No Justice, No Peace

Clinches your teeth, forcing your cause into the streets

Like a fever pitch with a battle cry

Injustice strikes, then it lies

You are no hero, so you realize

“Yes, I’m marching, but I’m crying inside”

 

Like grapes on a vine, justice and peace are intertwined.

Unless justice prevails, peace cannot. Those seeking justice seek fairness and moral defense from the oppressive snares of injustice. Justice never challenges truth, but truth never goes unchallenged by the unjust.

Who are the unjust? They are the greedy and nefarious who have been the unwitting catalysts behind all peace and justice movements — especially the Civil Rights Movement in America.

What influence did the unjust have on this movement?

For starters, they dispossessed, enslaved and indentured generations of people, leaving them no alternative but to fight for their freedom and civil rights. By turning a blind eye, the unjust ignored the inevitable — that the oppressed would want back what had been stolen from them.

When people have been treated unfairly, they begin to seek justice as their moral defense. This defense has historically given them hope and strength to reclaim lost possessions, resurrect lost freedom and to position themselves to become recipients of their constitutional and civil rights. The wise and gifted Benjamin Franklin held this historical perspective when he said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Unjust application of law and discriminatory practices by racist public and private institutions have historically produced outrage and perpetrated civil unrest and justice movements.

The Civil Rights Movement was an example of this type of phenomenon in which people gained enough prominence to force equal rights legislation that benefitted all Americans in some way. African Americans benefitted from specific aspects of civil rights legislation in unique ways, but so did women, children and even non-nationals.

It is important to note that civil rights legislation had been passed as early as the late 1800s, but in those times America was bitterly divided by race, color and a lack of economic opportunity. Segregation and racism had been the norm, as they were during the world wars. For example, “negro” soldiers, like the 332nd Tuskegee Airmen, faced Jim Crow laws that legalized discrimination that turned some Southern states into new battle grounds.

It is impossible to cover the Civil Rights Movement in this article, so I have provided some pertinent background information that summarizes three monumental pieces of civil rights legislation: that of Presidents Harry Truman after World War II, and John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Acts of 1963 and 1964.

A. Philip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, met with President Franklin Roosevelt to demand he withhold defense contracts from employers who practiced discrimination and segregation in federal agencies. Roosevelt denied African Americans equal justice, although they had supported him, so in November 1941 Mr. Randolph led the “March on Washington.”

Influenced by Randolph, several years later President Harry Truman desegregated the US military by issuing two Executive Orders on July 26, 1948, one to “institute fair employment practices in civilian agencies of the federal government,” and the other mandating “equality of treatment and opportunity in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” Civil rights leaders and compatriots worked together toward achieving these major, life-changing breakthroughs.

By the late-1950s, the findings of the United States Civil Rights Commission fueled boycotts and sit-ins. President John F. Kennedy took notice and with bravery and urgency reviewed the commission’s findings. He conferred with religious clergy, businessmen, labor officials and civil rights leaders while fostering bipartisanship in the Senate. He had political support when he submitted the Civil Rights Act of 1963 (HR 7152) to Congress and addressed the nation over national television on June 11, 1963. Five months later, President Kennedy was assassinated. Some consider Kennedy to be a martyr.

After a 57-day filibuster, Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois got the bill passed. President Johnson signed the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who worked closely with Kennedy, Roy Wilkins, and other civil rights leaders were present when the bill was signed into law, outlawing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and requiring equal access to public places and employment and enforced desegregation of schools and the right to vote, and banning unequal voting requirements.”          

Countless individuals and groups from different faiths and classes marched and died for the success of the Civil Rights Movement, but this did not end discrimination and racism. Nevertheless, America’s profound Constitution still guarantees the right to justice and peace.