Justice in Society Today

When the term justice is mentioned, one will typically think of crime, or the law. For me, my perception of justice has always revolved around the depicted events on Law and Order: SVU. This show portrays confident, fearless detectives who restore faith in victims of sexually based crimes, and deliver justice to these victims by convicting criminals. Sitting in my den, the bright light of the television illuminating the room, I gazed in awe at the detectives and how they truly seemed to re-establish justice. Every case is successful- the criminal is always found guilty, as the victim is always told that they are important, and will receive any help they need to recover. Though, this show creates a false sense of reality, as it is evident that certain victims are often forgotten due to the crime they fell victim to, as well as their sex, race, or religion. Within modern day society, the bias sways in support of the seemingly “perfect” victim, though there is no such thing. This prevents certain victims from receiving the justice they deserve, permitting criminals freedom to live their day to day lives, never facing consequences for the crime they had committed. Allowing certain factors to determine which victims receive justice corrupts the intentions of the criminal justice system, and the overall meaning of justice- morally supporting victims and delivering justice to both them, and their perpetrators. 
    Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by the term “Never Forget.” Bumper stickers printed red, white, and blue are displayed solemnly on cars, the American flag hoisted on flag poles far above our heads. Every year on September 11th in schools, students are asked to rise from their seats for a moment of silence. We place our hands over our hearts, remembering the lives of those who had fallen in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As Americans we serve justice to those 2,996 victims that were brutally murdered by memorializing them, and never allowing ourselves to forget the horridity of that day. A center in New York City has been established in their honor, naming every victim of the attacks at the exact location  where the towers had fallen. Perhaps we will never forget these innocent victims because the death toll was extremely high, or because the attacks were on American soil. Although, this “Never Forget”  motif could be a result of something much more prevalent in society- the belief of a “perfect victim”. Those who died on 9/11 were completely innocent people, who went to work one day and never returned home.  Though, there have been countless other times where we, as Americans, have failed to remember other innocent victims. For instance, on March 15th, 2019, Muslim worshippers gathered at the Al Noor Mosque in New Zealand for their Friday prayer, or Jumu’ah. What they believed to be a typical service soon turned tragic- a shooter entered the mosque, and charged with raging islamophobia and White supremacy, shot and killed forty two Muslim worshippers. He began to livestream the attack, to allow his fellow white supremacists to view and applaud, but also to illustrate to other Muslims he could not directly impact how he felt about their religion. The worshippers at Al Noor welcomed him, accepting him into their community with open arms, which the shooter lodged bullets into. He then progressed to the Linwood Islamic Center, where he killed eight more people. In addition, there were fifty non-fatal injuries to other worshippers. They went to the mosque to pray, and instead, were killed. Though these 100 victims were directly impacted, this was an attack on the entirety of the Muslim community. 
    By memorializing victims, we could possibly prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future. Except, we have not memorialized the victims of Al Noor and the Linwood Islamic Center. All American citizens remember the 9/11 terrorist attacks as if they occurred yesterday. Though, for the attacks against these Muslim worshippers, it seems as if everyone’s memories have been erased, despite the fact that they only happened earlier this year. The first few days after the attacks, the media coverage was extreme, and people conversed among one another about these attacks and the severity of them. Though, only months later, these victims have been pushed to the side. Yes, it is true that the shooter has been arrested and charged with murder, which granted some form of justice- in New Zealand. But what about in America? What have we done to remember these victims? Sure, the attacks were not local, for us. Simply because something did not happen in our country, directly before our eyes, does not mean it has not happened at all. America has several Muslim citizens, who were indirectly attacked that day, as their brothers and sisters of the Muslim faith were massacred. Some will claim that there is nothing more that they can do- the shooter is detained, and was eventually charged. But, in order to fulfil our definition of justice, as a country, we must memorialize these victims. By completely forgetting these attacks, we send a message that the lives of those Muslim worshippers lost are of less importance than those of other vicious attacks, such as 9/11. As a country that demands “Liberty and Justice, for All”, we distort our own meaning of justice by failing to remember fallen victims,  as we do not serve justice to all- just the few society deems as worthy. 
    The definition of justice has been further distorted in cases where victims were hesitant to report a crime in fear they would not be believed. The USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal illustrates this hesitation to the highest extent. Over the past fourteen years, the USA gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar had sexually abused athletes when he was supposedly providing them with “medical treatment”. It took fourteen years for these women to come forward, which led to more than 265 accusations of sexual assault against Nassar. While this case was successful in leading to Nassar’s incarceration, and having women speak up, it took them fourteen years to do so. Yes, speaking up against such a heinous, violating crime is an extremely hard thing to do, and for the Women to even build the courage and strength to come forward is astonishing. Though, if the society we live in did not shame victims for the crimes they had fallen to, then perhaps someone would have come forward much sooner, possibly preventing more assaults from occurring. This does not only pertain to scandals such as the USA gymnastics case- victims of sexual assault are typically questioned, and even shamed. Asking a victim what they were wearing at the time of the assault (was their skirt too short?), or if they were too flirtatious, makes the victim feel as if the attack was their fault. This prevents these victims from coming forward, contributing to the eighty percent of rapes and sexual assaults that go unreported (according the the Brennan Center for Justice). Allowing victims to feel hesitant to report a crime demonstrates how the meaning of justice has been severely altered, as sexual assault victims cannot receive justice if they fear to report a crime.
    Justice is restoring faith in humanity through the assurance that victims receive the clarity necessary to recover from a crime they fell victim to, in whatever form that may be. This includes prosecuting criminals, making sure they face the consequences for the crime they committed. Though, modern day society warps the intended meaning of justice to cater to the seemingly “perfect” victims, or to shame others due to the crime they had fallen victim to. As Americans, by creating an environment where we memorialize victims, and allow other victims to feel safe to report crimes, we can restore the true meaning of justice, and truly deliver “Liberty and Justice, for All.” 

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Diya John, Newfield High School


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