Justice. It's a beautiful word, a word that many religions, including my own, claim to be on the side of. The concept is even in our pledge of allegiance. Originally penned in 1887 (and revised between 1892 and 1954) it strikes me now, that, there were quite some contradictions to the short phrase repeated by children in schools. It was written in a time where the United States had slavery and had taken land from Native Americans. Why do we not focus more on this in schools? Or is it at home where some learn to gloss over these historical facts? Patriotism is what the focus is on while all those unfortunate events that got us here is the huge elephant in the room come Thanksgiving and July 4th.
Why is nationalism so ugly in America? This is the question I've been struggling with for almost a year, if not longer. Why are people raising their hands in worship when singing the National Anthem? I could list many other examples as to how National Pride has been equalized to the Christian Faith but I think that's another blog post entirely, one to be honest, I don't quite feel ready or qualified to tackle... But back to that night I couldn't sleep. Words were tumbling in my head, tears were pricking the sides of my eyes and I felt discouraged. Giving up on sleep I pushed myself up and turned the bedside light on and tried to write something that would help me capture what my internal struggle was - trying to make sense of the America I'd foolishly believed in for 32 years - right up until the week Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, names I wish I'd never heard - were murdered. The following poem is called Justice for All?
Powerful words that promote exclusivity - I am so naive for having believed their beauty.
My mind was the problem for way too long, thinking only some had the right to belong - then two black men died and I was proven wrong.
How many came before them? How many more will die? While I sleep soundly, their loved ones are screaming "why"?
What will I do? Where will I go? When "Justice for all" is said for nothing but show?
White skin, blue uniform - this is the privileged world I live in. Fear and hate - enemies to us all but white keeps their eyes down while our black brothers fall.
Black skin, hands up, literally dying to be heard, my ignorance has been the problem - ignoring their words.
"Justice for all" or "Justice for some?" The sun rises for me while they still hope for it to come.
Desperate for times when "they" is not needed I just want them to know that I've heard their pleading. You're right, there is a problem - and now I see that all along, the problem? It's been me.
I wrote this from the standpoint of someone who believed the police work to protect and serve all American's, (isn't that a nice idea)? There is much passion on all sides as to who was to blame for Philando's death. What helped me process through this unjust act was that I kept hearing people say that "It depends on the angle of the camera, we don't know everything," to "it doesn't matter, he had a record." I hope, if you're of this mindset, you'll take a minute to think through that last viewpoint. It sounds awfully similar to "Well she was wearing sexually provocative clothes so..." SO WHAT? She deserved to be raped? He deserved to die because he had a record? I am guilty of having thoughts like these, to victim blame. Lord forgive me. I've also realized that my inability to even think there may be a problem was revealed whenever I had similar questions above. I wasn't being opened minded, waiting for "facts" I had justifications galore, because I couldn't accept that a police officer was capable of blatantly murdering someone, or to be corrupt - that only happens in the movies right? This is why I wanted to own my responsibility in America's current race narrative. All these years I've been thinking that since police officers are supposed to do good that they are good. I've thought the black men who have been shot while being arrested deserved it in some way. But shouldn't every American that is stopped by a police officer not live in fear they might be killed because it "looked like he had a weapon" or "I was in fear of my life." What a convenient and sure way to get out of murder. I just can't idly sit by and excuse actions that I would absolutely be up in arms about if a police officer killed my brother. I am so heartbroken for the families who have lost sons by the hands of police officers and in addition have a nation defend those actions effectively turning their backs on those left to bury their loved one. I've had many thoughts throughout this last year as hate is embraced and marched for across the United States, and I'll probably write more at another time. But for now, I offer my repentance to the Lord and to my black countrymen for my ignorance.