HOW TO GO FROM SYSTEMIC INJUSTICE TO SYSTEMIC JUSTICE
I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free...so that other people also could be free. -- Rosa Parks
It being Black History Month, no quote seems more relevant to begin a reflection on consistent ethics and systemic injustice. Racism is one of the starkest examples in North American history of a system that perpetuated violence and dehumanization, injustice that was stitched into the fabric of society and underwrote an entire regional economy. Racism, warped around slavery and then segregation, created a consistent system of radical injustice. Racism violently illustrates the power of systemic consistency in a negative sense.
So one must ask: What is the system we live in based on? It may be consistent within itself, but are its consistencies just or unjust? Because systems to societies are like seas to fishes. We swim in them; we don’t define, understand, or actively shape them. As the older fish said to the small fry, “How’s the water?” and the little fellow replied, “What’s water?”
And yet as human beings, political beings(1) we do create systems. Consistently.
No government, and no system, functions without some consent of those within it, whether actively or passively. In the United States, this fact of system “of, by, and for” the people is consciously codified in her founding documents and constitution.
Our human movements in our personal lives, our professional lives, our integrated lives either solidify the system, or start anew. None of this is theory. Life happens in practice. Justice, or violence, happens in practice. Systems form on our choices.
It is frightfully important to be conscious of our lives. It is what we live that is what we believe, whatever we think; but also what we unconsciously think that slips sidelong into our living.
So at the close of Black History Month, let’s talk about the systemic implications of being consistent and being just. Let’s talk about a nation that used people before, and now has the killing of preborn people, in particular, neatly and systemically codified into its laws through the Supreme Court decisions of Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey.
Or let’s talk about a system that uses women, and places an unjust burden on them to care for, carry, and raise a child. Or perhaps a system that discriminates against students with kids. Or perhaps a system that…
Examples are endless. In Rosa Parks’ era, certain human beings were beaten, denied equal pay, denied equal standing in public places, and denied public transport -- because of the color of their skin. Even after the abolition of slavery, men and women were lynched because of their skin color.
People were killed, and it fit with the system.
So again, look at ours:
Ask questions and when you answer, be ready to act.
what’s your system?
what’s it based on?
what’s the new base?
what are the steps to laying that base?
do you need to remove material first?
Social justice is flabby flat phrase, neat political jargon, unless it’s filled out with facts and actions.
Shall we not live to be remembered -- or even known now -- as people who live fully engaged so that all other people can too, regardless of their race, level of development, ability, age, ethnic background, religion or political creed?
Rosa Parks lived in relationship with her direct community to build a new foundation. That foundation was to be for systemic justice. That’s a consistency worth adhering to. That’s progress towards a consistent ethic of life for every human being.
(1) Aristotle, Politics