The ethics of justice and legitimacy of which victim (s) matter
December 24, 2012 Leave a comment
Please forgive the title of this post (I am not even sure if it makes sense) and the disorganization I am sure that will be found in this post and perhaps most of my posts. My mind is clouded, jumbled with a lot of disconnected thoughts and it’s difficult to put it all together. I tend to be very impatient to organize my thoughts for posts. Something triggers my thoughts and I just write it, otherwise I will never get around to posting anything.
Several years ago I read a book called: At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance–A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power.
It is an amazing and informative book on the pivotal role of black women in the fight for freedom. It was very eye opening. I couldn’t put it down. I felt a lot of emotions reading this book. This is an entirely different topic, but I don’t think recent immigrants appreciate the struggle for freedom in this country. Perhaps one can say the same about Americans, whose ancestors arrived several generations back.
The book provides an extensive coverage on the freedom struggle and one historical figure that the book focuses on is Rosa Parks. The real Rosa Parks was very different than the Rosa Parks we were taught in school, a quiet, sweet, gentle lady, who was just too exhausted to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. The real Rosa Parks was anything but that sweet church lady image we have been told, rather she was a fierce, courageous, and seasoned activist.
The relevance here in which I am aiming to provide is that before Rosa Parks, there were several others, like Claudette Clovin, a young teen, who took a stand against Jim Crow laws. The leaders of the movement didn’t get behind Claudette after her arrest for refusing to give up her seat, because she was an unwed pregnant teenager. Taking a stand for the rights of an unwed teenage mother may not help the cause, they feared due to the social norms of the day. When the same unjust act happened to Rosa Parks, the movement leaders rallied around her, and it ignited an uprising.
The moral of the story, even within the fight for freedom, justice is selective.
Recently I shared the tragic story of the university student, who was brutally raped in India. I didn’t think that story could get any more horrific, but it has. In the previous post, I mentioned more than once that I didn’t know the region, or the politics of the region. I was horrified and sickened at the gruesomeness of the crime. I cried for the girl and in spirit, I protested with the protestors on the streets of New Delhi.
Reading up on the reports of the story, I came across this article, which brings into attention the legitimacy of which victim matters. Like the rallying behind Rosa Parks, this article stated similar sentiments.
The 23-year-old was clearly English-educated (she’d gone to watch The Life of Pi), she had a boyfriend who was an engineer, she was a physiotherapist — all markers of an independent, upper middle class, urban identity. This is why we are collectively angry. It is an affront to us, India’s small English-speaking elite.
Yesterday, an 8-year-old girl was raped in Bihar, a desperately poor state in central India where one-third of the population lives under the poverty level. Think about that. AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD. The trauma of any incident of sexual abuse is, of course, impossible to quantify or compare, but the crime against this little child is perhaps just as horrifying as the Delhi rape. And still, I’m writing about this little girl’s rape only because that rape in Delhi is legitimizing our conversation about sexual violence against women in India.
This is just one article and I am not at all, in the slightest, concluding the part I quoted is the real reason why Indian citizens are outraged and took to the streets. It would be very unfair to make that assessment, hence why I felt it was right to keep repeating I don’t know the region or what’s happening beyond what I read to come to a informed conclusion, however in the greater context of the differences in people’s reactions towards victims of injustice, I do think the examples above are revealing (very unfortunately) about the state of our humanity.
Why is there a great difference in the reaction of people towards victims, who suffer the same act of injustice or any injustice for that matter?
This same question was asked by many following the recent massacre of children in Newton, Connecticut. Many commentators pointed out the differences of reactions towards the kids killed in Newton, to those kids killed in US inner cities by gun violence, and kids killed in Yemen, Pakistan by US drones.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, points out the reasons why stark differences between all those tragedies exist and further identifies the importance of ethics in caring for all victims, be they in Newton or Pakistan, be they a Rosa Parks or Claudette Clovin, be they rich or poor.
To begin with, it is a natural and probably universal human inclination to care more about violence that seems to threaten us personally than violence that does not. Every American parent sends their children to schools of the type attacked in Newtown and empathy with the victims is thus automatic. Few American parents fear having their children attacked by US drones, cruise missiles and cluster bombs in remote regions in Pakistan and Yemen, and empathy with those victims is thus easier to avoid, more difficult to establish.
One should strive to see the world and prioritize injustices free of pure self-interest – caring about grave abuses that are unlikely to affect us personally is a hallmark of a civilized person –Source
All of these examples I believe raise ethical questions, not just for nations, movements, organizations but for each individual. I do commend those, who raise our consciousness, by highlighting the double standards that exist in national conversations regarding tragedies in our borders and beyond our borders.
And if we are honest with ourselves, we all face ethical/moral questions. And when we think about those questions we are all guilty, not just the media when it comes to legitimizing some victims while ignoring others.
Reflect on this AD by UNICEF (Bad Water Kills More Children than War) and listen to Peter Singer talk about ethics.