Our society rests on several fundamental concepts that precondition the way it functions and people act in various situations. These unique aspects emerged at the dawn of human civilization as regulations needed to create the ground for the further evolution of mankind and guarantee its survival. Therefore, along with the gradual increase in the complexity of social relations and institutions, the nature of these concepts also altered. People needed more sophisticated approaches to introduce appropriate regulations limiting their cooperation and preventing them from inappropriate behaviors. In such a way, such well-known conceptions as love, hatred, devotion, justice, etc. were formed. In fact, justice, as a unique idea describing the correlation between a certain act and retribution, is one of the concepts that has experienced the most significant alterations during its long-term development. Even today, in the age of democracy and tolerance, it still remains a disputable issue as there are numerous cases of injustice and biased attitudes regarding race, ethnicity, culture, and social position.
Thus, the concept of justice could be considered one of the most complex ideas that regulate the functioning of the society as it rests on the evaluation of the character of diverse actions and peoples attitudes to them. In the first stages of evolution, it included a cruel punishment for any violation of moral or real laws. In the majority of cases a trial was short and severe (Sandel 12). However, with the evolution of human thought and the appearance of ideas of humanism, tolerance, and rights a need for a new idea of justice emerged. For this reason, it evolved and acquired numerous features we could observe today. These include moral considerations, motifs of particular actions, legal regulations, ethics, etc. (Sandel 43). Unfortunately, the multilayer character of the concept and its enhanced character does not guarantee that all people will have equal access to justice and will be able to benefit from it. For this reason, the 20th century is characterized by the appearance of numerous civil rights movements aimed at the improvement of the position of discriminated minorities and their empowerment.
The society of the 20th century, especially its beginning was not homogeneous. People still used biased attitudes and stereotypical judgments to align communication and determine the status of an individual. It played a significant role because of numerous privileges that were provided only to representatives of particular layers of society, ethnicity, and race (Nieuwhof). One should understand that this attitude was unacceptable for discriminated groups that wanted to attain equality and justice. In such a way, in that period of time, this concept acquired some new shapes of meaning and included the struggle for tolerance and fair attitude(Nieuwhof). In general, there were two ideas of justice. The first one presupposed equitable rights for all people no matter what their status and race were (Nieuwhof). The second one considered race-based discrimination a fair practice because of the inferior character of individuals belonging to a particular ethnicity. This situation perfectly demonstrated the unique flexibility of the concept of justice and its ability to adjust to individuals needs.
Nevertheless, the rise of civil rights movements and the appearance of the idea of equality stipulated a new stage in the development of the concept of justice. The fact is that discriminated people faced the governments resistance and its unwillingness to alter the situation and introduce new laws, regulations, and restrictions (Sandel 134). Under these conditions, the concept of injustice became closely connected with the state and authorities who created the environment that cultivated discrimination and unfair attitude to people belonging to different races (Nieuwhof). In this regard, the idea of justice became central for people struggling for their rights and standing against the government. However, this new idea demanded a certain theoretical basis to explain people’s central peculiarities of a new understanding of the notion and teach them how to resist injustice if it comes from the government. That is why the 20th century witnessed many famous ideologists of a new truth who wanted to alter society by destroying biased attitudes to people and creating a new fair environment (Nieuwhof). Martin Luther King was one of these outstanding people who shaped fundamental conceptions and made people alter their perspectives on it.
Martin Luther Kings Perspective on Justice and Struggle
Nevertheless, Martin Luther was one of the most prominent activists and spokespersons in the civil rights movement aimed at the reconsideration of the relations between African-Americans and other people in the USA. Moreover, he is known as the leading ideologist of the strategy of nonviolence and civil disobedience as the main tools to struggle against injustice and provide people with equal rights (Nieuwhof). Additionally, he is one of the persons who cultivated a new perspective on the concept of justice and made people believe in it. It means that he pointed out numerous discrepancies between the attitude to African-American individuals and white people living in the USA and emphasized their inconsistency regarding the Constitution of the state that guaranteed freedom and the same rights for all citizens (Nieuwhof). In such a way, he was one of the ideologists who emphasized the critical role of the government in cultivating injustice and depriving people of the opportunity to enjoy all rights.
