Difficult Discussion: The Failure of School Integration in America

Last week, I came across an article on Slate about the failure of American schools to integrate in the 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education. This is a hard conversation to have, but the author of the Slate article argues that busing was not the answer to segregated schools, and integration was doomed from the beginning since it depended on busing. He also argues that the black middle class was (almost) just as against busing as the white middle class — they wanted the end of segregation to be high-quality education for their children, like white middle-class children were getting, not busing to schools with average education and average students who just happened to be white.

My quick summary is definitely not doing justice to the original, thoughtful essay, and you should definitely read the whole thing.

Please share in the comments your experience of the American school system, and its segregation, integration, or something else entirely as you have experienced it.

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New Liberal Vocabulary

If you read social justice works from the 1960s or 70s (or if you were around then) you’ll notice that the vocabulary of social justice has changed in the intervening decades. For example, privilege (with an emphasis on the benefits individuals derive from their position in the social hierarchy) is now used, instead of oppression (with an emphasis on the disadvantages accruing to large groups of people due to the system).

In general, the new vocabulary words emphasize the individual, as opposed to the old vocabulary emphasizing the collective and the group.

I highly recommend reading the entire article, The Rise of the Post-New Left Political Vocabulary on The Public Autonomy Project, a project of Stephen D’Arcy, a philosophy professor at Huron University College in London, Ontario.

The thing I have noticed is that both vocabularies stem from the particular way of thinking that goes along with a generation and the events that affect that generation. The old vocabulary comes from the Baby Boom generation, while the new vocabulary comes from the Millenial generation. As someone who doesn’t really fit in those generations (or any one, really, as a very young Gen Xer), I find that none of the vocabulary really speaks to me and the way I think, although I definitely feel more comfortable with the new vocabulary. How about you? Which vocabulary speaks to you more? Which one are you most comfortable with? Please share in the comments.

Meeting Next Sunday

Next Sunday (Sept. 22) at 3 pm at the UU Church in IF, the UUCIF Social Justice Committee will meet. Please come! We have lots of exciting projects to work on.

  • Postcard project to send to the Idaho Board of Correction
  • Reaching out to restaurant owners — what do they need from employees? Long-term, we want to create a training program for low-skilled workers to gain the skills they need for successful employment at restaurants
  • the Social Justice Calendar of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Come make a difference in your life and your community!

Invented: A way to track the medications of the mentally ill

Tablets and Patches of Clonidine, Comprimés et...

Tablets and Patches of Clonidine, Comprimés et patch transdermique de clonidine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man, Don Spector, claims he has invented a way to track whether or not mentally ill patients have taken their medication. He acknowledges it is an invasion of privacy. Others claim that it is a slippery slope, and that if we begin by tracking those who have been violent, we may end by tracking those who merely despair.

To some degree, I believe society has an interest in making sure that mentally ill people, especially those with a proven propensity to violence (a very small minority of the mentally ill) have taken their medications. This of course does not guarantee that they will not lash out, but I do believe it makes society safer, as well as those individuals.

Historically, prior to about 30-40 years ago, the rights of the mentally ill were completely subsumed and they were often institutionalized for life, whether or not they needed or wanted it. Now, the institutions are pretty much gone in the U.S., and the rights of the mentally ill are almost always paramount, as they are for most other people.

These are very difficult topics, and I don’t believe there is one right answer. More issues are discussed in the article, which I highly recommend reading.

What do you think? Is such an invention ethical or unethical? Whose rights triumph here?

More on The New Jim Crow

Cover of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcer...

Cover via Amazon

As I mentioned last week, I have been reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander for a discussion group. This week we were supposed to have read up to chapter 3, and unlike last week, all of the group had at least started the book, some had read more than the requirement, and most of us were at least close to where we were supposed to be. (Speaking for myself, I had not quite finished chapter 2. Oops.) This led to a good discussion, mostly focused on how scary the criminal justice system has become, especially for those in our society without many resources, particularly monetary.

One point that we only briefly touched on was the forfeiture laws. Basically, if illegal drugs have ever been on a property, it can be seized. There is a provision for ‘innocent owner’, but it is very difficult to use this provision. For example, a woman with an abusive husband or boyfriend can lose her house and car just because he used drugs there — she ought to have known and stopped him, even if he was abusive or she never saw the drugs being used.

