“That which is not just, is not the law.”
William Lloyd Garrison
I have been thinking often, of late, about the function of law, the way it is utilized by those who need it and the ways it is used with the intent to wound, particularly by those who critique it most rigorously. Too often both in and out of the classroom, I have found myself facing folks—activists, anarchists, abolitionists–I have least suspected to invoke the law as weapon against loved ones, against friends intentionally and at times, most carelessly.
A few months ago, I found myself in a glowing disagreement with a co-worker about the design of our classroom. It was not, he argued, suitable for our youngest student. I countered that it was wholly appropriate and compliant, in every way, with safety standards designed for such an environment. I offered a few concrete examples. He—a brilliant, committed educator, anarchist/activist/queer/white—growing increasingly frustrated in our conversation, blurted out, “You know, I have already accepted that I work in an illegal place, but…”
I stopped him immediately, “Wait. You just said illegal. There is nothing illegal about my school, this classroom, regarding safety or otherwise. Absolutely nothing.”
“Yeessss,” he insisted, stretching his words. “Yes, it’s true, yes…”