Glen Coulthard: Indigenous Protests

The indigenous people are those that are native to the land that we live on. Canadian history shows colonizers have come and taken the land with no regard to those who live on it. In Glen Coulthard’s “Red Skin, White Masks” the philosophy of Civil Disobedience with regards to Indigenous protests are explained and further elaborated upon creating multiple discussion topics.

1.At what point does a person switch from internalization to externalization. What specifically can cause the moment of resentment and the moment of realization?

This question was proposed due to the explanation of Coulthard’s reflection on the internal evolution of why the Indigenous protests began. Coulthard explains the change from internalization to externalization of an issue. It begins with internalization when one thinks the problem is their fault or due to their mistakes. Then there is anger in the realization that the way they are being treated is unfair and unjust. This leads to resentment, where one looks for the root of the problem, seeing that it is due to the actions of a another party (colonization). Therefore, the emotions are externalized and that emotion leads to protests and acts of civil disobedience that illustrate the disapproval with the state. Although this theory defines the process, my question proposes when that distinct moment occurs and whether there is a universal trigger or if it is specific for each person and/or group of people.

The group began with a discussion on what may cause a person to be angry or realize their anger. That moment comes at a point of respect for oneself and an intersection with a realization that the issue cannot be solved with their singular ability. After the anger, the point where they externalize their emotions and decide to do change the system is when they realize they’re not alone in their anger. Once a person realizes there is a universal anger and resentment, they have a safety of knowing that others will support them. This support allows people to voice their concerns and to feel confident in their opinions. Furthermore, there was also mention of when a person realizes that a certain action can affect more than one person. This goes well with the idea of support since the understanding of an action affecting more people that just yourself gives you the power to defend yourself since others will most likely support you because they feel the same. there were examples given such as the way Snowden externalized and gave information possibly due to the reassurance of support. In addition, there was the example of having a learning disability and once one realizes that they are not alone, they have the courage to voice their concerns and pursue help and/or change.

2. At what point could this lead to violence? Is there any point other that violence can be warranted on their behalf? Is this working?

The second question posed was a reference to Brownlee and her view on how violence can be necessary for civil disobedience. So far the Indigenous people of Canada have protested throughout history with little to no violence. Although, this is the preferred form of protest it has led to  minimal change in the government and the Indigenous pursuit of self-determination. Would violence benefit their cause and cause the media and state to pay attention or harm the protests by presenting an image that could be misconstrued?

It was understood within the discussion group that violence is never preferred, but throughout history it has proven to gather the attention of the state and media. There were ideas from half the group where they believed that violence or a choice in retaliation of violence can tarnish the reputation of the Indigenous protests that have been held up today. Whilst the other half of the group believed that violence, if pushed to that point, may finally make protests warrant the attention of the state. There was conversation that the violence is inevitable if the government doesn’t make change soon. Civil Disobedience was described as a cycle in a circular fashion where eventually if the issue is not resolved, violence will be encountered.

This discussion led to a final overarching question where we took all our knowledge on civil disobedience this semester and tried to answer, “how can the Indigenous people gain the attention of the government to make a change?”. People opposed violence just for attention and instead turned to petitioning for quantitative evidence that can be brought to the government. In addition, there was conversation on making minor adjustments that each person can do such as acknowledging the land we are one, learning about the culture of your area, and promoting the desire for change. Although, there were no conclusive ideas on how the government can finally make a change, there was a consensus in the discussion group that there should be change.

Discussion Summary on applying Brownlee’s Features of a Paradigm Case of Civil Disobedience to Snowden

Did the Communicative aspect that Brownlee discusses succeed? Were the “hearers” (pg. 343) receptive to what Snowden had to say? Did Snowden’s civil disobedience “bring about a change in current laws” or “prevent the development of new laws or policies similar to those that [he] currently finds objectable?” (pg. 346) Snowden leaked NSA spying implementations across the world including the UK in the case of the GCHQ but the Investigatory Powers Bill passed in late 2016 allows government departments to view internet connection histories, potentially spying on UK citizens.

