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Does injustice pose a threat to justice everywhere?

September 19, 2010

Dr. King in this excerpt states that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I do not, however, agree with this statement.  There is violence and murders quite frequently in Detroit, Michigan, but I don’t feel that that poses a threat to justice everywhere.  It certainly is not a good thing and is quite undesirable, but does injustice in one city really affect the justice of the whole nation? I cannot think of an example that would answer my question and I would be happy for anywhere to explain a real situation and not a hypothetical one where the injustice in any one place really affects justice everywhere.

  1. Will Butler permalink
    September 19, 2010 11:19 PM

    I too am from the metro-Detroit area (Royal Oak to be exact) and obviously have seen the tragic state that Detroit is in. However, while the high crime and murder rate in Detroit, does not affect you directly it has and will continue to affect you indirectly. As Dr. King states: “Whatever affects one directly, affects us all indirectly”

    With Detroit’s high crime rate, high poverty, and lack of city resources and education, the city has deteriorated. However, we are quite naive to think that this stops at the city borders. Because, for better or worse, Detroit is the hub city of Michigan, its downturn socially and economically starts affecting the region as a whole. Put simply, more crime in Detroit, less business and money in Southeastern Michigan and the state as a whole. Michigan is crazy to think it can continue without a revitalization of Detroit. As the state falls into economic downturn, the nation begins to lose a piece of its economic demographic. While that may seem a loose connection, it is certainly true.

    Beyond an economic or fiscal reason, there is a certain morality that Dr. King implies. The devaluation of humanity in one party of the world, devalues humanity as a whole. This is true because Dr. King believes that we all share a common traits and dignity as human beings and hurting that dignity will eventually hurt us all.

  2. Ben Gloger permalink
    September 20, 2010 6:36 PM

    In his book “War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race,” Edwin Black details how in the early 1900’s American states, with the support of some of the day’s leading institutions such as The Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Institute, passed laws that limited marriage rights, enforced segregation, and sterilized thousands of individuals in the practice known as eugenics. The aim of these programs was to create a master race through the systematic elimination of those thought to be inferior: criminals, the poor, Jews, blacks, the mentally retarded or disabled, immigrants, etc… By masking racism and class-bias under the notion that society was being bettered, horrible acts against human nature were enacted right in plain sight.

    Indeed, these were enacted laws, passed by state governments that made genocide a legal obligation. It goes without saying that these laws were unjust, and if ever there was a time that called for a moral obligation to resist the law it was now, yet no one took up the call. With regard to Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement that “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” it is crucial to notice that these events took place well before the Nazi regime, and that it was this American eugenic system that Hitler studied and often quoted to support his horrible genocide. As Black points out, during the Nuremberg trials the Nazi’s continually supported their case by quoting Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who in the case Buck v Bell of 1927 in which the court upheld a state law that made the sterilization of the mentally retarded legal wrote, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

    As is the case with any controversial matter, the events described have been discussed and argued about at length, but my point isn’t to argue just how extensively eugenics was practiced in the United States. Instead, I present the fact that there was some sort of eugenics program that did take place in the United States and that many Nazis have quoted it in the defense of their actions. A horrible injustice was allowed to exist, and while it in no way caused the holocaust, it is undeniably linked to it by its nature. Just as MLK would later say of all injustices, this horrible injustice, which was allowed to thrive and hurt only those it was enacted upon, more than successfully threatened justice everywhere.

    Works Cited:
    MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail

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