3 October 2014
Serving Social Justice
Ray Comfort, a clergyman once said “We are very easily fooled by language and how it is used by others . Rhetoric is a powerful tool that when used properly can move not just the common community, but nations. Rhetoric brings forth the things common between each of us and amplifies that common understanding to bring us together to reach a common goal. As seen with the efforts of the Civil Right’s Movement and to a more extreme, the efforts of Hitler and Mussolini. The use of discussion and rhetoric are the beginning stages that can bring social justice which will bring change, fairness, and the welfare of the common man, but then we must act to spark protests, so that those protests will gain momentum to change the landscape of nations.
Rhetoric is the use of persuasive speaking and writing along with figurative speech and composition to influence an audience. During the civil rights movement, songs were often used as signs of nonviolent protests. By singing and praying, it helped the large gathering “to keep a mass from becoming a mob, and to convey to opponents that one was witnessing an organized event, not a mob action” (Reed 29). Through the rhetoric of music the movement was able to squash any ideas of the crowd being anything related to a violent mob as described in Reed’s “The Art of Protest”. While in Reed’s “The Art of Protest” the significance of King Jr. is downplayed a lot, the truth of the matter is that without his powerful speeches, the movement most likely would have turned out very different. There’s a reason why King Jr. is taught as the single, most influential person of the Civil Right’s movement. His mass gatherings of thousands of people, his “March on Washington”, and his famous “I have a Dream” speech all had profound effects on the movement. Not discounting the efforts of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee), but King Jr. was on the front lines along with his organization, the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference). His use of the rhetorical devices: ethos, pathos, and logos in his speeches made the crowds unite, more so pathos than anything else. What the Civil Rights Movement ultimately tried to do was deliver the iron hammer of social justice.
Social Justice is the realization of the fair and unfair distribution of opportunities, wealth, and privileges in society and how the society/individual(s) respond to it. In King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech he states that racism is a “dark and desolate valley” while racial justice is a “sunlit path”. Having a society where equal opportunities exist for everyone is a path where communities will grow better and be better sustained. King also states that it wasn The Civil Right In the passage from Flower’s book “Community Literacy and the Rhetoric of Public Engagement” she describes a “Community House” which houses a hundred seats for a public forum which presents questions about teen culture and invites adults, teachers, and teens to hash them out. This is created due to the unfair suspensions that students faced at Oliver High School. In this case they are trying to achieve social justice through the whole community, the closest thing that can be considered down top.
Social justice is most realistically delivered from the top down. Even with King Jr. he met with many famous politicians such as then President John F. Kennedy to discuss social justice for the black population. The fact is that the final word is held at the highest position(s) of an institution whether it be a corporation or the government. In the piece by Linda Flower, even though there is a community forum where everyone can discuss the problems with Oliver High School, the end result is that the students can change their behavior as much as they want, but ultimately if they do get in trouble it will still be up to the administration to deliver the final judgement. The only way for a down top method to achieve social justice is a through a c
Discussion and rhetoric are only the start, we also need to take action. In Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement against segregation, King preached out his message that we are all equal. That the color of our skin doesn’t matter and all people from all walks of life are equal. “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals” (King). King realized that gawking his mouth to the government wasn’t going to solve his problems. Thus he led his fellow “troops” into a non-violent battle that led to people getting thrown in jail, beaten, and stricken with disease. King did make use of his rhetoric a lot make no mistake, but if he hadn’t done what he did through his march through America, the boycotts, his pioneering of the SCLC, and much more the world would most likely be much different. In “Selling Social Justice Short” by Serene Jones she discusses how there’s this big, beautiful thing. Those big, beautiful things are corporations and the “progressive, loving spirit moving us toward greater things”(Jones) are the parts of the ads before the product(s) are introduced. Corporations know us so well, they know we strive for social justice and corporations now know that advertisements with social justice will sell products. In turn the businesses now have control over our wallets and that restricts our opportunities and privileges in society. What people need to do is to oppose them with the voice of our wallets. That is why we cannot just sit down at a book reading club and discuss our social injustices through afternoon tea.
Social Justice is a difficult thing to achieve. Only when multitudes of people unite for a common goal can it be “served” and for people to see the bearing of their efforts. When a movement has a person(s) that are able fully comprehend rhetoric and use it to it’s fullest potential such as King Jr., Ghandi, Hitler, or Mussolini then can it be served to it’s full potential. Justice will always be served top bottom, but we as a community don’t have to stand still. That is because if we do stand still then we don’t deserve social justice. If the Civil Right’s Movement and the Oliver High School students had just accepted the treatment that they were given, then they don’t deserve social justice either. Due to the fact that they both fought hard for it, they received it. While not perfect even today, we could see another movement as large as the Civil Right’s Movement.
Flower, Linda. Community Literacy and the Rhetoric of Public Engagement. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2008. Print.
Jones, Serene. “Selling Social Justice Short.” Time. Time, 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.
“Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech – American Rhetoric.” Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech – American Rhetoric. American Rhetoric, n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2014.
“Ray Comfort.” BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2014. 3 October 2014. http://www.brainyquote. com/quotes/authors/r/ray_comfort.html
Reed, T. V. The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2005. Print.