Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cultural Justice as evident in Achebe and Danticat

In his essay, Kolvenbach addresses the Jesuit mission as the “service of faith and promotion of justice” (25.) His essay of justice addresses social justice, which he believes to be an active justice where people must reach out and embrace their community. The justice Kolvenbach speaks of is one with faith. He states that, “injustice is rooted in a spiritual problem, and its solution requires a spiritual conversion” (32.) In both Danticat and Achebe justice is a main issue. The justice sought in their novels possesses both similarities and differences to the type of justice Kolvenbach speaks of.

Danticat addresses both social justice as well as a cultural justice, also seen in Achebe’s novel. In Children of the Sea many social justices issues arise with the father in Haiti during the military coup. Manman states to papa that, “you cannot let them kill somebody just because you are afraid” and papa replies, “oh yes, you can let them kill somebody because you are afraid” (17.) This failure to confront the problem relates back to Kolvenbach when he states that justice is active. In order to achieve justice a person must confront the issue or else it will never go away. Cultural justice issues arise during the boyfriend’s trip on the boat when he discusses what Bahaman people think of Haitian people. Although his country is in shambles he still takes pride in where he came from. He notes this again when he is talking about keeping the boat from sinking and says, “we might all have to strip down to the way we were born, to keep ourselves from drowning” (20.) This is the most beautiful description I have ever read of the need to let go of prejudices and embrace humankind as a whole because if we don’t everything will collapse.

These cultural justice issues also arose in Achebe’s novel with Obi. He struggles to bring justice to his birthplace of Nigeria after he returns from England. His tribesman elevate him over anyone else because he is the chosen one received an English education. Achebe really delves into the cultural justice when he uses the Ibu language instead of English. That is his way to point out that even if all the stereotypes claim English to hold more power than any other language, the Ibu language is still powerful. Achebe describes cultural justice as the need to defend and honor your heritage, yet embrace and face other cultural ideas.