BP 8: A Reflection on the Veil of Ignorance

Last week, James Harris Jackson, a 28-year-old white man, committed a violent hate crime against 66-year-old Timothy Caughman. Jackson boarded a bus in Washington going to Manhattan. He chose New York because he believed that would be the place the murder would get the most media attention. After spotting Mr.Caughman alone collecting cans, Jackson pulled a sword out of his coat and fatally stabbed the innocent man. Jackson openly admitted to planning the crime due to prejudices he has carried against black men since he was a child. AS the authorities questioned Jackson it was clear he loved the attention, he even talked about speaking to the New York Times about his beliefs. Timothy Caughman was a loving man who worked in various anti-poverty programs. Those who were close to him spoke about his love of religion and philosophy.

As hate crimes are showing up in the news more and more frequently, it forces us to question our societies’ view of justice. In John Rawls, Justice as Fairness, we learn that each person is to have an equal right to liberty, and that that liberty should be given in the same amount to everyone. Normal and rational-thinking individuals would agree with this. In order for social cooperation to exist, people must choose to act together. It was obvious that James Harris Jackson was not a rational individual. He overwhelming hate from black men trumped his ability to put himself in anyone else’s shoes. This is exactly opposite of the type of mentality needed to think under the, “veil of ignorance”. In this thought experiment, the individual is able to make decisions without any sort of pre-conceived notion or bias. It pushes for everyone’s basic liberties to be met and for justice to prevail. In this day and age, I think this mentality needs to be discussed and practiced more frequently.

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