Group members said that the leak caused a great deal of change within the NSA, such as ODNI reports assessing the organization and the five-year limit on information storage. Others commented that people are more aware of what the government can do, and will teach the next generation to safeguard privacy laws. Although it was the opposite situation in the UK, a group member pointed out that the effect on the states would be more widespread since the NSA is a US organization and Snowden an American citizen. To close it off, a group member remarked that big amendments occurred and there is a precedence for reformation now.

Brownlee is adamant that if a society provides citizens the legal capability to enact change and their conviction is steadfast, it is a moral obligation for them to do so. She claims “broad-based, collective support” (pg. 348) is necessary to change laws. After learning about Edward Snowden, to what degree should we act? Are we morally obligated to do so? E.g. vote, write letters to MP, participate in protests, talk to friends on social media

Group members commented that there is an inertia of policy development surrounding the WWB and lack of meaningful progress adapting legislature to fairly deal with technology. A group member thought that most people ignored the NSA revelations because they believed they had nothing to hide. Another group member insisted that if someone is really passionate about making a change, they have to take it as far as possible by doing everything in their power. She claimed that Edward Snowden knew it was necessary, and sacrificed a great deal due to moral obligation (even though it was illegal).


Brownlee and Scheuerman Discussion Summary

I began the discussion by briefly summarizing the required readings for the week before introducing my first question: “Are Edward Snowden’s actions (of releasing classified documents to the public which entail the scale of NSA surveillance) a case of civil disobedience?” Because Scheuerman’s argument outlines why Snowden should be considered a civil disobedient according to Rawl’s definition of civil disobedience, I thought this question was quite pertinent. Since the group seemed to need more prompting to answer the question, I added a follow-up question, namely whether civil disobedience can exist in the absence of the element of accepting punishment and as it pertains to Snowden, “does the fact that he did not accept punishment affect whether or not his case is civil disobedience?” Kimberly Brownlee, for example, defines civil disobedience as “conscientious and (2) communicative breaches of the law for the purpose of (3) demonstrating protest against a law and/or (4) persuading lawmakers to change the law” (Brownlee, 338). Under such a case, Snowden would apply, having demonstrated seriousness and sincerity by giving up his comfort and security to reveal government action he believes is wrong to the public.

One classmate however, suggested that considering his case to be civil disobedience under Rawl’s definition is more difficult seeing as how this definition requires civil disobedients to show respect for the rule of law, which is usually demonstrated by accepting punishment. Scheuerman argues Snowden fulfills this because his “aim is obviously neither violent criminality nor revolution, but instead a peaceful transformation of US policy –and even the NSA itself – so that it might better accord with his interpretations of both the US Constitution and international law” (Scheuerman, 614). Snowden’s intentions are not obvious nor are his interpretations of the constitution necessarily sufficient to show respect for law and warrant not accepting punishment. This is because interpretations vary and reasonable people will disagree, but it is not acceptable to use that to justify breaking the law without legal consequences. My next related question was whether or not Snowden should have accepted punishment, and one group member thought he was right not to, but acknowledged that opinions would vary depending on how one views his actions and intentions, which the rest of the group agreed with.

Next, I asked whether Snowden was morally justified in what he did. Furthermore, tying back into the terms from the Singer reading, were his actions morally permissible, or is there any sense in which they could be considered morally obligatory? Invoking the idea of moral consistency that Brownlee brings up in her article, would it be morally inconsistent to stand idly by when you believe something is wrong? My group agreed that it heavily depends on one’s system of morality. For example, utilitarianism would say it is not morally justified because it endangers programs designed to protect society. One classmate said that while Snowden was morally justified because he personally believed that the extent of the NSA surveillance was violating rights and immorally wrong, in their own view, it would depend on whether the NSA was actually abusing the power by looking at the information they had access to. However, my group did not think it was morally obligatory because of other potential considerations, much like Brownlee mentions that people must balance “when deciding how to act” (Brownlee, 341). For example, one mentioned the non-disclosure agreement Snowden violated when he released the documents, breaking a law himself which is generally perceived to be morally wrong given that the law is just.

