Justice: Equality, Morality, and Conscience

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Justice: Equality, Morality, and Conscience The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines justice as “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.” In other words, justice requires an unbiased and impartial governing force. Justice in the eyes of Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, and Martin Luther King Jr., was the presence of equality: No one human being can have superiority over another and no one is entitled to what life has to offer any more so than another. Justice and equality go hand-in-hand. Neither is possible without the other. To achieve justice, as illustrated by the works of these great thinkers, however, people must have a conscience and a sense of morality, of right and wrong. What is right is just, and what is wrong is unjust. In the presence of morality, justice, as described by Douglass, Thoreau, and King Jr., is possible. The idea that human conscience is required for justice is exhibited substantially during the period of American slavery. Few people brought attention to the evil and immorality of slavery like Frederick Douglass. In his autobiographical narrative, A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Douglass described the effect that slavery had on not only slaves, but also slave-owners. “That cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage” (Douglass 160), wrote Douglass in reference to his slave-owner’s wife, Mrs. Auld. What was a moral lady with a sense of conscience at first, was now a “demon” deprived of it. Slavery gave owners and white men a false sense of superiority, a sense of power, which blinded any vision of justice and equality. Another aspect of slavery was the dehumanization of slaves. Whites in the South dehumanized slaves and put them on the same level as
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