless of their involvement with any terrorist organizations?

What then is justice? The profits that private prisons generate for states at the expense of persons of color? The death of young children of color, unarmed people of color, people of color who die at the hands of enforcement meant to protect them? A “color-blind” constitution that deemed black persons 3/5th of a man?

What then is justice? And where can I find it

-- NadiaYusuf - 27 Jan 2018

Nadia, thanks for posting this! I think you raise some very important questions, some of which I have considered before and others which are new to me. I agree that justice is subjective, and that the differences between our conceptions of justice are what generates these questions you posed, but I think saying it's merely subjective doesn't go quite far enough.

In my opinion, the problem here is that we like to think of justice as something that can be "achieved." Yes, it is definitely an aspiration that guides our practice of the law (hopefully/ideally), but I don't think justice is a definitive point that can be reached. Even if we all differ on what we think justice really is, it would still imply that we have some more concrete idea of what would constitute justice. I'm thinking of justice in the way that I would think about the word "home." We all agree that "home" is a place that exists, although the place you think of when I say "home" is different from the place I think of. We both still have an idea of what the right "home" is.

With justice, it seems we define what it is only by identifying what it isn't. We should do A because B would be unjust, which must mean that A is justice. I think that logical leap--because B is unjust, A, it's opposite, is just--is misguided. I would propose that justice is a feeling. It can't be achieved. It's not a real outcome. It's a mental representation that we can all understand as being the outcome that makes us feel the most positive--and that positivity may not even come close to what we might feel is "true" justice, because "true" justice is never an option. It's more like a benchmark. In other words, we think getting as close as we can to justice is justice.

In response to your more concrete questions, I think my conception of justice makes sense. Take the example of BLM and police brutality: We want justice for the atrocities that have already happened, but the outcome we really hope for is that there are legal repercussions for officers who shoot-first-ask-later. But no possible repercussion could "correct" the injustice that has already happened. Justice is not a balancing act. No consequence will be equivalent to the value of lost lives--but it will be the closest we can get. Justice, in that sense, is the acknowledgement of injustice.

And as for finding justice: I think trying to find it is a journey without an end. In practical application, I think we should aspire to justice, but focus on injustice, which (unfortunately) is much easier to locate.

-- CeciliaPlaza - 31 Jan 2018

I read two conversations going on here, one individual and one theoretical. I think I understand the first pretty well: it's about the experience of being particular persons, facing what we call around here "contemporary society." The theoretical conversation I understand less well. Mostly, I think, because we haven't brought anything into it yet beyond personal experience. What forms of learning should we add?

Each of these points of view once mastered and added to our various different understandings would help us to define, by consilience, a deeper, multi-origined answer to the theoretical question being asked.

Or, just to be localist about it, we could ask what the readings we have from Holmes and Cohen do to help us approach the question from their points of view, using their methods of social description and analysis. And even, what has Robinson, merely a character in a prose poem, got to offer us on the subject?

Nadia, I too have struggled with the conception of justice. Seeing blatant sexism construed as culture in Nigeria and evident racism guised as equality in America has made me contemplate the meaning of justice.

I believe justice is simultaneously subjective and objective. Subjective in its implementation because as Cecilia alluded to, the means of attaining it may take different paths (I may use legislation, you may use litigation). However, I strongly believe in its objectivity.

Justice means justice. Because white supremicists believe there is equality in America doesn't change the fact that there isn't. Analogize this to using prescription glasses. Comparable to those with blurry sight, individuals come with biases that are formed through socialization. However, nobody argues that because a short-sighted person can’t see past 10 feet without glasses, that there isn’t a car or a house 10 feet away. Similarly, distorted views of justice or the lack thereof, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

The FBI in labelling "Black Lives Matter" as a terrorist organization, and Trump praising white supremicists as "very fine people" is the outcome of, as MLK says, “a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity.” Surely, Trump’s take on immigration, religion, race, and gender are rooted in his distorted reality of the world around him - I’m sure he doesn’t consider himself racist or sexist. Yet, that doesn’t change the reality of what justice is.

Justice is fairly objective, people are often just myopic and require glasses to see it as it is. With my understanding of justice, the issue becomes how to make people see justice for what it really is. That, I am still unsure of.

-- VanessaAjagu - 25 Apr 2018



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r4 - 25 Apr 2018 - 02:24:18 - VanessaAjagu
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