Another classmate expanded on this, saying working with the government tends to be a “grey area” because as Scheureman admits, “every liberal democracy carves out some place for government secrecy in the context of national security” (Scheuerman, 613). The group member raised doubt as to the moral permissibility of Snowden’s actions, due to the potential harm he could have caused to the nation’s citizens or to its international standing and relations. They argued against Scheuerman’s claim that “no political actor can reasonably be held responsible for all of her or his act’s unavoidable manifold long-term consequences” (Scheuerman, 614) stating that Snowden had to have some foresight before acting and his action could have had worse consequences than it did.

This was also their reasoning for answering no to my next questions: “should Snowden should have been pardoned by the Obama administration? If you were in a position to (i.e. POTUS), would you offer clemency to Edward Snowden?” This question is relevant considering Scheuerman argues “US Americans should demand of the Obama administration that it treat Snowden with clemency” as it is the “right thing” (Scheuerman, 623); this argument likely extends to the current President of the US. The members of my group seemed to be in a general consensus that Snowden should not be pardoned, because he endangered national security which is not easy to forget. Another reason was that it would set a precedent showing that his actions are permissible, and may prompt similar ones, to which I brought up the similar case of Chelsea Manning, who was pardoned. Unlike Snowden, however, Manning did accept punishment, which President Obama cited as his reason for awarding clemency to her yet not to Snowden. However, one student felt that while they would not offer clemency, Snowden should not have been restricted in travel, much like Scheuerman, who argues “he should still have somewhere to go besides Putin’s Russia” (623)

My final question was whether Scheuerman’s argument of Snowden appealing to a higher law to show fidelity to law was effective. The group was split on this question with some suggesting risking security was worse than those offences, some saying it is debatable whether his claim is true, and some agreeing his justification is made sound by appealing to a higher law. Those who said risking security was worse claimed he jeopardized people’s safety, increasing the potential for attacks on the US, which no amount of privacy would protect them from. A recurring theme in our discussion was deciding between different values, such as between national security and the right to privacy, which many consider a basic human right.

Discussion Summary- Edward Snowden

Scheuerman argues that “the secrecy in which NSA intelligence-gathering has been shrouded allegedly corrupts ‘the most basic notion of justice- that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret laws.” But he also cedes that “… some government activities may need to be veiled from direct public scrutiny… in the context of national security” (613).

My question is that for a functioning democracy where as Scheuerman argues there must be a certain level of secrecy for specific government actions to be effective where do we draw the line between too much secrecy in government and too much disclosure? How do we find that line or how would we decide where to draw it?

In discussing this question, a member of the group brought up the fact that if an action was deemed completely necessary for the safety of a large group of people or a nation as a whole then it would be alright for a government to perform some kind of surveillance without disclosing it to the public. However, in response another member brought up the fact that many times it would be very difficult to tell whether an action actually was necessary for the safety of a nation or not because many times a government may state that their motive of some action was to ‘uphold national security’ or something equally abstract. But the terms of these motives may be defined very loosely. We discussed who is ultimately in charge of deciding whether the circumstances of a given situation warrants some kind of invasion of privacy and came to the conclusion that unless that responsibility is given to some kind of third party committee that can be assured to be unbiased, then it is likely that governments will use this power even in situations that may not merit the invasion of privacy. Our discussion then turned to the subject of this third party committee and we started to echo the claims of Scheuerman, when he argued that “publicity is fundamental to the rule of law and constitutional government, whereas secret law tends to be corrosive as it risks unduly veiling government action from both individual and collective scrutiny” (613). We came to the conclusion that when a government uses secret laws as a basis for action they undermine democracy itself by not letting the citizens of the state have any say in whether they believe the government should have that power or not. However if we decide that these secret courts are undemocratic and should therefore not be used to determine whether a government may or may not exercise some power then what would? We never came up with a definitive answer, but many interesting suggestions were discussed including things like advanced Artificial Intelligence driven algorithms that you could input the parameters of a given situation and it would let you know whether the circumstances warranted an invasion of privacy.


