The Reign of
You wake up in the morning and
you take your first breath of air
and you've compromised.1
These words from David Goldblatt capture my sense of what it means to live in our world as a white person. Injustice is so rampant that there is no way to live free of it. My first cup of coffee each day represents a decision to accept the benefits of unjust labor practices in the so-called third world. The house that I own sits on land once used by Native American peoples who were driven off, persecuted, and destroyed. The cotton blouse that I wear is a constant reminder of the history of slavery in the United States that made cotton “king” and put cash in the pockets of white people at the expense of black people's lives. I cannot create a world apart from the realities of injustice. My every breath is a compromise with injustice.
It is from this beginning point, then, that I must undertake any reflections on justice. My reflections on justice must begin with the realities of injustice. I have long been convinced that injustice is our lived reality, and that it is therefore the primary category. Justice emerges as the cry of revolt against injustice. An approach to justice must therefore begin with injustice. As Robert Pring-Mill puts it, “It may be difficult to understand what 'just' means. We can understand it better through its opposite, 'injustice.'”2