One of the fundamental texts that explain Kings concept of justice and its basic peculiarities is his famous speech I Have a Dream. It is one of the perfect examples of the rhetoric that altered the world. It is devoted to the elimination of racism as one of the most significant cases of injustice in the USA and the establishment of a new environment in which people will be able to cooperate disregarding their status, race, culture, etc. Moreover, the speech outlines the outstanding importance of a new perspective on justice and its nature. This text also contains numerous cogitations about the character of an unfair attitude to people and their depression. In such a way, Kings words created the ground for further discussion of the issue and its evolution.
One of the central ideas of Kings speech is the dominance of injustice in U.S. society. He states that African-Americans are still “crippled by the manacles of segregation and chains of discrimination” which means that the situation has not changed over the last several decades (King 1). The evolution of society gave rise to numerous processes that shaped peoples mentalities and their attitudes to different aspects central to communities. However, the majority of people living in the USA were not able to alter their biased attitude to African-Americans and eliminate injustice. Using allusions, King compares America to a bank that gave “Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds'” (King 2). In other words, he was sure that the society of that period of time was far from justice and its basic concepts. For this reason, one of the central motifs of his speech is the appeal to eliminate all forms of discrimination that could be considered a special case of injustice.
At the same time, King outlines a specific role society played in cultivating intolerance and biased attitude towards African-Americans or other minorities. In general, it could be considered one of the most important aspects peculiar to the concept of justice. Being a unique social phenomenon, it depends on the opinion of the dominant group that dictates its own rules and establishes specific behavioral patterns used by members of a community to avoid punishment or other penalties (Nieuwhof). In such a way, justice depends on the prevalent idea that is accepted by people in the society or country. At the same time, the government, as the representative of citizens living in the area, reflects their mood and attitudes. That is why King admits a great role communities play in the establishment of unfair models and discrimination practices. Today this tendency still preserves as individuals determine the way actions are judged and reattributed. For this reason, Kings speech touched upon critical aspects of justice and its basic peculiarities.
The King’s text also touches upon the visions of how people might overcome obstacles that prevent them from understanding each other. He states that individuals should “realize that their freedom is inextricably bound” to freedom of other people as only together they can build a new society deprived of any cases of discrimination, injustice, and biased attitudes (King 3). Delving into this idea, one should understand that the cultivation of unfair practice deprives communities of their freedom and destroys the moral basis for their further evolution (King 3). Individuals are not able to preserve their spirituality by means of depressing other classes and by introducing practices that limit humans in their development. Under these conditions, elimination of discrimination and cases of injustice becomes a common task as only in this way the society will be able to overcome the governmental resistance and establish fair practices.
Finally, Martin Luther King in this speech emphasizes the unique importance of nonviolent methods to struggle against injustice and discrimination. Correctly realizing the overwhelming power of the state machine and sources it can use to suppress activists who might use force in their struggle, King suggests another way to resist the government. He states that “we must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline” and “we must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence” (King 3). In other words, violence is not a solution to the problem as any state will resist it using all tools it has. That is why it is fundamental to make people understand that their dignity depends on the way they treat others (King 3). Only this way could result in radical changes in the structure of the society and a reconsideration of values people appreciate. Martin Luther King perfectly realized this fact and cultivated the strategy of nonviolence and civil disobedience as potent approaches to resist the government.
Nevertheless, a state and its authorities are important factors related to the issue of justice. The government introduces the framework regulating peoples lives and providing appropriate punishments for individuals who violate accepted rules. In other words, it has enough power to depress or support a particular social movement. That is why it is useless to resist authorities using violence as it will be considered as a case of inappropriate behavior that should be depressed. However, the only way to respond to the governments attempts to act unjustly is to engage in civil disobedience that implies a refusal to obey certain laws if they are of discriminative nature (Nieuwhof). These acts will attract more attention and will be appraised by the public because of their ideological grounds. Moreover, the attraction of new agents and social support are key factors that could help to resist the government that depends on communities and their attitudes.