Scheureman argues that “the standard grounds for assenting to punishment as an unavoidable consequence of civil disobedience are perhaps less air-tight than typically get recognized. Snowden’s example, in my view, helps buttress that dissenting position… the exorbitant penalties they [US officials] presently hope to exact are simply inappropriate” (618).

Is your opinion regarding Snowden’s refusal to accept punishment different to Scheuerman’s? If Snowden decided to stay in the U.S. and faced his punishment do you think that what he did would be thought of differently?

In cases of apparent civil disobedience such as Snowden’s it is the standard for those who commit their crime to willfully accept the punishment for that crime, Scheureman is among the group of people that believes one does not necessarily need to accept punishment for a crime given certain circumstances. The reasoning behind why undergoing punishment is the best thing to do for those who engage in cases of civil disobedience is to establish that the individual “expresses their fidelity to the general idea of legality or the rule of law” (618). On discussion of these ideas one member of the group brought up the point that she did not believe Snowden should have stayed and face his punishment because the U.S. government made it abundantly clear they were going to prosecute him as harshly as they could. And this fact alone ensured that he would not receive a fair trial and therefore he had no obligation to adhere to their punishment. Another member of the group brought up the fact that taking into account how groundbreaking the information that the government are spying on their citizens is it is very unlikely that the overall effect of what Snowden did would change. However looking at it as a narrative it is a much better story that Snowden had to escape to Russia to protect himself, if he just stayed in the U.S. it is possible that the story would not have made as big of as in impact worldwide as it did because he decided to leave the country and flee to Russia a country with historically turbulent relations with the western world. Scheuerman also argues that accepting punishment acts to “provide sufficient evidence of moral seriousness” (618) but he believes Snowden proved his moral seriousness through his careful deliberation of his actions and after assessing the risks involved he still decided to act out of moral obligation. It seems that accepting punishment does not necessarily have to be a tenant of civil disobedience if it can be concluded that the objective of proving moral seriousness has already been reached through other means.

Discussion Summary on Brownlee/Scheuerman (Civil Disobedience)

Question 1:   According to Brownlee, Civil Disobedience can incorporate violence and covert (as opposed to consciously public) action, which conflicts with Rawls’ definition as cited by Sheuerman.  Brownlee cites the case of repressive governments cracking down on protests, forcing  people to practice disobedience secretly, in order to avoid punishment.  However, Civil Disobedience often relies on publicity to raise awareness of its goals, as in the case of Martin Luther King or Edward Snowden.  In this context of acting publicly in order to raise awareness, is it possible to even practice Civil Disobedience covertly and without publicity?

We discussed whether it was possible to practice Civil Disobedience in secret, and how it far the definition can reach.. Ultimately, we felt that since Civil Disobedience primarily relies on the conscious breaking of the law in public in order to raise awareness, and to a certain degree accepting any potential punishments that result from the breaking of those laws, that breaking laws “secretly” somewhat defeats the purpose of Civil Disobedience, as it is most often defined.

Question 2.  Sheuerman notes that Snowden used publicity on a global scale in order to raise awareness of the NSA’s practices–claiming that his actions were legal under international law, seeking asylum in foreign countries, revealing secrets that had an impact on the international level (such as the USA spying on its allies).  If the idea of Civil Disobedience is to raise awareness and act publicly (which Scheuerman cites as criteria), do people who are not directly affected by the laws of the country in question have the right or moral obligation to protest?

We discussed the implications of Civil Disobedience on a global/international level:  do people have a right or duty to protest if they are not directly subject to the laws of the country?  There seems to be no clear answer at first glance;  while the citizen may not be subject to the law(s) perceived as being unjust, on a diplomatic and political level other countries can put pressure on a country to change its laws, (e.g. through economic sanctions, although this is a fairly extreme example).  Ultimately, we decided that people should have the right to protest laws they find unjust, even if they are of a different country.  This is especially pertinent if these practices do affect them, even if not directly (such as in the case of America covertly spying on allies).

