NO JUST-US, NO PEACE by David Wales

Chants of no justice, no peace bring to mind citizens assembling to rally or protest highlighting some form of injustice. Unfair taxation, wages, and unequal treatment are reasons to invoke protest and address injustices. 

Just-us in place of just-is is intentional, emphasizing a current crisis before us. Divisiveness! We can never have peace until we confront division head-on.

If you have been oblivious to the current climate and consequences of such divisive injustices at our doorstep, let’s pause and reflect on mass killings every month or so, young black men gunned down regularly by police, politicians inability to legislate, and the act of forgiveness bordering on obsolete. At the root of this problem is the unequal administration of justice that creates an environment of just-us. Division! This issue stood out to me during my semester taking a restorative justice class at Depaul. As an incarcerated African-American man born in the United States, I thought, “When did I receive justice for it to be restored?” Also, as an African-American man, no one is better suited to address the complexities of injustice and its effects than I am.

Tackling the issues of restorative justice is fine and applicable where suited, but it understates the main objective regarding the fundamentals of justice, first and foremost. The very tenets of restorative justice are applicable to justice itself. Restorative justice focuses on crime as a violation of people and relationships, instead of the breaking of the law. It focuses on harm done and how people and relationships are affected, as well as how that wrong can be righted, with the greater good of the whole taken into consideration. The restorative justice philosophy recognizes the community is essential to building and establishing a peaceful, strong, inclusive relationship. The tenets defining restorative justice can achieve real justice for everyone. 

The just-us theory is an agitprop engineered and disseminated throughout society to keep us all divided!

For example, society has been misled to view all African-Americans a specific way. Statistics show that there are disproportionate amounts of black males incarcerated compared to white males, although white males substantially outnumber black males. Since 2014, there were more than twice the number of arrests for white males, yet, on average 50,000 more black males were sentenced to prison. White males were also arrested for more violent crimes, but seen less prison time. Even more troubling is the push for harsher punishments against black males that barely scratch the surface keeping us safe and reducing crime. 

I raised the aforementioned points not to lament the plight and cosmic injustices of African-Americans, but to highlight the unfairness it projects towards us. The portrayal of these statistics emanate to white, and other Americans, an us vs them psychology at the crux of our just-us problem. This projection is unfair to us all! It promotes a just-us society, while simultaneously stripping us all of justice. This narrative of white privilege (us vs them) emitted throughout society has a profound effect on our current conditions. Social, political, and economic disparities also contribute to the psychological portrayal of us vs them.

Justice is slowly being stripped from us all! Its meaning is diluted everyday. There are instances where restorative justice is required. But again, poor, disadvantaged, and people of color wonder; “when did we receive justice for it to be restored”?

Promoting racial equality could go a long way toward improving injustices confronting us today. Recently I ran across a perfect description of justice in a book called The Energy of Forgiveness by Mark S. Umbreit. Umbreit stated “Justice is best understood as a positive result of a process, and not just something done ‘to’ or ‘against’ somebody.” Real justice wouldn’t leave us in a state of just-us. On the contrary, it would bind us.

Injustice can often be hidden and disguised, exasperating our problems. We must identify the injustice that separates us.

Our current political landscape precludes us from addressing our problems and moving toward solutions. Let’s invest in hope and capabilities as a people to build a stronger community and society, and stop depending on people outside of ourselves designated as leaders. Most of whom have economic agenda’s to keep us divided. 

The bedrock of justice is what is just. Its equal application is paramount toward promoting a perpetual balance. No matter what walk of life we come from, we all desire justice and peace! It’s on us!

David Wales is a PNAP student in the third cohort of the University Without Walls degree program.