Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
– MLKJr in his letter from the Birmingham Jail
Potentially one of the greatest logical fallacies is that another’s injustice exists in a vacuum which doesn’t touch me or affect me. It’s easy for us to sit idly by while injustice plays on our TV or computer screens as we sip on a hot cup of coffee. But wait, the cup of coffee in itself is likely a cup of injustice! For unless it is fairly traded, someone is being unjustly treated so that I can enjoy this bitter pleasure at a cheaper price.
I don’t mean to get on a soap box about fairly traded coffee… I’ll save that for another post. 😉 I only mean to illustrate that as MLK says, we are all interconnected. If I’m drinking a cheap cup of coffee, it’s likely that someone (or many someone’s) was underpaid or not paid at all. While I relish pleasure, someone suffers injustice. We are interconnected.
In the context of MLK’s letter and the Civil Right’s movement, the injustice of the white majority inflicted on the black minority was an injustice for all. In a system of oppression, it’s not only the oppressed that suffer, but the oppressors also fall victim to the malaise of the broken system they perpetuate. Surely victims suffer at the hand of injustice but how do oppressors suffer? In his book “Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power” Andy Crouch explains that oppressors ‘play god’ and their victim loses agency and power. The one playing god has usurped the throne, cannot rightly worship the true God. The oppressor must repent of god playing and become rightly submitted to God again and the oppressed must be raised up to his true identity and dignity as an image-bearer of God.
I praise God that for the progress we’ve made in race relations since the 1960s! The blinding injustice of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Jim Crow, and segregation are behind us, yet our healing is not complete. News media on Ferguson, Walter Scott, and other similar cases demonstrate that we have not completely healed. There is still injustice that affects us all… we all drink from the same cup. In the inspiring words of John Legend’s SELMA hit, “The war isn’t over and victory isn’t won, but we’ll fight on to the finish and then when it’s all done, we’ll cry GLORY! Oh Glory! Glory!”
I’ll drink some fairly traded coffee to that!