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Justice: The New Reparations

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Imagine for a second that someone stabbed you. Would justice call for you to stab someone else who had nothing to do with the crime perpatrated against you? Most reasoned people would suggest not. Yet it seems that these days, the term justice is thrown around to mean exactly that. Environmental justice, social justice, racial justice, and even economic justice speaks to a system that takes from some in society, regardless of their guilt in whatever actual or perceived crime, and gives to others regardless of their injury. When I was growing up, the term justice referred to what happened when a criminal committed a crime, was captured and subsequently punished by society. Back then (not ancient history by any means), aside from the most radical, most black people didn't at least publicly agree with the concept of reparations. While they might have still been angry about slavery, racism and segregation (and rightfully so), and demanded equal rights, most agreed that reparations were a bridge too far.

So the radical fringe on the left, following the Alinsky playbook and in an effort to continue to move our equally free country in the direction of the equally miserable, disposed of the term reparations, along with it's negative connotations, in favor of a much more common and already accepted term, "justice." After all, while reparations sounds like something is broken that needs fixing, who can question a person's right to Justice? The so-called "Center for Economic and Social Justice" which goes to great pains to try and distinguish their definition of justice from charity, defines justice as "giving to each what he or she is due." Notice that there is no mention of who will be doing the giving.

But this isn't justice at all. The actual definition of the word has nothing about giving people their due. In fact as the opening theoretical suggests, the current politically correct redefinition of justice amounts to nonsensically punishing one group for the actions of another. And while those that committed the sin of slavery are long gone, and while the worst white-on-black discrimination is behind us for the most part (and the rest is already illegal), proponents of such justice suggest that all, guilty or not, pay for these sins.

This author isn't suggesting that racism doesn't still exist in some quarters, or that there shouldn't be protections against discrimination. In fact, just the opposite. Those who pose such "justice" as a modern day solution to ills of the past, or some form of compensation for the prior bad actions of this country, are no better than the slave owners, slave traders and other bigoted racists throughout history. After all, reparations, race-based "justice", affirmative action and quotas are a continuation of racism and discrimination, systemically carried out against people as innocent as those on whom it was first practiced.

President Obama's much touted Supreme Court nominee, Justice Sotomayor, was celebrated for her supposed empathy and adherance to the law. Yet one of the contentious cases (barely) discussed by the media in the run-up to her confirmation was the so-called Ricci case. Here was a situation where nineteen firefighters, eighteen of them white, one hispanic, were denied promotions because the state found that not enough minorities had passed the same exam. After being escalated from court to court and finally landing on her desk, Sotomayor, along with two other judges on a panel, claimed to feel sympathy for Ricci, but felt that the state was attempting to adhere to the Civil Rights act and thus there was nothing that could be done to resolve the case in favor of the wronged firefighters. Seems to me, granting the promotions to these firefighters who passed the states own test seemed like a more than adequet solution, but I don't claim to be nearly as smart the enlightened left. Putting aside the fact that merit should trump the color of ones skin in either direction, where exactly was her empathy? Better yet, where was the justice for firefighter Ricci? Doesn't Sotomayor's continuation of a system that discriminated against whites make her as guilty of racism and discrimination as any fat, southern white guy circa 1950, even if indirectly via affirmation of the prior court rule? Of course it does.

Not only racist but faulty, such "justice" platforms hurt race relations and diversity. How many have referred to Obama as the "affirmative action president?" Perhaps that's a crude commentary without any basis in fact (though Obama could release his transcripts!), but it speaks to the fact that plenty of hard working minorities who have acheived something with their lives are lumped in with others who might not have deserved the station they got in life. With such programs trying to artificially level the playing field, who is to say which minorities deserve what they've worked for and got there because of their merits, or merely because of political correctness? And on the flipside, those that get passed over for the sin of being born in the majority harbor the same anger as any who are discriminated against, keeping the cycle of hatred going generation after generation. And while there might have been cause for some enforced diversity years ago, the fact is that after almost 50 years of such platforms, there are still no shortage of ghettos dominated by minorities, often African American. The proof is in the pudding and the pudding proves this stuff doesn't work.

