Justitia and Prudentia

I had never heard the term, “justice is blind,” or knew the history behind the Roman Goddess, Justitia. I am not sure if this is because I am living under a rock, or because our justice system does not reflect what Justitia stands for. Her blindfold, balance beam, and sword represents a time not affected by racism. In Native Son, we know that the recurring idea of blindness is meant to show, in the end, how blind Bigger has been throughout his life, all the while thinking everyone around him is blind. I think that Wright was trying to show the blind eye everyone turns towards situations they do not understand or do not want to see.  Wright, himself, turning a blind eye towards the violence and the degradation he projects onto his female characters, especially the black female characters. But, in Book Three: Fate, we see the blindness the justice system turns towards Bigger and not in the way that Justitia would want them to. Unfortunately, even with the impassioned words of Max, Bigger had been judged before receiving his sentence. Although he did commit the crimes, and deserves to face punishment for them, the courtroom narrative that he faced is not an uncommon one. The justice system, the media, and society has pushed their unfair narrative onto yet another black man. 

However, in James Baldwin’s “Everybody’s Protest Novel,” he criticizes Native Son and novels deemed “protest” by saying that blindness has gone too far, and the overall acceptance of protest novels are because people believe what happens in them, has nothing to do with us and our society (Baldwin 15). They are doing nothing to help change the struggles of real people in the real world. Baldwin goes on to say that “they are a mirror of our confusion, dishonesty, panic, trapped and immobilized in the sunlit prison of the American dream” (16). This makes me think of the moment in the novel when Bigger is illuminated by the sun, while in prison, thinking he understands his blindness, and what he really wants. But, of course he would never get the time to do that. Baldwin’s idea of protest novels being “mirrors” had led me to research another Goddess that is often shown as a pair with Justitia, her name is Prudentia. Prudentia carries a mirror and a snake and is meant to represent the ability to govern and discipline oneself through reason. But, what I believe Baldwin is saying is that instead of holding the mirror on ourselves, we are facing it outwards on a broken society and continue to reflect what we see, even when trying not to.