Witness

Justice is complex, multi-dimensional, and contested.  Whether one steps behind Rawl’s “veil of ignorance” or estimates costs and benefits with the utilitarian calculator, justice rises as an aspiration.  Another view of justice pivots on recognition.  That is, the act of seeing legitimacy in others’ claim, experience, or standing as the first step in addressing unequal distribution of social goods.  But even before that, there is another act necessary for recognition.  It is the act of bearing witness.  To witness is to see without power; testify without act. It is the simple, yet fundamental, step toward justice that we all have to take.  While I see injustice, I may not be in a position to change it.  But nonetheless, to witness offers a move ahead toward our aspirations.  Documentaries, poetry, photographs in some way or another bear witness.  Reflections on the photographs and comments from students after the field trip clearly demonstrate that we have moved one step closer to justice.

Juan Parras, TEJAS, 31 April 2011. (Photo Kristin McNabb)

 

Metal crushing facility in Magnolia community, Houston, 31 March 2011 (Photo: Brittany Sikorski)

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