The phrase Law and Order is manipulative. A device that commands our commitment for fear of social decay. We must challenge this concept of Law and Order to build a society that is both equitable and responsive. It is helpful for us to first have a broader view of power and how power uses Law to maintain Order.
Laws are the structure by which power is expressed and through which Order is enforced. The threat to that order does not simply occur when one breaks a law, but when power arbitrarily enforces the law. Yet worse: When the violence of the law to is used to further concentrate Order’s power.
Laws that serve power and oppress people are illegitimate, as are those who are sent to enforce the laws. This is why rebellions are important, even if laws (or windows) are broken. They show us where our systems of law have failed and what our institutions need to do to fix them. Any institution that can’t fix its own system failures must be abolished and rebuilt from scratch.
In Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King admonished that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” He explained that “an unjust law is a code out of harmony with the moral law,” mostly because it “degrades human personality.” Contrarily, just laws not only “square with moral law,” but they are rooted in truth.
It is both ironic and tragic that Dr. King wrote from a jail as a prisoner of unjust Law and we are still citing the truth in his words to free our nation from bondage. We are once again at an inflection point in American history where the social movement has given warning of imminent danger. In response, Order has wielded the Law to maintain its power.
Dr. Cornel West said that “The condition of the truth is to allow suffering to speak.” While rubber bullets dart through clouds of tear gas, the movement has not relented. Defying curfews and weapons of war, the movement has exposed the truth of America’s unjust Law and Order and it has illuminated the ills persistent and pervasive inequality.
The demonstrations were catalyzed by police brutality, but with the backdrop of Covid-19, people will continue to flood the streets as they increasingly have nothing to lose. People…