A column in the Washington Post reflecting on the recent traumatic beating one young man suffered in a neighborhood I recently moved out of caught my attention this week. The victim, Trell Thomas, says he ran for his life at 10:30 p.m. on Labor Day while at least six teenagers repeatedly pummeled him to the point where was "almost choking on blood." What's worse, the attack took place in plain view on a busy downtown D.C. street where Thomas says numerous passing vehicles locked their doors and fled the scene rather than try to intervene on his behalf.
According to the Washington Post account, Thomas moved to the city just over one year ago to work for a nonprofit organization dedicated to working with teens in advocating "immigrant rights, health care and racial and social justice." Fearing the assailants may target him and strike again, Thomas declined to identify his employer. But he told the Post he had a message for his attackers:
“I don’t want to be angry with them,” Thomas said. “It just concerns me that their future is being taken away from them, by them, so early.”
He continued: “I’ve already got the bruises and stuff. I want to put a message out that we hear you. . . . We don’t want you to be out here robbing people and hurting people to displace your anger, or to feel that this is what you need to do to get food on the table, or to get the help and attention that you deserve, or to have a bond by attacking people together.”
I literally had to read these comments twice, and even then couldn't believe what I was seeing. While the Post columnist characterized Thomas' comments as a "remarkably charitable attitude," I couldn't help but think about how utterly upside-down this logic seems: The victim in this situation is not only excusing the perpetrators' violence, he's sympathizing with them as if they are the true victims of their own actions.
That's not "charitable," I thought, it's stupid. It also highlights why "social justice" is no justice at all.
Thomas' reaction to this crime echoes that of many rape victims who often sympathize with their attackers and actually place much of the blame for the crime on themselves. But in the case of sexual assault, no one immediately stands up to coddle the rapist and tell them that we understand they were merely displacing their anger or doing what they needed to do to get the attention they deserve.
Thomas believes in "social justice," a world view which sees only poor inner-city kids with no options in life than attacking and stealing from strangers. Not only is this a demographically incorrect assumption to make about such crimes (statistically, most of these "poor kids" probably come from middle-class households with self-inflicted household dysfunction), but it ignores actual justice -- the idea that there's a right and wrong and that wrongdoers receive swift and just punishment. It's this real justice which keeps a society based on the rule of law functioning in an orderly manner.
When we start excusing and ignoring real injustice to pursue some progressive notion of "social justice," the line between right and wrong becomes blurred and civilized society will come apart at the seams.