Discussion on Civil Disobedience

  1. In the letter, MLK jr. described that civil disobedience is permissible when it is nonviolent, when those involved accepts punishment, and there is communication. It was mentioned in class  that not all people agree that civil disobedience does not involve violence. So, some people feel violence is justified in certain cases. When is it permissible to use violence, then, with civil disobedience? Why do you think it might be seen as acceptable in some cases, but not in others, or why do you think some might even think it is justified? If violence is needed, where do we draw the line?

The group decided that violence should never be permissible, and that using any violence in civil disobedience would completely contradict the idea and purpose of the peaceful protesting. If the citizens must use violence, then it is no longer civil at all. We did agree, however, that if the government initiates violence and perhaps tries to apprehend the protesters aggressively, then it is justifiable in the sense that you are protecting yourself, as self-defense.

I presented a situation, in relation to the text, “when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…” and asked if one would justify violence used in this case, when there has been great amounts of racist violence against you and your family and friends.

The group members answered that, again, unless it is for self-defense, one still should not turn to violence, even if you or your family have been wronged many times. They agreed that all issues should be able to be solved without citizens turning to violence. If those in power refuse to communicate, refuse to listen or negotiate, then it may call for more than just civil disobedience. Perhaps it may need a bigger movement, like a civil war, because, then, there needs to be a change of those in power. There is no longer a respect in the laws from the citizens, no respect for the citizens, and there is no respect for those who are creating laws.

I presented another situation where I have seen some instances—once last year—where violence does get out of hand–from both sides–but because the government had so much power and control over the country, without the violence that was involved, there may not have been enough pressure for change and it wouldn’t have received enough publicity to bring about the needed pressure, or tension–as mentioned in the letter, “on the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.” Without the pressure brought upon by aggression, I feel like there wouldn’t have been enough communication, and that the person in power wouldn’t have listened to what the people had to say. Citizens were trying to reach out for help from other countries–for publicity–to get messages across, because the government just wasn’t even bothering to negotiate and shut everyone down, thus leading to the escalation in situation and bringing forth more violence.

Again, with this presented situation, my group members discussed that it calls for more than just simply a peaceful protest. A movement for change would call for more than just reform in laws, it would need a change in power. Clearly, there is more than just a few immoral laws here that is the issue.

2. Are there any cases of laws at this moment that you feel are unjust that you feel may lead to violent protests? If so, do you believe it might be possible to resolve the issue, and even resolve all unjust laws or make changes to all unjust laws without ever any use of violence?  What if the government will not negotiate with us and refuses to communicate?

We discussed how the recent Muslim ban that was passed could definitely lead towards aggressive/violent protests, as it is a very unjust law. A group member said, however, that many people were raised not to believe in violence, but with the outrage and controversy around the issue, many may possibly be influenced to act aggressively.

Some of the group members also stated that they are unable to answer these questions as clearly or with as much insight, as they are not in support of using violence whatsoever. Thus, they concluded that no, there is nothing going on that should ever need the use of violence, no matter of the degree of how unjust it is and how much it goes against a person’s morals. We talked about how there were many famous cases of civil disobedience, and the group compared them and talked about about how, although some did accomplish what they did with violence, it does not mean it was always needed.

Towards the end of the discussion, one of the group members did disagree a bit. The member stated that sometimes you can protest all you want, but you still will not be able to change somethings… So, some situations might need violence and more pressure than just nonviolent actions. As described in MLK’s letter, to “create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue,” and “to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored,” aggression might be required. This group member believed if there were civil movements that wasn’t as aggressive or didn’t put as much pressure on the country as they did, there would still be forms of slavery today. In response, we said that we did talk about rather extreme cases, and if the situation ever did come to such extreme cases, it ultimately means there needs to be more than just peaceful protesting. It means there needs to be a complete change in government and power. Otherwise, acts of civil disobedience should never need violence, unless for self-defense.


