Injustice: Are We Treated Fairly?

Concerns over just treatment are also a potent force in our lives. We regularly consider whether particular circumstances or decisions are fair. Employees may wonder whether they’re being paid what they deserve; parents may worry about whether their children are receiving enough encouragement and recognition at school; persons of color may have doubts about whether they really deserved to be pulled over by the police; and public figures may have doubts about whether they’re being portrayed fairly by the media.

Cases of mistreatment — from minor slights to profound abuses — stir anger and resentment, as well as an urge to right wrongs and bring accountability to those we hold responsible. At the same time, claims of injustice and calls for punitive or corrective measures frequently spur heated debate and disagreement. An action that one person or group considers an obvious instance of wrongdoing may be deemed entirely legitimate by others. Similarly, what some see as a fair solution to a problem may be viewed by other stakeholders as yet a further miscarriage of justice.

Our perceptions about what’s just and what’s not are frequently imperfect. That makes us potentially easy targets for skillful manipulation by those who have a selfish interest in shaping our views of right and wrong. We can be misled into believing that there’s no injustice in our midst when in fact there is, or vice versa. We can also be misdirected into believing that innocent parties are the ones responsible for unjust conditions, thereby letting those who are actually guilty escape accountability.