America was founded on the ideas of justice and equality. Thomas Jefferson said, “Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion,” showing that the founding fathers believed justice and equality were crucial to America’s existence. Even though justice is one of our central values, we routinely fail to deliver on this promise.
In America, the distribution of wealth is uneven. While this alone is not unjust, people are not given the same opportunities to change their economic situation and this creates a type of injustice. People who are born into poverty are likely to stay there. In The Round House, the Native Americans on the reservation are poor relative to white people living off the reservation (Erdrich, Louise. The Round House. HarperCollins, 2012.). Everyone on the reservation is poor, all of their recent ancestors were poor, and they don’t have a way to get out of poverty. Within America there are groups that do not have the the same opportunities as others. This can be based on race, religion, wealth, or another kind of “state or persuasion.”
What gets in the way of justice is differences in power. When one person has more power than another, they have an advantage, and when they abuse that power, they destroy justice. In the past, the differences in power in America were much larger than they are now. For example, when America was founded, African Americans were held as slaves and had virtually no rights.
In the 1850s, there was a slave named Celia who killed her owner because he had been rapeing her for years (Brown, DeNeen L. “Missouri v. Celia, A Slave: She Killed the White Master Raping Her, Then Claimed Self Defense.” The Washington Post, 9 Oct. 2017). Although Missouri law said it was a crime to rape any woman, and Celia had even warned her owner that if he came to her cabin that night she would hurt him, her claim of self-defense failed. She was tried for murder and hanged. This was clearly unjust but it happened because white slave owners were on the jury and they were maintaining their power. Race also plays a role in the prevention of justice in The Round House. The reason that the main character’s mothers rapist can’t be held accountable under the law is he is white and not Native American.
Law is supposed to equalize and handle power differentials, but it fails because it is made by people and administered by people. Recently, a black man was severely beaten by white supremacists at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia (Shapira, Ian and Hawkins, Derek. “Black Man Attacked By White Supremacists in Charlottesville Faces Felony Charges.” The Washington Post, 11 Oct. 2017). Ater he was beaten, the white supremacists managed to get an arrest warrant for the man they had beaten. Although this was done legally through a magistrate because all that is needed is for someone to make an accusation, it is not just. Although we have improved the legal system in America over time, it is still not perfect and needs to be improved more.
America has never been able to routinely deliver justice or equality. This causes protests and instability. It also causes individuals to take justice into their own hands, which often involves breaking the law. This happened to Celia and happens in The Round House. Despite our shortcomings, America is founded on ideals of justice and equality, and it continues trying to achieve them.Tags: Okemos High School
American Creed by Scott is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.