Courts have not been forgiving of women in these circumstances, frequently concluding that “the nature and circumstances of the marital relationship may give rise to an inference of knowledge by the spouse claiming innocent ownership.” (quoting United States v. One Parcel of Real Estate Located at 9818 S.W. 94 Terrace) p. 82, The New Jim Crow

I find this truly shocking.

Thoughts on Immigration, Part Three

This is the 3rd part of a series. Read the 1st part here. Read the 2nd part here.

Today I want to talk about the reasons people have for leaving their home countries in Latin America and coming to the United States. Why are they so desperate that they cannot wait for the legal methods (aside from their incredible slowness and wait times of decades)?

The violence in Latin America is shocking. Mexico is the worst, and the one we hear about most, but the other countries farther south, especially Guatemala and Honduras, are just about as bad. What is the source of the violence? Right now, it’s due to the drug traffickers using these countries as a base, as Columbia becomes more able to control its countryside and enforce its laws, and the US Coast Guard has shut down the Caribbean sea route for getting drugs into the United States.

Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras have never fully recovered from their civil wars of the 1970s and 80s. Almost all security in the countryside is from private security companies, not the police. The drug traffickers find it incredibly easy to move their products through these countries, bringing drug addiction and violence with them.

Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama, do not find themselves in such desperate straits, but they are still struggling with this sudden influx of violence from drug traffickers.

The drugs, of course, are coming to the United States. The war on drugs is not working, it only moves the violence from our doorstep to the countries farther south. I don’t know if legalization is the answer, but I do know that our current policies are not working. We cannot expect to have limited immigration from our southern neighbors when we export the violence of our illegal drug market to them.

However, drug violence is not the entire story. Even if that problem were solved (thorny as it is) then something would still need to be done about the economies of these countries. Except for Panama and Costa Rica, most of the children do not go onto secondary education. And in Panama and Costa Rica, there aren’t enough jobs for skilled people, so the education they have is not put to work.

The opportunities, even for illegal immigrants, are so much greater in the United States that it is no surprise that people want to live here instead.

Mexico is a slightly different story. The drug violence is increasing daily in Mexico, and it is no wonder that the people would like to escape it. But when it comes to education, the educational opportunities are much better in Mexico. But the economy of the Mexican countryside is almost entirely farm-based, and not very efficient. It cannot provide a living to the entire population.

To summarize, there are several very complicated problems occurring in Mexico and Latin America, all of which will be difficult to solve and some of which cannot be solved by people from outside the affected countries, however well-meaning.

Monday, a discussion of justice and how it fits with these problems and their solutions.

Read Part Four

Thoughts on Immigration, Part Two

This is the 2nd part of a series. Read the 1st part here.

One root cause of immigration to the United States is the basic demand for cheap labor that doesn’t ask for much, if anything, and will work in almost any conditions. Most citizens will not work under those conditions, understanding their rights and the basic conditions that are legally required.

The labor laws in this country are meant to provide for basic safe conditions, a minimum wage, and safe workplaces. However, in many dangerous industries, those laws are often enforced patchily, usually only after a worker dies. The agricultural industry has also won itself many exemptions to those laws through lobbying. Those exemptions made a lot more sense when most farms were small, family-run outfits, but most agriculture is now owned by corporations who could easily afford the added expense of compliance.

Making labor laws apply to all industry, and uniformly and strictly enforced, would increase the numbers of native-born people willing to work in those jobs. They currently don’t, as they are better educated and know their rights, and are confident of finding a safer job.

The agricultural industry insists, for example, that paying minimum wage would make the price of food go up. (I know there are many farmers who do pay minimum wage, but this discussion focuses on the industry in aggregate.) I am sure the price of food would go up, but I would pay more if I knew that I was supporting minimum wages for the harvesters.

My main objection to, say, a more expensive apple versus the cheaper one at the store down the street, is that I don’t know why the expensive apple costs more. If I knew, from a sign in the store, that the expensive one is paying for better working conditions for the apple pickers, I would be much more likely to buy it. This would mean a revolution in how apples are packed and shipped, but I think it would be worth it.

There will always be dirty jobs that only those who can’t get better will do, but if we could make the pool of jobs smaller, then fewer people would come to the United States to do them, making it easier to manage the numbers and reduce the backlogs (of course also dependent on the laws being reformed, as I discussed yesterday in part one).

Tomorrow I will talk about the reasons in their home countries that cause people to want to leave for the United States.

Read Part Three; Part Four.

Social Justice Forum

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Richard, who attended the sermon & subsequent forum on social justice that we are reviewing here.

