Justice Is Just A Word
By Janice Kimball
Recently, a newspaper reporter from the Guadalajara Reporter asked an employed woman on her lunch hour what it felt like to be liberated. She replied she had no time for liberation. All of her time was spent working to feed her family. If we truly believed in justice we could liberate many humans in our community simply by sharing everything we have. Are there any volunteers? No? But isn’t that what justice is about: a balanced scale?
I admit the word ‘justice‘ is a problem for me. Retaliation is often referred to as justice. The word justice linked to judgment comes to mind. Being fair is being just, yet if you open your eyes, and let even the local world filter in, you will see that fairness in this life is a myth.
There are personal reasons why I have an aversion to the word ‘justice.’ During my father’s time, Henry Ford tried to break the unions in Detroit. Years later, I experienced the hopelessness of families left in the wake of the auto industries abandonment of them. Their jobs were torn away, and given to people living in other parts of the globe. Abandoned factories were torn down leaving large tracts of wasteland as testimony that Detroit was once alive. It was simplistically said that the auto workers wanted too much money. The fact is that the factories were depreciated over a period of time, and that time had expired. A death knell was at hand.
I had worked for the United States Department of Labor as a T.J.T.C. specialist (Targeted Jobs Tax Credits), a program to entice employers to hire automobile workers who had been adversely affected by the loss of their jobs through foreign trade. I can attest to the abuses of this program. It was designed to take workers who had run out of unemployment benefits off the welfare rolls, and save the government money. It did save them a little: the time it took savvy businesses to systematically hire, take their tax credits, and then fire them, plus their tedious three- month process spent reapplying for welfare. These workers had believed in me. They would beg me for another job referral.
The generation that followed the once proud factory workers of Detroit is now referred to as a sub- culture. Their families’ history of being hard- working people that had moved ‘up north’ from the poor south to work the assembly lines is seldom remembered. The hopelessness of permanent unemployment, where men sneak in to be with their women and children, lest they be left with no food stamps to sustain them, is sad. Those that ‘have’ feel it is unjust they contribute to social programs. They point to its failures. They demand we eliminate the government ‘waste’ of feeding hungry people.
In my years working for ‘just’ programs in Detroit I saw no justice at all, and received none. Justice is a word too often flouted by the self-righteous, those who think in terms of black and white, and those who do not see beyond their own back yard.