As some of you may know, I have been pursuing my bachelor’s degree in English language and literature for almost three years to enhance my writing skills. I’m nearly there. I recently took a Criminal Justice 101 class. Now, why would a cop who’s just retired after twenty-two years want to take a beginners level criminal justice class? I wanted to see what is being taught since I went to the police academy back in 1992. While I had a great professor and serious and intelligent classmates, I was flabbergasted (a word that truly captures my feelings) by one thing in particular: a politically liberal version of social justice is being taught as an integral part of the criminal justice system. Students are either, being brainwashed or browbeaten toward a belief in the universal “good” of social justice as defined by political liberal bullies. In fact, check out this definition: Criminal Justice is the aspect of social justice that deals with criminal law.” So, social justice isn’t even taught as a part of criminal justice, the concept has taken over as an umbrella concept for an entire discipline. What follows is based upon a paper I wrote for this class, in response to the liberal brainwashing, which, shamefully, continues in American higher education.
Disagreements and misconceptions abound regarding the term and concept of social justice, especially as to how it relates and applies to the criminal justice system. This is important because before one can properly implement any concept, especially such a controversial concept as social justice, into the criminal justice system, there should be agreement as to the concept’s definition. If there are inconsistencies, they should be addressed, and, if opposing factions cannot agree, the concept must be discarded. For example, how does one reconcile government social justice’ focus on a separate justice for racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, with constitutionally guaranteed equal justice for all individuals? This is a serious question because it affects the very foundation as well as the founding principles of the American justice system.
Social justice may be laudable when defined and practiced by a private entity, such as a church. Private organizations can favor any person or group they wish to in pursuit of their private agendas. In fact, it was a 19th Century Catholic priest, Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio (1793–1862), who is credited with coining the term social justice. However, over the years, liberal politicians along with progressive and socialist activist groups have appropriated—some say, misappropriated, the term social justice. Consider this perspective at the website catholicvote.org:
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, ‘Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation.’ Social justice rightly understood is not a code word for communism, as Glenn Beck once proclaimed. Although he was right to demonstrate how the phrase itself has been hijacked by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, social justice within the Catholic faith actually means something entirely different –Stephen Kokx, 2012.
Those who paint social justice with a liberal political brush, emphasize a focus on the rights of groups of people rather than of individuals. How does one reconcile government favoring one group of people over another, contrary to equal justice? Equal justice is most famously guaranteed in the 14th Amendment’s, “Equal Protection Clause:” “No state shall… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The clause specifically denotes, “… any person,” not any group or group of persons. Seattle is currently enforcing a law according to a stated social justice criteria, which stands in stark opposition to equal justice. Regarding this law, Daniel Greenfield writes in David Horowitz’ Front Page Magazine:
As Officer Pomper has pointed out, ‘Don’t you love the irony? After many years of the City and community activist groups unsuccessfully attempting to prove that Seattle police officers are guilty of racially profiling its citizens (and non-citizens), the City offers proof that it’s the one racially profiling, and further, it even wants to pass laws and implement policies to support it [social justice]. Amazing!
To elaborate on the above quote, this Seattle law provides an apt example of how government-implemented social justice differs from that employed by private entities. Private entities do not have the authority to force any citizen to do anything against their will; however, the government, by definition, is force. Herein lies the crux of the difference. Seattle has a policy by which officers must enforce a criminal traffic law according to social justice criteria, i.e., race, ethnicity and socioeconomics, rather than by constitutional equal justice criteria. Normally, a police officer will stop a driver for a traffic infraction or crime and simply issue any violator a citation. In the case of Driving While License Suspended in the Third Degree (DWLS3), a traffic crime, the officer must, instead, first submit the citation to the city attorney’s office. Why? According to assistant city attorney Darby Ducomb, “The Law disproportionately targets poor people-“ and “… city attorneys would decide which cases merited punishment.” How does one know that social justice is the clear intent here? In a video interview, City Attorney Pete Holmes said, explicitly, that he advanced, “DWLS3 change in pursuit of social justice.” This explicit statement serves as evidence of the partisan definition of social justice adopted by some in government and, apparently, also by some in academia. Adding to the corruption of equal justice, if the city attorney decides that an offender does not “merit” punishment, other citations issued in conjunction with the DWLS3 citation, other traffic infractions, are often dismissed as well. To put the social and legal ramifications more bluntly: A (non-indigent) white driver may “merit” punishment, while a black, Hispanic or poor white driver may not.
When any academic institution’s textbook cites, with authority, “[Social] justice is a concept that embraces all aspects of civilized society.” This seems an opportune “catch all” definition, which ordains a partisan political perspective as the preferred definition of social justice, especially when there exists valid alternate and opposing definitions. One Justice 101 course quiz question, queries: “Which element of social justice refers to those aspects that concern violations of criminal law? Answer: Criminal Justice.” (2014). This makes it seem as if a universal definition of social justice is a settled issue, but it is far from it. There are many examples of how social justice is viewed from an alternate and even negative perspective. Consider this quote by eminent scholar, Shelby Steele, “… if you were black and thus, a victim of racial oppression, this new morality of social justice meantyou could not be expected to carry the same responsibilities as others.” Another intellectual luminary, author and Stanford professor, Thomas Sowell, provides the following viewpoint:
Traditional concepts of justice or fairness, at least within the American tradition, boil down to applying the same rules and standards to everyone. This is what is meant by a “level playing field”– at least within that tradition, though the very same words mean something radically different within a framework that calls itself ‘social justice.’ Words like ‘fairness,’ ‘advantage’ and ‘disadvantage’ likewise have radically different meanings within the very different frameworks of traditional justice and ‘social justice’.
Another quote by, yet, another eminent scholar, Dr. Walter Williams, rounds out examples of the fact that marked disagreements, even in academia, exist with regard to social justice perspectives and definitions, “… let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you – and why?”
These alternate perspectives on social justice, in this case offered by black American scholars, demonstrate the simple and inescapable fact that, even people who should ostensibly benefit from governmental social justice, do not agree on the liberal definition, which some of America’s colleges are attempting to implant into their students’ core knowledge. This sets up two scenarios: One, that students who have already adopted an alternate social justice perspective, will be distracted—and diminished—by a definition that is contrary to their valid political views, or, two, that politically uninitiated students will have a partisan, controversial perspective of social justice imposed on them in contravention of the professed educational goal of promoting intellectual honesty and the inclusion of disparate thoughts and ideas. Instead, they offer Brainwashing 101.
In the end, it is clear that social justice means different things to different people. However, the gold nugget of difference is more than mere semantics. It is between an emphasis on a liberal social justice perspective, which focuses on groups: ethnic, racial and socioeconomic and a traditionally American emphasis on equal justice, which focuses on the individual. If the Constitution truly guarantees rights to individuals, then the government bestowing special rights on particular groups must be antithetical to equal justice. The two concepts cannot logically coexist when practiced by a government committed to individual liberty. The liberal definition, which is currently being taught in some college courses, and which liberal politicians are attempting to weld onto the criminal justice system, corrupts the guarantees of equal justice under the law. For liberal politicians and social scientists, the ostensible goal seems to be to make reparations, pay restitution or, perhaps, exact revenge in the name of historically mistreated groups. However, even if one were to agree that social justice as liberals define it should be employed, which group would receive what benefit and in what quantity in comparison to another group? Also, one would have to ask, who is to be appointed the grand arbiter of social justice to make these decisions? Finally, and perhaps most important of all, how can government reconcile social justice with equal justice? It cannot.