On Sunday, March 27 Reverend Lyn Cameron presented her homily on Justice, Social Justice and GD Social Justice. After the service we held a forum discussion on the subject of social justice in which church members had the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions on this very important and timely topic. We agreed that social justice is achieved when everyone regardless of background, wealth, social status, race, ethnicity, gender identity, etc is treated equally (in accordance with a single set of rules) on all social matters.

It should be obvious to all who pay even casual attention to the news that America, indeed the whole world, is in a major state of social, political and financial unrest. In such times social injustices of all manner and degrees become almost common place. It seems that many governments around the world and here among the 50 states have declared war on their own people. The combat is focused on social and financial matters. The financial crises, real and trumped up, are being used as justification to cut a wide swath through social programs such as public services, education, financial aid, medical aid and many others.

During our forum discussion the subject of causation in social problems came up. When government entities from local to national, design remedies to social problems they must make an effort to determine what is causing the problem to arise in the first place. At this stage officials must be on guard to determine if special interest groups are pushing a narrow issue agenda for their own benefit. Often the root cause is not readily discernable and a program is legislated that partially alleviates the problem and in some cases makes it worse. This latter outcome is the result of the “law of unintended consequences” coming into play. Unintended consequences can best be ameliorated but never totally avoided by transparency in policy making and execution at all levels of government and social organization. Transparency means open meetings, avoidance of conflicts of interest, encouraging public input, honoring successful practices, minimizing secrecy and striving for just outcomes.

The most glaring example of unintended consequences that comes to mind is the failure of the war on drugs to solve illegal drug trafficking which has grown into a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry. So Rule No. 1 in developing a social justice action plan is to get to the bottom of the injustice before setting an action plan and target goal.

We recognized that there are limits to solving social justice problems. The slavery issue is a good study in this regard. Ending slavery became an issue in the U.S. nearly 200 years ago. It has been nearly 150 years since slavery was abolished but the injustice did not end then. It has morphed into what we call ‘racism’ today in which various modes of social discrimination are directed at the descendents of the African slaves and other non-white groups in the U.S. Racism will not end until the golden rule becomes second nature to all humanity.

The question arose regarding the role of central planning in addressing social justice issues. Central planning works best when it sets the ground rules rather than mandating certain behaviors on social issues. Anti-discrimination statutes, especially the Civil Rights Act, are a good example here. Some see the CRA as a government mandate and resent it accordingly while the majority (one hopes) see this act as the rules of the game for all citizens to play by.

This writer thinks that the most effective social justice programs spring spontaneously from local self-organized groups such as churches, social clubs and communities in which the need is readily apparent. Although they may have only local impact on many issues a good idea can catch fire and spread nationwide. The internet has become the technological solution to sharing good ideas on social justice problems.

“Rags to riches” describes the dominant American success story. Recognition of success is granted to those who succeed in making lots of money and these are mostly limited to business executives, successful entrepreneurs, and movie and athletic stars. High achievers in the arts, sciences and humanitarian efforts are recognized with special awards but not often with wealth. How many Americans can name the U.S. poet laureate? I know I can’t. Why is this? In a nutshell a simple answer is; that in a materialistic consumerist society such as the U.S. money is king. Money buys influence and lots of nice stuff. Everyone wants more money. Aristotle Onassis (or was it George Soros?) was considered the wealthiest man in the world several decades ago and when asked if he thought he had enough money he responded “not quite yet”. Apparently the greed for money is insatiable. Enough said.

In our capitalistic democracy wealth is now and probably always has been a key factor in how social justice is administered. Some cynic once remarked to the effect that “America has the best justice money can buy”. The statue at the Supreme Court entrance of the blindfolded lady justice holding the scales is an ideal but not a reality here in the good ole U$A. America is well on the road to becoming a two-class society, the poorly paid working class and the wealthy elite. This can easily become the seed of revolution as it has in many historical as well as current circumstances. The Middle-East demonstrations against authoritarian governments are increasing in number and violence. Revolution has erupted in Libya. If the current trend in America continues there will likely be a violent revolt against corporate domination of our ruling bodies. Let’s hope that people come to their senses (a transformation in consciousness?) before it reaches this stage.

The quest for social justice is driven by the human desire for freedom and the opportunity to pursue a life of one’s choosing with a minimum of outside interference. It is likely a driving force in human evolution as well as we continue to seek the utopian dream of the best of all possible worlds.