Discussion Summary on King

  1. In his letter, King argues that one has “a moral responsibility to obey just laws”, while one also has “a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Do you believe one has a moral responsibility to disobey just laws? Or in other words, would it be immoral to obey an unjust law? Does it depend on the specific law and/or context of the situation?


In my group, many people argued that whether a law is just or not is relative to a person’s own opinions and personal beliefs.  For example, some may believe that same-sex marriage laws are just, while others may think otherwise.

My group also recalled the ideas of Socrates, in which he argued that it is our moral responsibility to obey the laws, whether just or unjust, if the person is able to freely leave the jurisdiction to which the law resides.  Therefore, under a Socratic ideology, it would be immoral to disobey an unjust law in most scenarios.

It also depends on the context of the law.  For example, if by nature a law is immoral, such as one that physically harms people, it would be just to disobey the unjust law.  However, as mentioned above, people have different beliefs about what constitutes an unjust law.

Finally, my group thought it was important to note the two levels of obligation in relation to laws: there are the laws of the country we are in (set up by the government), and then there are laws of nature, such as simply being loyal to friends that are not necessarily governmental or followed through with punishments if broken.  These factors may come into play into deciding whether breaking an unjust law would be moral or not.

2.  King argues that “nonviolent tension is necessary for growth” because it “create[s] a situation so                     crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.” However, would it ever be                             moral to use violence in order to achieve equality?  What about if the oppressor was acting                               violently towards the oppressed? Would non-violent protest and resistance still be the moral                           method?


My group believed that it is easy to say that anything can be done without violence, however, past history reveals that this is not the case.  My group could not think of a protest for equality that insinuated absolutely zero violence, recalling the example in Cuba where violence in the form of war was responsible for revolution for the Cuban people.

In addition, violent protests can be more likely to propagate fear rather than advocate for their cause.  With peaceful protests, the cause is not usually construed, while with violent protests, the cause can be lost.  Nonviolent protest should always be the initial approach, with violence protesting being a last resort.  For example, violent protests can be used as a method of self defence from oppressors.

However, my group explored how it can take extreme mental strength to successfully perform a peaceful protest.  All it takes is one person to become violent for a mob mentality to be created, with people simply joining in on the violence because everybody else is doing it.  Also, while only a few people are needed to send a strong message through violence, peaceful protests need many more people in order to have the same impact.


3. Civil disobedience consists of breaking the law with conscientiousness, communication, willingness                to accept punishment, publicity, and non-violence.  However, not everybody agrees that publicity is              necessary, which would mean that the person would publicly break the law by telling everybody that              you’re going to do it and why you’re doing it.  Some believe that letting people know would result in              people stopping you from doing it.  Do you believe publicity is a necessary aspect of civil                                    disobedience?  Is a private act of breaking an unjust law considered an act of civil disobedience, or                must it be widely known?


My group argued that the whole point of peaceful protests is to spread awareness and create change.  These protests are almost always well organized, meaning that many people are taking part, thus the importance of spreading the word that such protest is happening.  Also, once a certain amount of numbers is reached, it is nearly impossible for the police, the government or any other group to halt the protest completely.

However, in my group we noticed that an act of civil disobedience becoming public is not always a choice.  We thought of the example of Rosa Parks; she was arrested for not moving for a White person, and while this act became public news, she did not perform the act with that intention.  Therefore, in some cases, civil disobedience can still be powerful even if the perpetrator did not intend the publicity aspect.


