Table of Contents
About a year and a half ago, I read a true story that broke my heart. A black teenage boy was pushed to suicide by bullies from his school. The young boy used to attend a public high school whose population was majorly white students with only a very small percentage comprising of people of color. A particular gang of white boys struck an immediate dislike for him immediately he joined the school and took to frustrating him at every opportunity they got. From vandalizing his school locker all the time to taking his personal belongings such as shoes and clothes to making fun of him in public and name calling, the bullies saw to it that the innocent boy literally knew no peace.
Attempts by his parents to intervene by reporting the bullying incidents to the school administration failed miserably as the school wasn’t keen on implementing policies protecting its students from racial profiling and discrimination. The administration promised to look into the matter but nothing was done. The ill treatment went on. Eventually the boy’s self-esteem was damaged irreparably, he went into depression and one morning his parents found him dangling from his bedroom ceiling, lifeless. Even more heartbreaking were his diary entries. He would write his experiences in school every day including the names of the bullies. The details were really disturbing. It was so sad that life had to be lost like that, and sadly nobody was held responsible. This incident got me wondering just how many students go through similar experiences and never get the chance to seek justice. Is the school system doing everything it ought to do to ensure the safety of the students?
Justice remains one of the most important issues in the history of philosophy. The Greeks considered justice the virtue of body and soul. The Greeks believed in their superhuman origin and were therefore very devoted to their laws. Also, to them the general principles encompassing the law were deemed perfect and permanent and would not change regardless of what the people willed to do. Nature was the source of the law and the people had a responsibility towards application of the law and nothing to do with its creation. The law signified freedom as it was the same for everyone. To the Greeks, the city-state served as both the church and a political institution with the goal of promoting goodness and justice among its citizens. Justice represented ideal perfection in the nature of human relations (Bhandari, 25).
Plato and Aristotle’s Theories of Justice
Plato drew his inspiration from Socrates an also regarded justice as the true principle around which social life revolves. Plato’s main work on justice was named Republic. He uses the Greek word for justice “Dikaisyne”. This word means righteousness or morality. To Plato, justice entails having and doing what is one is supposed to. He defines a just person as one who is at the place they are supposed to be, doing their best and giving in the same measure as that in which they receive. Plato compares the three main elements of state which are rulers, soldiers and citizens to the three elements of human mind which include spirit, reason and appetite. According to him, justice can only prevail if each member of the society does to the best of their capability what the society requires of them without meddling with the affairs of other members of the society (Barker, 150). This can be interpreted as a system of specialization and non-interference.
Aristotle’s view on justice was somewhat similar to that by Plato. He believed that justice was the basis of any society and that unless policies are founded on justice, they cannot prevail for a long time. He was of the thought that justice is relative to different persons. Justice in an individual, according to him, is the accord in the human soul, and equality and proportion in enjoyment of values in the society. Politically, he believed justice to be treating equals equally and unequal’s unequally all in accordance with their significant differences (Aristotle, 5).
Using Plato and Aristotle’s views of justice to analyze the incident described above, it is clear that it was an act of injustice. Failure by the school administration to take action against the students that were bullying the teenage boy and subjecting him to racial profiling was wrong. As such, the administration failed to perform its responsibility of protecting its students and enforcing the school rules and regulations which definitely are strongly against acts of that nature. The bullies are also perpetrators of injustice according to Plato’s view on the same as they also failed in their responsibility as a student which requires them to focus on meeting their educational goals and behaving responsibly. Bullying and racial discrimination is not only a breach of the school regulations on the same but failure to respect members of the school fraternity regardless of their diversity. Most importantly, justice essentially calls for morality which goes to say that any immoral act is an injustice. Looking at the incident from another point of view, the parents of the victim also did him injustice. This is because they failed in their responsibility of ensuring the safety of their children. Had they taken another course of action after failing to engage the school administration, the situation might have been different.
This act of racial discrimination and bullying of the teenage boy that led to his death through suicide would definitely have been regarded by the ancient Greeks as an act of injustice. First, to them justice stood for ideal perfection in the nature of human relations. Bullying and racial profiling disrupts peace and creates bad blood between the victims and the perpetrators. This is against the ancient Greeks belief that people ought to live in peace under the governance of the laws in place to ensure that justice prevails at all times. As mentioned earlier, the Greeks regarded the law as perfect and a sign of freedom as applied to everyone in the same measure. In this light, racial discrimination and bullying is in essence breaking of the law and therefore an injustice. These acts also deny the victim their freedom as provided for by the law and are therefore acts of injustice.
I feel that justice ought to have been administered in the issue of the teenage boy. First, it is important to note that whatever transpired would have been avoided had the school administration taken action immediately the parents of the victim reported the bullying and racial profiling incidents. In future, this school should take seriously any complaints made formally to the school especially so if the concern raised affects the wellbeing of any member of the school fraternity. Also, the school administration ought to increase awareness on the need to rise above any form of discrimination as everyone is beautiful regardless of their background and ethnicity among other differences. Counseling should also be intensified as it would be important in ensuring that victims of any kind of misfortunes and abuse to not resort to drastic actions such as taking their own lives. Most importantly, justice should have been pursued for the teenage boy even in his death by ensuring that his oppressors faced the law. This would have been possible as the deceased kept a diary where he would write down his everyday experiences in school. Also, he had reported to his parents about who was bullying him at school. Although it would definitely not bring the young boy back, it would grant closure to their parents and also serve as a lesson to the entire school fraternity as pertains to the issue of bullying and racial discrimination.
- Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics, Translated by Commentaries and Glossary by Hippocrats G. Apostle, D. Redial Publishing, London, Book E, 5, 1980.
- Barker, E. Greek Political Theory- Plato and His Predecessors. London, 4th edition, 1952. Pp.149- 153.
- Bhandari, D.R. Reprint History of European Political Philosophy. Bangalore, Bappco, the Bangalore Press, 2002. pp. 5-54.