Re-Balancing the Scales of Justice in the U.S.

In his 1997 book The Racial Contract, Charles Mills discusses the existence—or lack thereof—of racial justice in the United States. His description is straightforward and based on an African proverb that he uses as an epigraph to his book: “When white people say ‘justice,’ they mean ‘just us.’” This assertion challenges mainstream theories of justice, which equate justice with balance or an equal distribution of goods. Mills’ definition demonstrates that the supposed scales of justice in the U.S. are far from balanced. Instead, the scales are tipped in favor of whites, leaving Black Americans with infinitely less resources and opportunities. Accompanying this racial injustice is a type of learned ignorance or complacency throughout society. Because this racial injustice has existed for so long and because the education system failed to inform us of its specific historical causes, people fail to recognize it. In other words, the unbalanced scales of justice may appear balanced to the untrained and thus complacent eye. This only furthers racial inequity and makes it more difficult for Black Americans to ascertain equal resources and opportunities. 

A Video Lesson on Justice and Injustice in the U.S.

In this video, I attempt to depict this racial injustice using the model of a scale. By providing a sort of historical genealogy of racism in the U.S.—from slavery starting in 1619, to the inadequacy of the amendment in abolishing slavery completely to the prison industrial complex—I attempt to reconstruct the reasons why the scales are currently unbalanced via visual aids. In an effort to further explain the roots of such racism, I turn to various philosophers. Plato’s “noble lie” from The Republic exemplifies an early attempt at justification for societal inequality—instead of by race, as is seen in the modern age, Plato justified injustice and inequality by asserting that people are born with different metals in their blood.

Ultimately, I discuss the need for reparations in order to re-balance the scales of justice.  

Overall this video attempts to depict the ideological roots and subsequent manifestation of racial injustice throughout the history and the present of the U.S. It should be noted, however, that its contents only scratch the surface of the racial inequities that continue to exist in the United States.   


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