 

Part Two: “Justice, Blind Justice and “God Damned” Social Justice”

Editor’s Note: This is the 2nd of a 2-part series on the sermon,
“Justice, Blind Justice and “God Damned” Social Justice”, given by Rev. Lyn Stangland-Cameron on March 27, 2011. Read Part One.

Another story that illustrates the need for social justice is the story of the babies in the river — people picnicking along the banks of a river discover a baby – floating in the stream – one man wades in and rescues the baby and everyone is outraged but they dry it off and begin tending to it when another baby comes floating down – ad yet another rescue is made. But before that infant can be cared for, yet another man leaps in to save another baby and then more babies come floating along -with everyone in the town busily trying to rescue babies and to find them shelter, food and clothes and mourning in despair because as hard as they try, the babies keep floating by and the entire town is becoming exhausted and anxious until someone determines that what they need to do is to travel upstream to see what is happening there. They decide that what they need to do is find out why the babies are floating in the river in the first place. — In Social Justice, we seek an answer that does not simply address the symptoms but seeks an ending the causes of injustice.

Carl Bankston III, a professor of sociology at Tulane University, explains the history of “ Social Justice” in “Social Justice, Cultural origins of a Perspective and a Theory” (The Independent Review, v. 15, n. 2, Fall 2010, ISSN 1086–1653, Copyright © 2010, pp. 165–178.) Bankston writes,

.the late philosopher John Rawls is the theorist most closely associated with the term (Social Justice and) …it expressed attitudes shaped by two historical experiences: the rise of a mass- consumption economy and the adoption of the civil rights movement….

He continues,

By the early 1950s, the United States was responsible for 45 percent of world manufacturing output and 18 percent of all exports (Frost 1992). By 1958, economist John Kenneth Galbraith was characterizing the United States as an “affluent society.” In this new economy, according to Galbraith, the fundamental issue was no longer how to achieve sufficient production, but how to distribute what was being produced. He argued that the nation was spending too much on private consumption to the detriment of public goods and public interests. Galbraith, later an associate and advisor of President John F. Kennedy, maintained that the production of private consumer goods without government guidance left corporations to pursue profits through advertising to increase demand for luxuries, while roads fell into disrepair and children attended badly maintained schools. This high private consumption also left the poor behind the rest of society.

We all know the term de’ja vu? Well, does this description sound familiar?

Galbraith proposed steering more investments toward public spending, especially spending for education…

President Kennedy identified the country’s underprivileged segment as an area of increased attention at the beginning of his own administration… Kennedy’s attention to the poor reflected distributional expectations as well as ideas about the relationship between demand and production. In the land of plenty, there should be no shortages for anyone. Not only must prosperity be widely shared, but it must also completely wipe out poverty.

Boosting the poor’s ability to consume had both a demand- side economic rationale and a moral force.

…. the federal assistance programs of the New Deal era—including the Social Security Act of 1935 and its welfare provisions (Aid to Dependent Children, Aid to the Blind, and Aid to the Disabled, and the National Housing Act of 1934) — were at least in part efforts to stimulate the economy by increasing demand. By the postwar period, it had become the common wisdom that spending drove production

The issue that Glen Beck and others continually harp upon is their concern that “Progressives” use the term “social justice’ to “redistribute wealth” — to take from the hard-working rich and give to the undeserving poor has, in my perspective, obviously succeeded in allowing America’s corporations and the very rich to become even richer and even more powerful.

The “political right” are also outraged that their tax monies support moral and social values they deem unworthy: schools and services for illegal aliens, to support “diversity” (members of the BGLT community,) and non-traditional families (single parents and welfare mothers) or even to provide resources for family planning and women

So I think it is time that we UU’s here in Idaho Falls examine our relationship with social justice – with the causes that our social justice team has identified and that we have stepped forward to support -with our stance against torture, for a compassionate national program that would provide heath care for all, with work for peace, with the “350” program that emphasizes a reduction in CO2 and strives for sustainability, with our rallies against bullying and for legislation in Idaho that protects human rights for all including members of the bisexual, gay, lesbian and transsexual community and others.

Two of the seven principles of our Unitarian Universalist Association incorporate the word “Justice”

The second principle reads, “We covenant to affirm and promote justice, equity and compassion in human relations, and number six reads “we covenant to affirm and promote the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.