It's amazing to me how so few in the activist community have thought through the implications of practicing such reverse racism and discrimination. Or perhaps they have thought it through and just don't care. As the old saying goes, two wrongs don't make a right. Yet the entire "justice" platform of the modern day left intends to do just that. Where are the left's principles? Or do those principles only apply sometimes, when it is politically correct and serves their adgenda? I think we know the answer to that one. Real principles apply always, regardless of the color of the subject's skin, or what horrors his ancestry may have endured. You can't pick and choose when to be righteous. You can't arbitrarily be just for some and not all. And justice for some shouldn't mean an infringement of rights of others. That's not what America is about.

America has had a history with racism and slavery that is a massive stain on the moral fiber on our history. S ince Americans first started debating the wording that ended up with "all men are created equal," many rightly questioned the righteousness of slavery. We've come a long way since then and for the first time have a leader who a mere 200 years ago might have likely been on the other end of a whip. That accomplishment, if not the candidate himself, should be celebrated. But Americans who propose revenge on other Americans for the sins of countrymen past are merely repeating those sins and using politically correct terminology to do it.

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About The Obnoxious American

  • Glenn Contrarian

    OA –

    When it comes to racism, very few whites have the kind of history I have…and from what I’ve seen, you’re flat wrong.

    Yes, ghettos are still there, and they’re not real nice places – but most of those ghettos are not nearly as bad as they once were. And as for Affirmative Action, this was NEVER meant as some sort of ‘revenge’ or ‘reparations’ as you seem to believe.

    Why?

    It’s hard for a kid facing what he knows is a future where he’ll have to fight against racism, when there’s NO ONE like him who’s ‘made it’ in the particular field he wants to go in.

    For instance, the Navy. In the early years of my career, it was commonly assumed that if two people were tied for a promotion, that the minority would get it before the white. Some were bitter about this…but most understood that there was a very good reason for this. And what’s that reason? It’s hard for a black junior sailor to want to strive to succeed if ALL the chiefs and officers are white. You might not agree with that statement, but it’s true.

    And it wasn’t just the blacks. Until the Civil Rights Act, Filipinos in the U.S. Navy were restricted to basically being ship’s stewards – cabin boys, laundry workers, and cooks – and it took a long time before they were truly accepted in the rest of the myriad professional ratings in the Navy.

    No, OA – it was NEVER about ‘revenge’ and ‘reparations’. When someone’s been beaten and beaten and beaten ALL his life, you can’t just stop beating him and say, “Okay, you’re one of us now, so you’re on your own.” The guy needs time to heal, to adjust to the new place where he’s at. If you don’t help him up, if you don’t reach out and help build him up, but just leave him alone to his own devices, you’re setting him up for utter failure.

    And so it goes with most (but not all) minorities in America. They’ve been beat down for generations (or even centuries), and you CANNOT just pass a law and say, “Okay, you’re equal now and you’re on your own!” If you do, you’re setting them up for failure.

    FURTHERMORE, you cannot presume to think that this transition would take only a generation. It will take generations…PLURAL.

    Ayn Rand would have gone apoplectic if she’d read what I typed…but then she never walked a mile in the shoes of the minorities.

  • The Obnoxious American

    Glenn,

    I’m not suggesting that the Civil Rights Act wasn’t necessary. At the time it was. What I am saying is that these days, it’s not only not necessary but hurtful. And the fact is that the social and economic justice platform of today IS based on a van jonesian style revenge. I’ll direct you to a passage in the article:

    “Not only racist but faulty, such “justice” platforms hurt race relations and diversity. How many have referred to Obama as the “affirmative action president?” Perhaps that’s a crude commentary without any basis in fact (though Obama could release his transcripts!), but it speaks to the fact that plenty of hard working minorities who have acheived something with their lives are lumped in with others who might not have deserved the station they got in life. With such programs trying to artificially level the playing field, who is to say which minorities deserve what they’ve worked for and got there because of their merits, or merely because of political correctness? And on the flipside, those that get passed over for the sin of being born in the majority harbor the same anger as any who are discriminated against, keeping the cycle of hatred going generation after generation. And while there might have been cause for some enforced diversity years ago, the fact is that after almost 50 years of such platforms, there are still no shortage of ghettos dominated by minorities, often African American. The proof is in the pudding and the pudding proves this stuff doesn’t work.”

  • FitzBoodle

    Let’s see, two generations of spottily enforced and widely resented Civil Rights and OA thinks all should be fair and even. After how many generations of vicious slavery and oppression?

