Justice For Fill-in the Blank: Do We Want Justice or Liberation?
Brian Francisco II
The recent murders and serious injuries of American citizens, primarily African-Americans, perpetrated by law enforcement officials and private citizens alike usually spark a call for justice for the victim of these various acts. Victims include but certainly are not limited to, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Leon Ford and Dontre Hamilton to name a few.
Immediately there’s a mass public outcry for Justice For “Fill In the Blank.” Unfortunately, more often than not, these cases are accompanied by the perpetrator being found not guilty of any wrong doing. This can be either by the failure of the grand jury to indict the perpetrator or if tried, the perpetrator is found not guilty by a jury. This prompts one to take a hard look at the calls for justice for these types of cases and if these calls are effective.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “justice” can be defined multiple ways, two of which are:
- the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals
- the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action.
It can be inferred from the first definition that a call for justice expects that laws will be used to fairly judge and punish the crime and criminal in these various cases. As mentioned earlier, in quite a few of these cases, “justice” (according to the law) has in fact been used to judge these cases. However, the result has been that the perpetrator has been cleared of any wrong doing. After these decisions have been handed down, popular outcry would seem to support the idea that justice was not in fact carried out in these cases.
When taking into account the second definition of justice, it can be inferred that calls for justice expect just dealing and right action be applied to each case. If for each case, just dealing and right action had been applied at the time the incident originally occurred, would the outcome have been the same or, would the victims have been attacked at all? Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing now since the incidents have already occurred.
When reflecting on these events, it is fitting to quote renowned psychologist and author Dr. Amos Wilson who in the lecture “White Racism: Beyond Civil Rights and Human Rights and Into Afrikan Revolution” states “laws are no stronger than their enforcers.” He goes on to say, “ultimately then, fairness rests and the fairness of treatment rests, not in laws but in the activities of people.” This exemplifies the fact that law can be interpreted by various officials throughout the justice system ranging from police officers to grand jurors, judges, lawyers, and trial jurors etc. The result of which has a person’s life, both victim and perpetrator, hanging in the balance.
Unfortunately, most commonly the result includes a negative outcome for the victim followed by a positive outcome for the perpetrator. These negative outcomes could lead one to believe that these calls for justice are not effective. This then might lead one to ask: what will be effective?
The first thing that comes to mind when considering this question is the large frequency of these cases coupled with the long historical abuses that have occurred throughout American history that are very similar if not identical to the ones occurring currently, many of which occurred during the civil rights movement and state sanctioned Jim Crow, accentuated by the widespread abuses suffered during chattel slavery. This historical precedent therefore shows that this is not an unfortunate glitch or tragic mistake that rarely occurs, but rather something that happens fairly often.
The commonality would then suggest that if the problem is systemic in nature, it must then require a solution that addresses these systemic issues. Since these cases are systemic I believe that the call would be more effective if it was for liberation.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:
- “liberation” is defined as the act or process of freeing someone or something from another’s control;
- the act of liberating someone or something.
It can be noticed then, that in each case the victim was subjected to the control of another person or entity. Therefore a process of liberation that specifically seeks to remove that control will therefore empower many and prevent future cases of this nature from continuing to occur.
All Power to the People!
Brian Francisco II
New Afrikan Independence Party (NAIP)