Richard S. Gilbert, long time minister of The UU Church in Rochester, New York, ends “Prophetic Imperative, Social Gospel in Theory and Practice” devotes this text to an exploration and justification for why our Unitarian Universalist churches, societies, fellowships communities, and congregations, ( we may call ourselves by different names but we are one in our covenant) devote so much of our efforts to “social justice” to the very causes that those like Beck and others so condemn. Gilbert, like the mainline Christian denominations recognizes an Old Testament – Hebrew Bible “prophetic imperative” based on Biblical passages like that of the prophets, Micah, Isaiah, Amos and others who,

pointed out the perils of wickedness…the ancient prophets believed that the meaning of life is the struggle for justice in the community. The prophet Micah 6:10”What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to walk humbly with your God?” and Amos 5: 21, 24 rails against the temple ceremonies and sacrifices that occupy so much time and energy -saying, “I despise your feasts, I take no delight in your solemn assemblies…but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”

And Gilbert reminds us that the Jesus of the Gospels certainly spoke out against injustice and stood on the side of the forgotten and downtrodden. From the parable of the Good Samaritan to the Sermon on the Mount Jesus did not side with those in power, nor with the rich and powerful but with those in need. Gilbert uses the term “Social Gospel” to describe “that historic turn of the century movement in American churches that sought to relate the churches as a corporate entity to social problems. “Justice making” he says is a contemporary synonym for social gospel.” (p7)

It is from this tradition that reformers like Jane Adams and Albert Schweitzer, Susan B. Anthony, Rachael Carson, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King were born. It is a tradition that recognizes that “freedom, by its very nature places an imperative claim on the free person to expand that freedom to all.” And church leaders realized as well defined the church as “ a social change agent and a transformer of culture

Gilbert continues, …it is appropriate for the religious community to self-consciously analyze its role in the society as an agency of potential power, a task difficult for the free-church tradition with its stress on individualism.” (p8)

The church then is called to participate as a change agent — to participate not only in “charity” but also in creating systemic change – change that is directed at the underlying causes of social problems rather than merely at their symptoms. Gilbert reminds us that food kitchens, which do a wonderful job of feeding people need to be accompanied by actions and plans designed to root out the causes of the hunger and want. A systemic approach challenges the underlying premise of the American economy which produces poverty in the middle of plenty and deals with public policy issues: taxation, government welfare programs, and income distribution among others.” (p8)

One stark reminder that a systemic approach to justice is needed – that-social justice is necessary is very present in the recent discussions surrounding the cost of education in the US. in a presentation to Susquehanna University Angela Davis, retired professor from the University of California, revealed that a government study by the Justice Policy Institute found that the increase between 1985 and 2000 in spending on education in states was on average 24 percent. The increase on corrections spending was 166 percent!

Rev. Gilbert concludes his work by quoting an un-named soldier of the Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War, “People who have principles but no programs,” he said, “turn out in the end to have no principles.”

 

 

“Justice, Blind Justice and “God Damned” Social Justice”

Let’s start our conversation about social justice with the sermon by Reverend Lyn Stangland Cameron on March 27, 2011. This is a two-part series. The second part will appear tomorrow.

Glenn Beck on Social Justice

Excerpts from Glenn Beck on Social Justice

Here’s my definition of social justice: Forced redistribution of wealth with a hostility toward individual property rights, under the guise of charity and/or justice.

On my radio program, I said if your church is promoting… “Social or economic justice,” you should run from it or at least get educated on what progressives mean by this.

Voluntary charity doesn’t go far enough? Give to the poor by taking from the rich? Unfortunately that means theft.

You can boil these justices down to one thing: It is a fancy name for socialism, which is forced redistribution of wealth, which is a fancy name for Marxists.

Excerpts from Beck. March 23, 2011

So what do you think of those accusations that describe churches with social justice agendas as evil? Though people like Beck and other extremists claim and criticize in the name of freedom, or the constitution or Christianity — their language and their malicious attacks, are carefully targeted and crafted to undermine the true spirit of American society – to pit citizen against citizen.

I have long suspected that the real reason that Acorn, and Van Jones, the unions and Rev. Jeremiah Wright have been targeted and denounced so viciously is quite simple— the work done by those individuals and organizations has been on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised; they, Acorn, Van Jones, Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the unions all address matters that have to do with justice –social justice!

I believe that the condescending attitudes and attempts to discredit President Obama’s years of experience as a community organizer are not only racist but are also tied to efforts to discredit that work itself. The work of a “community organizer” is most often “social justice” work and for some “social justice” inspires vicious outrage.

