Tuesday, January 30, 2018

King-03: The Second Obligation of Civil Disobedience - Negotiation

Let us assume that you have done a morally responsible job of determining that your cause is just. There is an injustice happening, and you want it to end.

Injustices are committed by people against other people.

The next step is to see if you can get the unjust to become just without a lot of fuss.

You do this by informing the unjust of their injustice and demanding that this stop.

King called this “negotiation”.

The term “negotiation” can be misunderstood. We could have negotiation in the sense that one side wants a great deal of injustice, the other side wants no injustice. So, you mutually agree to a moderate amount of injustice.

That would not be acceptable.

Instead, “no injustice” as an end is non-negotiable end. The question pertains to the means.

A proper negotiation requires giving the unjust a list of things they can actually DO. Demanding something vague or ambiguous such as "freedom" or "equality" makes little sense. After all, the Confederacy claimed that they were defending freedom - the freedom to own slaves. (Those who think that the Confederacy fought for something more noble than white supremacy need to learn some history.) Theocrats argue in favor of "religious freedom" when, what they mean, is the freedom to force their religious views on others and to inflict harms and penalties against those who disagree. Racists protest against anything that interferes with their ability to treat other races unjustly.

So . . . the demands set forth in negotiation need to be concrete actions.

In Birmingham, the demands placed in negotiation aimed to end segregation. For example, they demanded that businesses take down the signs that designated "colored" facilities from "white" - a concrete act that could be easily verified.

The business owners did not keep their part of the bargain.

As King pointed out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants--for example, to remove the stores' humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us.

Removing the signs and ending enforcement of segregation was something visible and concrete. It was something that the merchants could do and show that they had done. It is something they did not do.

Relating back to yesterday's post about information gathering, the demand could include a call to gather the valued information. For example, civil disobedience in the light of policing that unjustly targets blacks could demand the establishment of a federal database on police killings and injuries suffered at the hands of police. The protesters do not need to prove in advance that unjust police killings and beatings have taken place. They may justly demand the collection of information that would allow people to determine whether or not this is the case.

In another example, evidence may show that wealth stays with white people because the wealth that white people have acquired -
much of which through unjust practices regarding others - stays with the whites because of estate laws that allow white parents to pass their wealth down to their white relatives. One possible term of negotiation would require a redistribution of wealth back to the blacks, who otherwise suffer a continuing injustice.

This, then, suggests three types of information showing injustice and three kinds of remedies.

(1) Evidence of specific acts of injustice where the demand is that they end - such as segregated facilities.

(2) Evidence of statistical or institutional injustice where the remedy would be to alter the institution to correct for those injustices.

(3) Evidence of a lack of information that could be easily gathered where the remedy would be to start gathering that information.

There is, then, an interplay between the types of information gathered (or lacking) and the types of demands to be placed in negotiation.

Of course, the moral law does not allow unjust demands. The same principle that says that an unjust law is no law at all also says that the demands of morality are binding even where the law permits immorality.

For example, a command that a police officer who is thought to have unjustly killed a suspect be convicted would be an unjust demand. Justice may seek a trial, but it may not demand that verdict.

So, in summary, in Step 2 you provide a set of reasonable, just, specific, and verifiable demands. There is no obligation to accept injustice in these negotiations - but neither is there a right to demand injustice.

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