Discussion Summary: Civil Disobedience

  1. Do you think it is right to refuse to obey a law because it is unjust or supports unjust policies? Why or why not?

I believed that in Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, MLK Jr. insisted that when it came to unjust laws it was the people’s moral obligation to see that they were eradicated by whatever non-violent methods that seem effective. When I asked this question, most of the people in the group agreed that morally, humans would be compelled to disobey unjust laws and that it was okay to disobey the law as long as they were informed and understood that the law was unjust. On the part that laws should be eradicated, the views were split. Some people in the group agreed with MLK Jr.’s point of eradicating the unjust law, however, another person pointed out that it should depend on the extremity of the law. Extreme laws such as the segregation law were okay to eradicate, but for extreme laws involved with the alcohol prohibition didn’t need to be eradicated. Another person pointed out that some laws may be oppressive but benefit other people. An example was brought up about how gay marriage is now legal. Will Catholic priests have to celebrate the rite of matrimony for the LGBTQ community? To Catholics, the whole point of marriage is to unite man and woman and procreate. The legalization of gay marriage is beneficial for the LGBTQ community, but if Catholic priests have to celebrate the rite of matrimony for them, this goes against their religious rights. The group agreed that it is hard to draw a line between what is right and wrong in this case.

For the next question, I read a passage from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail before asking the question. The passage and question are as follows:

“when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people…”

Here MLK Jr. gives us a way to not only see injustice in the world but also to feel it. MLK Jr. says “anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds”, yet people are still treated as lesser humans.

  1. What is your reaction to this passage and how do you see unjust norms in the world today?

Most of the group felt that it was heartbreaking to hear this passage, but it gave a bigger perspective to how oppression affected the African-Americans. Most people see just the surface of the oppression, but to actually see what it does to some people clues people into the reality of how much oppression hurts the oppressed. Back then, it may have seemed normal to the whites to have racial segregation, but the blacks were treated as lesser humans. In today’s world, someone in the group gave an example of how social norms affect the younger generation. The example given was that young girls were given a white barbie doll and a black barbie doll. They were asked to compare the two dolls and determine which one was prettier. The young girls chose the white barbie. The group agreed that we should be making a change to unjust norms we see today so that the younger generation will follow in those footsteps.

  1. Do you think that as time went on, people would have eventually demolished racial segregation, or was there a need for the events in history to occur to force changes to be made? 

Time is always something you do things with. It is a container that you can put things in that can end up affecting change, but on its on time cannot change anything. The group’s views were split in half. Some believed that as time continued, people would realize their mistakes and fix injustices. Others believed that the events, like protests against racial segregation, needed to happen in order for changes to be made.




Discussion Summary L09 – Nussbuam


The 1st question, Political Philosophers are debating whether equality should be related to well-being, resources, opportunity, or capabilities. (P.274) What do you think should be related to equality? Depending on what you choose, what are your reasons for why? Question #1 relates to rights that are needed to be understood, in the text the philosophers use the language of rights to decide that equality of capabilities is what should be evaluated when deciding on what a basic human life should consist of. Other peoples’ opinions may vary and this question is to find out what their ideas are.

The 2nd question, the list of ten capabilities is to try and summarize findings over a broad cross-cultural inquiry. (P.287) Do you think the list of 10 capabilities sums up the basic human life if one had them all? Why? Question #2 relates to Nussbuams list of ten capabilities needed to have a basic human life, which is said not be a constant list, but it may change and vary, but these are just considered the primary items.

 Summary of what was discussed:

#1. Depends on who is being asked, if someone that has a lot of resources such as money, then they will likely not say equality in resources because they may have worked hard to get where they are. Well equality should be related to well-being, because to have a line defining the basic human life it should consist of a life with an overall bearable wellbeing, where some who put in more work may have a greater well being and others may not. The majority agreed with Nussbuam and that capabilities allow for one to have a choice in every circumstance, because it makes the most sense to allow one to choose what they will participate in.

#2. Not all the components are necessary such as ‘Other Species’, it is not very critical at all for the basic human life, the basic human life doesn’t need to be able to worry about animals. Yes, they do cover the basic human life, but there will always be issues if everyone lived this way. Someone says something that hurts someone else’s emotions and then in return they cause some sort of damage to ones body breaking a few of the components already, so it is not possible to have a society where these will ever be able to be held up.