Thus, the unique character of Kings cogitations and perspectives on struggle could be evidenced by their topicality for the modern world. Unfortunately, despite numerous appeals to provide people with equal rights, society is still far from the triumph of justice and complete elimination of prejudiced attitudes to particular groups of people. The government often acts as one of the main actors that promote these practices. For instance, despite numerous claims about the absence of a prejudiced attitude in the coherent U.S. society, African-Americans are killed by police at a higher rate than other people in 2016 (Quincy 23). This fact perfectly evidences the complexity of the situation and the presence of injustice. Being one of the most influential tools of the government to preserve social order, the police, on the contrary, acts in accordance with old stereotypes that describe all black men as potential criminals. In this regard, we could now observe the rise of another wave of dissatisfaction and citizen disobedience known as Black Lives Matter that aims at resisting authorities and demanding tolerant attitude.
Black Lives Matter
To a large extent, the movement follows Kings legacy by using nonviolent measures and attracting peoples attention to the problematic issues. It started in 2013 with the use of hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media as a response to another accident when an African-American teen was killed by a police officer (Lowery). Later on, it became a mass civil movement that demanded better conditions for discriminated groups of people and a reconsideration of biased practices. Analyzing the nature of this campaign, one should also admit its peaceful rhetoric. Participants of Black Lives Matter demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the current situation via media and Internet resources (Lowery). These platforms can guarantee increased attention from the public and stable interest in the issue. At the same time, the project includes mass demonstrations and manifestations to demonstrate peoples attitudes to the injustice they can observe in society.
In such a way, this movement could be compared to those of the 20th century that were inspired by the ideas of Martin Luther King and his nonviolent resistance. Its methods could be morally justified as the adherers of Black Lives Matter follow Kings pieces of advice related to the peculiarities of civil disobedience and the way it could help to remedy injustice present in attitudes to African-Americans (Quincy, 134). Moreover, the given approach could be considered the only possible one regarding the peculiarities of the legal environment and the government’s involvement in these issues. Immediately after the killing of Michael Brown, a wave of civil riots swept through the USA and resulted in the outbreak of violence and mass devastations (Quincy 66). The National Guard of the United States was used to depress these demonstrations and prevent further deterioration of the situation (Quincy 89). As a result, a significant worsening of the situation, the growth of peoples dissatisfaction, mistrust, and civil unrest were observed. It proves the idea that only civil rights movements that adhere to the practice of nonviolent opposition could be efficient regarding the modern legal environment and the outstanding power of the government. Therefore, Black Lives Matter becomes an efficient response to injustice and violation of human rights that happen under the passive eye of local, state, and federal authorities. It aims at the restoration of justice and the improvement of peoples lives across the state.
Altogether, the concept of justice has always been one of the most disputable issues because of its flexible character and outstanding dependence on the dominant class and its value system. Therefore, every period is characterized by its own perspective on this issue that results from the complex of beliefs and ideas peculiar to people living in that age. As for modernity, we are still far from the triumph of justice as there are numerous cases of biased attitude and discrimination. That is why we could see civil rights movements like Black Lives Matter that follow the legacy of Martin Luther King to resist the government and attain success by using nonviolent methods described by this outstanding civil libertarian who struggled for justice.
King, Martin Luther. “I Have a Dream…” Archives.gov, 1963, Web.
Lowery, Wesley. “Black Lives Matter: Birth of a Movement.” The Guardian. 2017, Web.
Nieuwhof, Adri. “The legacy of Martin Luther King: Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere.” The Electronic Intifada, 2007, Web.
Sandel, Michael. Justice: Whats the Right Thing to Do? Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010.
Quincy, James. Black Lives Matter: An Emergency Response to Crisis. Waterfall Publishing, 2015.