    “We were wrong, You’re free to go your own way. Sorry. Just don’t expect any help from US!”

    Marvelous.

  • The Obnoxious American

    My family were not slave owners, and some in my family came here escaping from the war. What help did we get? What help did ANY of the minorities that came to the US with nothing but lint in their pockets get?

    Sorry but this country allows the pursuit of happiness, not happiness itself. If in 2010, in full view of a black president and black people at leadership positions in virtually every company in the world, what’s stopping minorities, even if they come from the most downtrodden inner city ghetto from making something of themselves? The answer is nothing is stopping them now but their own f’d up attitudes (i.e. Obama Money). You may feel guilted into keeping the gravy train going and that’s your right. But your guilt doesn’t change the realities mentioned in my article or the fact that enforced diversity doesn’t work, breeds contempt and in 50 years hasn’t really helped anyone all that much at all. And in this present day, it’s not needed and infringes on the rights of others to pursue their happiness.

    Don’t like that America isn’t supposed to provide chits for whatever services you deem should be free of charge? Move to utopia land. I hear that they have great health benefits for all over there.

  • Baronius

    OA – The classic definition of justice is giving to each his due. The CESJ is right. But by their second paragraph, the definition of charity, they’ve lost the distinction between classic and contemporary definitions. It only gets worse from there.

    Reparations in general are understandable. But as none of those who experienced the injustice of slavery are alive, that debt can’t be paid. As an example: my grandfather lost a couple of family members in the Irish-English dustups in the 1910’s-20’s. I don’t know the specifics, because he never talked about them. But when Irishmen get together and start acting Irish, they can work themselves into a frenzy over those old, unresolvable injustices.

    I have no claim against the Brits. I wasn’t hurt. Fitz points out that there were many generations who experienced slavery and oppression, but the fact is that those people can never be given their due.

    I remember reading that wealth in the US lasts about three generations. If my father were wealthy, I’d be more likely to be wealthy. Grandfather, less so. If my great-grandfather were wealthy, I’d have no better chance of being wealthy than the next guy. So by my calculation, no one today suffers any loss from an ancestor’s lack of wealth 145 years ago.

  • The Obnoxious American

    Baronius,

    Thanks for the well thought out response and I totally agree except for one point. The definition of justice is actually linked in the article (merriam webster), and has nothing about giving people their due but rather about fairness. And this is why I think the CESJ’s definitions page goes off the rails.

    I suppose you could say that if someone commits a crime, then their due is punishment. But if I sell you something, is the payment that I am due for that good or service a form of justice? I guess if you want to see it that way but then you start to lose the real meaning and purpose of the word.

    I think the proponents of so-called justice are actually really just looking for payment for goods and services provided by the exploited in history, a type of compensation for the pain experienced by generations past. This isn’t justice but rather guilt-backed or politically correct extortion.

  • Baronius

    OA, I found this by St. Thomas Aquinas quoting Aristotle: “justice is a habit whereby a man renders to each one his due by a constant and perpetual will”. I can’t find the passage in Aristotle, but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. Aristotle does use the example you gave, of a payment for a good. Justice is the golden mean between taking too much for a good and taking too little. (Aristotle loved golden means.)

    This view of justice can get pretty tricky – Plato says some weird things about justice – but it is old, and it’s at the heart of our modern usage of the word to refer to retributive justice. If I’m being a stickler on this point, it’s because that older understanding of justice goes right to the heart of what’s wrong with reparations. The individual seeking to receive reparations for slavery hasn’t been harmed, and isn’t due anything.

  • The Obnoxious American

    That’s pretty interesting, thanks for that. The etymology of words teaches us so much about what they truly mean, but I still maintain that the left’s redefinition of the word strays from the meaning: I don’t think there is much of a difference between the descriptions by Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, or even mine (and yours) if you think about it. None of us view justice as a generational thing because as you said, the victim is long gone, and carrying out that justice causes an injustice of it’s own. Of course that won’t stop CESJ types from redefining it as they see fit as a modern day version of reparations.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    The etymology of words teaches us so much about what they truly mean

    Except that Baronius’s Aquinas quote isn’t really about the etymology of the word.

    According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the origin of the word justice is in the Latin justitia, meaning ‘righteousness’ or ‘equity'; which in turn comes from the root justus (‘upright’, ‘just’). Significantly (I think!), the word wasn’t used in legal circles until about the 12th century.

