Dr. King in Birmingham jail, way back in 1963, said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of maturity, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”. If we understood what he truly meant the world will rise up vigorously against every iota of injustice in our societies and forge a way to implement justice in every sphere of life. Injustice, according to Barry S, is the denial, or violation of economic, sociocultural, political, civil, or human rights of an individual, specific population or a group in a society based on the perception of their inferiority by those with more power or influence.
What Dr. King means is that nobody should conceive of themselves as distinct from all the other people in the universe. As King says, he cannot sit in Atlanta and think that things in Birmingham do not affect him. Instead, he says we have to understand that we are all connected to other people around the world. This is true because we are all part of the same “garment of destiny”. Beyond an economic or fiscal reason, there is a certain morality that Dr. King implies here. The devaluation of humanity in one part of the world subsequently devalues humanity as a whole. This is true because Dr. King believes that we all share a common dignity as human beings and hurting that will eventually hurt us all.
Let us take a lesson from an educative African tale:
Once there lived a King and his beautiful wife in an isolated village in Northern Ghana. In the compound of their palace there lived peacefully a donkey and a cock. Meanwhile, a cat and a mouse lived together inside the Queen’s room. There was complete harmony and cordiality in the house until injustice befell the palace on day. The cat that was very friendly became abusive and oppressive against the vulnerable mouse. This unjust cat will not allow the helpless and innocent mouse to have a moment of tranquility. The mouse complained several times to the donkey and the cock, asking them to help liberate him from the abusive cat. But they unanimously said “everyone one his own, God for us all.”
This abuse persisted until one day the violent cat was chasing the helpless mouse and they crashed into something, causing a terrible accident that fractured the Queen’s leg. Immediately, the King ordered his guard to use the donkey and rush to the next village to bring a fetish priest. The fetish priest cast his spells and prescribed donkey’s liver and cock’s head for the Queen’s recovery. Without hesitation, the only donkey and cock in the palace was killed and the requested parts used for the treatment. The abusive cat was imprisoned and then exiled.
Now, we must ask ourselves, does the injustice in the Queen’s room affect the justice and peace the donkey and the cock were enjoying in the compound? Of course it does. When the donkey and the cock felt it did not concern them and paid no attention, the justice and peace they had enjoyed for so long was taken away and they even lose their lives as a result. This is precisely how injustice in society spreads and why Dr. King said “whatever affects one directly, affects the other indirectly.”
Even though the above is a tale, we have lots of injustices all around us and we cast a blind eye to them. The human mind is quite comfortable when there is some level of peace in their immediate surroundings. We have knowingly or unknowingly forgotten we all came from one single pair and are thus connected to one another. The human physiology portrays unity to the greatest effect. When there is trouble with one part, the immune system respond by sending antibodies and other chemical messengers to fight and bring back stability. And, until the trouble is removed, the entire body will remain restless. This interconnectedness of organs in every person is what ensures healthiness. The world as a global village is actually a giant, single organism whose survival depends on every human being. The interrelatedness of human beings is as strong as that of the organs of the body, and so whatever affects one person or community indirectly affects all.
You may still argue about the practicality of human interconnectedness and how injustice of one place affects justice of another. But, look at it this way, an uncontrolled injustice presents misunderstanding which later results into civil wars and generate refugees who settle in peacefulcountries all around the world and who compete with the local citizens for already limited resources, such as land, water, housing, food and medical services. According to UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) the Syrian civil war alone has generated over five million refugees who are registered and now reside in different countries. Beside these numerous effects, these refugees often traumatic effects from their experiences.
Injustice is the bane of the society, cancerous in the way it can recur even after it has been removed. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in jail to free the country from the disease of racial injustice. “I fought against white dominance and I fought against black dominance”. He stood against injustice of any kind until he freed the nation from racial injustice. Sadly, we still see xenophobic attacks and political injustices popping up in recent times. Mandela stated categorically that “as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”
Desmond Tutu said it all, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” In this modern times where communication, travel and people interconnected far more than before, no one can really be free from the injustice that another person is going through. The brotherhood of man is not confined within a narrow, limited circle of selected people. Like Gandhi, King supported the practice of non-violent civil disobedience or passively resisting laws that are unjust.
Human diversity might appear to depict injustice as a natural phenomenon as some people would argue. Skin color, race, ethnicity, economic status, origin or any other human difference exist to make society much more interesting and add variety to life. Just imagine if you have the same product in a mega shopping mall or better still, the same animal in a zoo. Exploring would be so boring that you will not choose that mall or zoo next time. That is precisely how society would have been if human beings were the same in every aspect. So, human multifariousness should not be the basis of injustice anywhere in the world, rather it should create love, understanding and humility.
The Way Forward
We all get inspired by the stories of the legends that bravely rose up and fought against injustice occurring at their time. George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and many others who recognized injustice as a cancer which was destroying their society and subjected it to the best of treatment according to their abilities. Injustice is not black, white, man or woman, it is every human’s duty to regard it as a foe and fight it like these legends did. I am optimistic of the future and trust that if we can focus our energies in extending education, reducing poverty and enhancing our political systems, injustice will be a thing of the past. A well-structured and effective democracy is nevertheless the key to justice. Rule of law where everyone is equal and getting rid of corruption is the way to go as far as justice is concern. With these remedies in addition to our willingness to stand against injustice of any kind, I think we will succeed and the world will experience a transformation far greater than what we have seen. Let us give recognition to injustices of the past by building a future based on equality and social justice.