noun. just behaviour or treatment; a judge or magistrate.
Justice, in its broadest sense is the principle that people receive that which they deserve; with the interpretation of what then constitutes “deserving” being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspectives, including the concepts of moral correctness based on ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness.
Lady Justice, a blindfolded woman carrying a sword and a set of scales, is a common symbol on courthouses in and inside some court rooms. She symbolises fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, favor, greed, or prejudice.
How do we do justice to the theme of justice? I am not sure I have the bandwidth today to go deep into this theme, so I will start sharing my thoughts and I will then return to develop them later…
Is our world just?
My world is and always has been just. However, my world is white. I live in a privileged bubble where I do not experience prejudice and I am not discriminated against. I am straight, white, heterosexual, cisgender and able bodied. I care about and am committed to social justice as an ally, but I am painfully aware that justice does not always prevail.
Justice is the result of the application of the law of the land. I have never been a juror, but the jury are a sworn group of people who are convened to make a judgement. The jury decide the penalty of a law being broken, and following their verdict they serve justice.
With the focus on unconscious bias in the education system and in recruitment processes, there is data being published in the UK this week about the disproportionate number of black children being excluded compared to their white peers. Meanwhile in the US the for-profit prison system is incarcerating a disproportionate number of black men.
How does the justice system address the social stereotypes and the biases at play to ensure that judgements are fair and just?
“Justice and judgement is often a world apart”.
We would all like to think that the universe is on the side of justice. Justice relies on integrity – on the universe imparting what is right and what is wrong. Justice relies on perspective, but perspective comes from knowledge and experience.
There is a proverb that says “The more laws the less justice”.
Do we have too many laws? Do we disempower ownership of behaviour and consequences through the red tape?
This can be linked to schools with too many rules. In a school or society founded on global human values, the culture and ethos is based on contracting withing the community about how we treat each other.
Justice is thus about relationships, commitments and accountability. A commitment from us as individuals, a collective pledge re how we behave and interact, and how the universe holds us accountable.
“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice”.
Martin Luther King
We all aspire to living in a just world, in a fair society, but we don’t. In fact the social inequities are becoming starker.
Justice requires those with privilege, those with advantage, those with dominance to relinquish some of the power that they hold.
The privileged, the advantaged, the dominant have established the systems and structures that trap the marginalised in the injustice.
How can we address the imbalance in society? How can encourage the privileged to reflect on the power they hold? How can we hold the people with power to account?
The are 5 principles of Social Justice: Access (greater equality of access to goods and services); Equity (overcoming unfairness caused by unequal access to economic Resources and power); Rights (equal effective legal, industrial and political rights); Participation (expanded opportunities for real participation in the decisions which govern their lives).
One of the ways of addressing the power imbalances within society is through advocacy.
“Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both”.
Justice is based on truth, on what really happened. A basic problem in law is that facts are usually contested. The legal process is designed to uncover the truth of what happened, and perjury is a serious offence.
How do we establish the truth? Who’s truth is the truth as there is your truth, my truth and somewhere in the middle there is ‘The Truth’?
Truth in the law means objective, reliable facts that may be admitted as evidence in a trial. Yet, some critical theory philosophy rejects the idea of justice because it rejects the existence of truth.
The Socratic vision of justice is of natural law. Natural law is a theory in ethics and philosophy that says that human beings possess intrinsic values that govern our reasoning and behavior. Natural law maintains that these rules of right and wrong are inherent in people and are not created by society or court judges.
“Truth never damages a cause that is just”.
Justice requires human interpretation. The situation and the facts are reviewed and interpreted through the lens of the law.
How do we interpret the law? How do we perceive justice in society?
I dabble with having card readings to help me clarify my thinking. In Tarot card readings the Justice card indicates that the fairest decision will be made. Justice is the sword that cuts through a situation, and will not be swayed by outer beauty when deciding what is fair and just. The meaning of the card is interpreted differently dependent on which way it faces. The perspective of the judge alters our view of the situation.
“Justice is invisible. You can’t decide who gets civil rights and who doesn’t”.
Justice is underpinned by different concepts and theoretical frameworks.
Restorative justice is an approach to justice in which one of the responses to a crime is to organise a meeting between the victim and the offender, sometimes with representatives of the wider community.
As a school we embraced restorative justice instead of a punitive sanctions policy. Restorative justice is about finding resolutions and about learning from our mistakes.
How do we teach morality in schools? How do we instill morals in our children? How do our morals guide our behaviour? How do our morals shape our sense of justice?
“Justice is the sum of the moral duty”.
Social justice is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society, as measured by the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privileges.
Social equity is concerned with justice and fairness of social policy.
Social policy is policy within a governmental or political setting, such as the welfare state and study of social services. Social policy consists of guidelines, principles, legislation and activities that affect the living conditions conducive to human welfare, such as a person’s quality of life.
Social advocacy is the concept of empowering a team or group of individuals to support an idea, need, person, or group.
In #FastForwardDiversityInclusion this weekend we talked to Dr Fran Johnston, a researcher and transformative change leader. She stated we can judge the success of an organisation or a society by how they treat the marginalised.
How do we fight for social justice as an individual? How do we advocate for social equity? How do we challenge social policy?
“Justice will be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”.
This theme has made my head hurt today. It is our 98th day, it has been a long few months and I am tired, but it is when we are tired that we slow down, that we step back and that we can lose momentum. Let’s stay focused, committed and purposeful to address the injustices in the world.
“Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere”.
Martin Luther King