    To me the etymological breakdown of the word implies a sense of fairness and doing the right thing – not necessarily equality, which is often confused with equity, but in this light I can see where the CESJ is coming from.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t get any further forward, since you and Baronius disagree with the CESJ as to just what is the right thing to do.

  • The Obnoxious American

    Doc

    Do you believe that what the CESJ is promoting is real justice? And note this isn’t a hit piece on the CESJ, but rather on the whole “justice” industry that has appeared in the last 10 years.

    Regardless of the etymology (which btw what you’ve cited in my view hurts the CESJ’s version of the definition), the left’s use of the term is anything but upright, or just. It’s certainly not righteous. At least that’s my opinion. Asking people today to pay for the sins of the past, to a victim long gone, is a sin in and of itself, requiring it’s own version of justice. I also think that what it prepetuates, which we can now see in the self entitled attitudes abound in this country, isn’t equity or righteousness either. So do you disagree with me on these points and why?

    You’ve probably already realized that this article is in response to the debate I had with Jeanne Browne on this topic on her Racial v Racist thread. In that thread, she exposed herself as a racist as well. She called Cheney a racist but couldn’t cite any evidence to back it up aside from the fact that he is white and republican, felt that blacks cannot be racist (to be fair, she said that the powerless cannot be racist over the powerful, regardless of the fact that blacks in America are not powerless, and the real definition of racism has nothing to do with power) and was suggesting some kind of realignment of society to resolve these ills. It got me thinking just how messed up the whole justice platform really is, and how the proponents of such ideas hurt the true cause of equality, but also hurt the very people they claim to help. Care to dispute any of these points, which are the basis of the above article?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    For the record, Obnox, I think reparations are pointless. It’s crying over spilt milk. Not to mention the ludicrous impossibility of trying to figure out exactly whose ancestors were slaves and quantifying the damages.

    There’s certainly biblical precedent (‘the sins of the fathers…’ and all that), but referring back to that isn’t really helpful here either. You only have to look at the Middle East to see where such notions of ‘generational justice’ get you.

    That said, I think there are dangers in trying to disconnect completely with the sins of the past. The Germans are – or were, until recently – particularly keenly aware of this.

    I don’t think you’re right that racism has nothing to do with power either. Certainly a black person can be as racist as his white neighbour: but because the social structures of the past still drift down to the present, the neighbour is more likely to be able to exercise injustice along with his raw racism. (For example, he’s more likely to be believed if he complains to the police that the black man threatened him in the street, as opposed to the other way round.)

    I think the CESJ is misguided, but I also think they can invoke their notion of justice just as easily from the etymology.

  • The Obnoxious American

    Doc,

    My point regarding racism is that this is not the definition of the word. I do agree with what you are saying.

    I don’t understand your last sentence.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Y’know, OA –

    There’s been study after study after study, example after example after example of how often people are judged NOT by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin.

    I’m not talking about years and years ago, but since 2000. I remember distinctly how a white guy got a Hollywood makeover so he would look black, and lo and behold suddenly everyone he dealt with viewed him with suspicion.

    And this is true of businessmen, employers, police, 7-11 clerks…you name it.

    If you keep a certain segment of humanity downtrodden for centuries, tell them for all of that time that they’re not as good as you are, and then all of a sudden it’s “okay, you’re equal, so it’s all good now, right?”…

    …no, OA, it’s NOT ‘all good now’. Dave and Arch and Sussman and a few other BC conservatives are apparently blind to the level of racism that is still blatantly extant among many of the conservatives. I think you do see that extent of the racism among many in the Far Right, but you’re basing your argument on “what ought to be”.

    Someday we’ll be at the point where we “ought to be”…but so long as racism is tolerated among the powerful in a major political party, Affirmative Action is needed.

  • The Obnoxious American

    Glenn,

    My response, quoted from the article above:

    “This author isn’t suggesting that racism doesn’t still exist in some quarters, or that there shouldn’t be protections against discrimination. In fact, just the opposite. Those who pose such “justice” as a modern day solution to ills of the past, or some form of compensation for the prior bad actions of this country, are no better than the slave owners, slave traders and other bigoted racists throughout history. After all, reparations, race-based “justice”, affirmative action and quotas are a continuation of racism and discrimination, systemically carried out against people as innocent as those on whom it was first practiced. “