What are your reflections on social justice in the USA?
Social justice as defined by John Rawls is a person being able to live to their full potential in society (Rawls 1971). And as far as social justice in America is concerned it seems that most people can live up to their full potential. From the very basic fundamental freedoms that have been passed down throughout our history through the constitution, our protection of freedom of speech, our right to assemble, freedom of religion, and to elect officials we meet many of the UN's Declaration of Human Rights articles except for article 16 which states that men and women at full age should be allowed to marry (United Nations, 2014). There are only 17 states which have legalized same sex marriage as of 2014 and this is a major injustice to same sex couples. Going back to the above definition of full potential it can be seen that not being able to wed is not allowing the full potential to be realized. It creates a second class of relationship that meets it's ceiling with being in a relationship, and the people are not afforded the easements of adopting children as other married couples would be. But, this issue is changing and slowly progressing towards marriage equality limiting the social injustice.
Another issue that the UNited States is unjust with is the criminalization of drugs and the war on drugs. It has been show that "Male and female white prisoners of all age groups had lower imprisonment rates than male and female black and Hispanic prisoners. Overall, black males were 6 times and Hispanic males 2.5 times more likely to be imprisoned than white males in 2012" (Carson and Golienelli, 2012). This shows how our justice system is working away from social equally when one ethnicity is being imprisoned more than another. And with this imprisonment in the United States getting caught with a narcotic means not only that you receive fines, penalties, and jail time, but you also receive a mark on your record for the rest of your life. Because of these felons decisions in their life they are revoked the legal status to carry firearms, excluded from most jobs, not able to serve in office, and not allowed to vote. Excluded from jobs means that they have few options, because most employers do not hire felons so they either turn back to drugs or start their own venture. This can cause economic hardship which is far greater than that which they have caused society. Then on top of this they are revoked the right to vote, therefore they cannot stand up against the laws which put them there. The law sentences them and then after that they cannot vote to repeal the law, they cannot influence the process which govern them, and they are marginalized, because of the stigma of felony convictions. Even if they wanted to be a powerful voice for the felon community and take leadership to change society they cannot do so through the government, because being a felon bars them from holding office.
Therefore, even though the United States has many allowances as according to freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly there are still areas which we lack. For some it is blatant rights such as being able to marry who they want to marry. For others it is the inability to change their situation and the disproportionate distribution of the negative consequences of laws which work to compound their predicament. In the end the social justice of the United States shines in comparison to other countries, but shouldn't we strive to be better than ourselves?
E. Ann Carson and Daniela Golinelli, "Prisoners in 2012: Trends in Admissions and Releases, 1991-2012" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2013)
John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971) and A Swift, Political Philosophy (3rd edn 2013)
"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights." UN News Center. UN, Web. 05 Mar. 2014.