Even though the massive triple disasters in Japan and the latest series of Middle East crises, have somewhat re-directed the nation’s energies, the anti-social justice rhetoric keeps getting nastier.

If you were to “Google” “Social Justice” you would discover that some of the most prominent places that term is displayed are on the websites of Unitarian Universalists churches.

For instance, the web page for All Souls UU in Washington DC prominently displays a page entitled,

A History of Social Justice at All Souls” and is underscored with this quotation.

“Let them be remembered in the Church of All Souls with him who took his place among the lowly and went about doing good.”
– Frederick Douglass, 1892

And, the text continues,

The congregation that is now All Souls was founded in 1821 as the First Unitarian Church. From its opening days, the church has answered a call to serve others and to offer a prophetic voice for justice in the nation’s capital. The following are some highlights from this long history of social justice at All Souls. And then the All Souls webpage has links to their church history under these headings

1821 -1865 A Call to Service, Stands Against Slavery

1865 -1925 Education, Women’s Rights, WWI

1925- 1950 Early Civil Rights, Youth, Helping Europe and Japan

1950 -1975 Civil Rights, Helping the Neighborhood, Vietnam

1975 – present, Central America, South Africa, Continuing work.

As a matter of fact not only does Google direct you to Unitarian Universalists churches and the UUA website, but it also leads to many other mainline Christian and Jewish religious groups, and to a wide variety of Non-governmental organizations which all share what appears to be the goal of helping people. So, if Glen Beck is right and the term “social justice “ is an evil, an un-American “socialist” code term — then he must also be correct in asserting that the evil goals of “social justice” are pervasive.

Perhaps the best place to begin to understand why the idea of “social justice” has become such a polarizing term and its opposition a rallying cry for many libertarians, tea partiers, conservatives, and cranks is with a quick history of the idea of “justice.” “Justice” would seem to be something that everyone can agree is a good thing?

So what is justice? A few weeks ago some of us watched the “Justice” session from the Necessity of Virtue video series by Rev Dr. Galen Guengerich – “Justice” Guengerich says relates to loyalty, citizenship, teamwork, fairness, equality and equity. And,

“is a process; a procedure we follow in our political lives to ensure that all of us are maximally free to pursue whatever goals we choose in life. Justice is also a purpose, a set of goals we pursue in our religious lives to ensure that all of us fulfill our potential.”

One legal dictionary defines the noun “justice” as “fairness” and “moral rightness” as a “scheme or system of law in which every person receives his, her, its due from the system, including all rights both natural and legal from the system. It goes on to explain how the nature of law and the courts often leads to those with power and money having advantage and influence on the nature of legal justice. (1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill)

The Center for Economic and Social Justice explains “justice” this way,

Functionally, “justice” is a set of universal principles, which guide people ( in judging) what is right, and what is wrong, no matter what culture and society they live in. (CESJ website)

The center also distinguishes charity from justice by explaining that justice is distinct from the virtue of charity …While justice deals with the substance and rules for guiding ordinary, everyday human interactions, charity deals … cases where (one gives) to relieve the suffering of a person in need…True charity involves giving without any expectation of return. (and it continues) But it (charity) is not a substitute for justice. (CESJ website

So if justice is the system that guides people in judging what is right and fair – then “Lady Justice” is often pictured wearing a blind fold to remind us that all people deserve to be treated equally by the law; old people, and young, that the law provides a level playing field where everyone has equal access to the same rules. Justice is “blind” because whether you are Joe Shmo or Lindsey Lohan it is not OK to take things that do not belong to you!

Blind justice makes for a level playing field, —which fosters justice,— except, of course, even if the playing field is level, chances are that not everyone arrives with similarly equipped or with equal training or physical abilities and that is where “Social Justice” enters the conversation.

According to the Center for Economic and Social Justice,Social justice is the virtue, which guides us in creating those organized human interactions we call institutions. In turn, social institutions, when justly organized, provide us with access to what is good for the person, both individually and in our associations with others. Social justice also imposes on each of us a personal responsibility to work with others to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development. (CESJ website)

A most interesting demonstration of a truly “just” society would have each one of us write down our lives – the salient features – our net worth; financial resources, access to health care, education etc. on a piece of paper and then for all those papers to be placed in a giant jar and then to imagine that each of us were to blindly draw one out – and in a just society the wealth or resources would be pretty evenly distributed and we would then each be fairly content with the life we had drawn!

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