I have been asked on multiple occasions what the significance of the rose included in many of my designs is. The use of the flower goes beyond the fact that roses are beautiful and look good on shirts. The flower symbolizes two aspects of justice and the fight for it.
1. When Working to Achieve Justice, You Need to be Intentional and Careful
In order to keep a happy, healthy, and beautiful rose bush, pruning is necessary. For those who haven't ever seen a rose bush, they have thorns: and lots of them. When pruning a rose you need to be intentional and careful so that you don't hurt yourself or the rose. It is important that you navigate with skill and precision as you shape the rose bush, bringing out the beauty. This is analogous to working towards achieving justice in society.
Justice is beautiful. A world where everyone is treated equally, fairly, and no injustices are committed is a beautiful utopia of harmony. Dr. King envisioned it when he spoke of the beloved community (more on that later). Achieving justice on the other hand is a process that requires the same intentionality and carefulness as pruning a beautiful rose bush. If we fight for justice without without preparation, intentionality, and true careful thought, the cause/people we are fighting for will be hurt. For this reason, research, love, planning, intentionality, and forgiveness are all necessary in the fight for justice.
2. Justice is a beautiful thing, but has an ugly history.
Just as a rose is absolutely beautiful, its petals forming a perfect lattice and its color standing out in the garden, so is justice; a radically beautiful idea and practice that when seen gives a feeling of joy, happiness, and hope. The stem of the rose however is covered in dangerous and ugly thorns. So to is the history of the fight for justice covered in scars, thorns, and blemishes that are shameful to look upon. The fight for justice in the world has never been easy. Even just as recently as 150 years ago, African American men and women were treated as sub-humans with absolutely no rights. Fast forward to the civil rights movement. Too often do Americans seem to forget that only about 50 years ago did African Americans not have the majority of basic human rights that were enjoyed by white Americans. Too often do we forget that the man fighting with peace, love, justice, and forgiveness for equality was killed for it. Hurting no one but the pride of the white establishment, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated for daring to make the claim that all humans are equal and deserving of equal rights. We CANNOT forget this history. It is one of so many deep scars and blemishes in the history of the fight for justice. It is not that long ago that African Americans could not vote, could not exist in the same public spaces, and were being hung from trees for crimes they didn't commit. And it is in the current times that minority communities are being unjustly imprisoned, killed, and ridiculed for objecting to it and trying to protest against it.
We Are Still Living in an Era of Injustice
Until we acknowledge that. Until we acknowledge the history of injustices that stretch centuries in America and across the world. We will not make progress.