Center for Media Justice home of the Media Action Grassroots Network

Bringing Back the Language of Justice


Byline: Karlos Gauna Schmieder

The death of the last Kennedy brother, if we aren’t careful, could be the death of the language of justice from even the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

“Martin Luther King devoted his life to love and justice,” Robert F Kennedy said during his run for president as he announced at a rally that King had been assassinated in Memphis.

My father recently told me he was fishing off the Iowa River just a few months later when he heard through his transistor radio that Robert F. Kennedy had too been assassinated.

My father had planned on devoting the rest of that year to make sure RFK would become president, and was understandably shaken by what was then a string of assassinations of people who not only used the word justice but understood the depths of its meaning, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr included.

Since then, save for a few rare exceptions, the language of justice has been largely absent from the US political establishment’s lexicon. The retreat from the language of racial, social and economic justice and civil and human rights has been hastened in recent years by the rise of what is often called values-based framing and messaging, lead by linguists and strategists from both the left and right of our narrow political spectrum.

Born in think tanks, framing and messaging from liberals, progressives and conservatives have made a direct plea to shared values of “opportunity” and “family values” over the last few years.

We have heard very little about race, justice or human rights.

While this has been somewhat successful for short-term victories and to provide new window to view public debate on important issues, it is only part of a framing ecology that can both win and make real shifts in public debate for the long term.

Welcome to CMJ’s blog, Justice Point, your blog for news and views to change the story on race, youth and media. We hope you come back often for real time content analysis, guest blogs from some of the most talented writers, organizers and grassroots policy makers around, communications best practices from across the country, and new and innovative tools and stories about racial and economic justice.

We aim to challenge dominant frames and messages from traditional corporate news and progressive and right wing outlets and think tanks with hard-hitting, popular racial and economic justice narratives that confront race-baiting and McCarthyism at its core.

We intend to bring back the language of justice.

About the Author


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